For a moment, I’d like you to picture a mortifying scenario that may or may not have actually happened recently. Imagine that you’re an author and public speaker. Imagine that, hypothetically, you’ve spent fifteen years uncovering ‘aha moments’ about relationships – and that your audiences are usually quite engaged and interested as a result. You love the fact that your listeners leave wanting more!
Now imagine that you have a brand-new research topic, and you’re invited to share it for the first time with a group of influential leaders. You’re pumped! Even better, in this hypothetical scenario, your research sponsor flies down to be with you, promote your work and cheer you on.
But it doesn’t go according to plan. Instead of engagement, you get confused looks. Instead of energy, you see them deflating, then fidgeting, then they start checking their phones. Everything you usually do to recapture your audience doesn’t work. It’s good information, but you didn’t organize it properly. You’ve lost them. For ninety excruciating minutes, you can practically hear your research sponsor thinking, Oh, no.
As you can probably tell, this scenario isn’t hypothetical.
As I drove away from that conference an hour later, my emotions were roiling but I couldn’t name what I was feeling. I just felt terrible that I hadn’t delivered the way I wanted to. Even though the event organizer apparently still heard good things afterwards, my research sponsor and I both knew it was a big missed opportunity.
It suddenly hit me: what I was feeling was inadequacy. That sinking, mortified, stirred-up sensation inside me was that of feeling like a failure. That I tried to do something well and failed instead. (My research sponsor insists that it wasn’t a failure, was still great information and a decent start for a new talk, but it sure felt like failure.)
Then the next thought hit me: is this what guys feel like every day??? Holy cow!
Suddenly, I had two HUGE ‘a-ha moments.’