learning experience

When It All Goes Wrong

Something went awry onstage the other night. Horribly, uncomfortably, awkwardly wrong.

There was no way out of it. Nothing I could do could help me cover it or divert the audience’s attention. I just had to die a slow painful death onstage. I was embarrassed and humiliated.

And as I stood sheepishly onstage my mind was racing. Unsure of what to to do or say next, I began sweating profusely. The lights seemed to grow hotter and my heart started beating faster.

I could sense that I was losing the crowd. The momentum I had worked so hard to build was dissipating. The stories and jokes I had used to endear myself to the guests were all for nothing. My failure onstage cancelled everything else out.

And then it hit me. I knew what to do.

I talked about it.

I made a joke. And then another. Then I told an anecdote - a true story - about another time years ago I had experienced a similar fate.

Everyone laughed and we moved on.

Within minutes, the audience was back on my side and all was forgotten. They were laughing and applauding again. I may have lost them for a moment but they were back on board. We were a team once more and the show ended on a high note.

It was a new piece and I was worried about it. I anticipated something going wrong and it did.

It happens. And it’s going to keep happening. But I have to keep trying new things or I’ll never get better. I have to keep doing the things that scare me or I’ll never get where I want to be.

Maybe you have something scary coming up soon, too. Perhaps you have a big audition next week or you’re starting a new job. Maybe you’re about to move across the country or you’ve been really wanting to start a new business. I don’t know what it is - but I can tell you this:

It’s going to be really nerve-wracking. It may be scary or painful or embarrassing or humiliating. You may find success on your first attempt or you might suffer a crushing defeat. And even if it doesn’t go wrong this time, I can promise you that sometime soon it definitely will.

But you have to try. You have to go after it. You have to make the jump and take the risk. Just put yourself out there and, no matter what happens, you’ve already won.

That was the single most embarrassing moment I’ve had onstage in years. But the next day I woke up, made coffee, and got back to work. The sun came up over Lake Michigan and my cats followed me into the office to keep me company. It was just like any other day.

When it all goes wrong, life goes on. I survived and you will, too.