Embracing Failure

Last night I had one of those experiences where after it was over, all I could do was sit down and think, “Embrace the failure. What can I learn from this?” Also, I kept thinking, “Deep breaths.”

I’d been recruited to give part of a series of presentations. I was just the warm-up act. And while the presentation and the parameters and the timeline of when I was to do it the first time kept changing, I wasn’t prepared. I was wending my way through my part when part of my brain just thought, “The best thing for you to do is wrap up and hand it off to the next guy. If you missed anything (and you did), someone else will pick it up.” I was just way over my head. That hasn’t happened to me in a long time.

When it was over, I talked to two people who are very experienced speakers and who knew the extent to which my presentation had gone off the rails. I told them both that this experience would inform how I prepare for the next presentation.

I’m not big on beating up on myself. I am a true believer that we are all doing the best we can at any moment. Thus, the thing to do is learn from it. Also, think of the good things about this failure.

  1. It was a small room mostly filled with people who I either rarely see or might never see again.

    This is takes me back to an old friend who used to say, “What do you care what they think? You’ll never see them again anyway.” Granted, that particular moment was about dancing in club and fearing looking silly, but I’ve soothed myself with that thought many many times in the past quarter century.

  2. I now know how I will prepare for the next time I give this presentation.

    This has happened a number of times in my life. I think, “Well now that I’ve done it, I get it. I could do it so much better next time.” And now I can. I know what’s coming. In this case, at least, it’s the same presentation eight more times.

  3. This will inform how I prepare for other presentations and talks I’ll need to give.

    I expect to speak I front of audiences and give presentations and trainings for years to come. I have gotten much more comfortable and I’ve gotten myself into some good habits. I’m aware of how my brain works and I generally upload information into my brain so that it’s accessible. I know what I did to prepare for this. Note to self: that didn’t work.

Years ago, I found a book entitled, What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter. It changed my life. It changed the way I think. It’s a great book, but the gist of it is this: Quit saying mean things to yourself. Say nice things.

I had a rough moment last night, but lived through it and I learned something.

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