Recently, I made a pretty big mistake. I had a speaking gig with an influential audience where the potential for future work was high. In short, I was poised for greatness! It was the first time that I had ever given a remote presentation where I wasn’t in the same room as my audience. I was being beamed into
a boardroom in another country. They couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see them, but how hard could it be, right?
I messed up
Wrong. I knew it was bad when the first interaction activity I tried didn’t work because I couldn’t see my audience and there was that uncomfortable silence that makes your stomach flip over. Things didn’t get much better from that point. I had grossly underestimated how many visual cues I take from the audience when I speak and how much importance I place on the “vibe” of the room. I didn’t adjust my style correctly and that was a huge mistake.
Afterwards I felt terrible. You know that nagging anxiety when you have messed up and there is nothing you can do about it. I worried about what people would think and I was concerned for my reputation. After several days of replaying the experience in my mind over and over, I eventually talked myself around. Finally deciding that I just had to chalk this one up to experience and make sure I never made the same error again.
You are going to mess up too… sorry
The reason I share this story is two-fold. Firstly, I want you to remember that you are not going to hit it for six every single time, and that's OK. If you make it through this life without messing up every now again, you would be a dead set miracle.
Mistakes are our greatest teachers
Secondly, we are doing ourselves a disservice by trying to erase these incidents from our memory because we don’t want to feel the anxiety. Mistakes are our greatest teachers. We must take these times and wring every last drop of learning from them because that is how greatness is made. We learn more effectively from making mistakes than we ever do from doing things right. Don’t try and make these mistakes go away, turn them upside down, inside out and understand why things went awry and make your next attempt better.
Next time you totally mess up, welcome the anxiety like an old friend and ask it what it wants you to learn.