Learning from the embarrassment of a lifetime

A number of years ago, when my professional speaking business had really started growing and I was feeling A LOT too good about how awesome I was at speaking, I had, to this day, one of the most embarrassing, poorly prepared and humbling moments of my entire life; let alone my speaking work.

I was asked to facilitate a training for a camp that is run by the IABC ( International Association of Burn Camps) .  The camp was a short distance from my house, they only wanted me to speak for a short period of time and again, I was feeling down-right arrogant about how good I was at presenting.  I had let my business success go to my head.  I literally said to my wife before I left, something along the lines of “I’ll see you tonight.  Today is going to easy money!”

I arrived at the venue early only to find out from the camp director that they were even shorter on time than he had imagined, so it looked like I was only going to have an hour.  “An hour!” I internally laughed to myself and thought “easier money than expected.”

Now mind you, in the audience are about ten former campers.  Now grown up, adult, burn victims.  So, I started things off in the first five minutes in my usual enthusiastic way.  Then it happened… I said something that I had said for years in my speaking career.  However, because I was feeling too high on myself, I barely even had prepped for this event.  I said, out loud and with some enthusiasm “You need to set the tone at the beginning of the week, you need to really be enthusiastic!  COME OUT LIKE YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE!”  That’s right.  “Come out like your hair is on fire” to a burn camp.  I literally took a step back and began to apologize to the group.  They were very forgiving… Until it got worse!  The next transition of words I build in from my Keynote presentation (Apple’s version of Powerpoint) built-in all FLAMES.  Horrifying.

Remember how I said they only needed me for an hour?  It was the longest hour of my life!  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

The lesson is simply this.  Regardless of how long you have been doing something (teaching, speaking, heck even sewing for that matter) and how well it is going, always “Avoid Hubris”… That false sense of self that you really are better at something than you really are.

This is a particularly important message for educators who have been teaching for a long time.  We don’t know everything.  We have to remain teachable.  Kids change, educators changes, learning changes.  We need to adapt with it so we can avoid those hubris moments.


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