The first time I faced a big audience I bombed.
Not only did I bomb, but I threw in the towel and totally gave up.
It was a high school election for student president.
After fumbling the mic on the mic stand, I froze, and then told the audience to vote for the other candidate.
It was the most humiliating moment of my life.
I will never forget the sea of expectant faces, friends, enemies, waiting for me to rock the house. It never happened.
I had enrolled all the ‘cool kids’ around the school with talk of a campaign to allow smoking and hopefully alcohol in the common room for seniors. As if that was ever going to happen. It was the first time a ‘non-nerd’ had given the leadership a crack.
So the day of the assembly of 600 or so students, I had not prepared a single word, a single policy, a joke, a one liner, or anything. I thought I would wing it.
Big, big mistake.
So fast forward 18 months. I am broadcasting live to the country on nationwide radio about a major shipwreck off the Wellington Harbour.
I’ve been airlifted in by helicopter, staying in a lighthouse, and reporting on the rescue and salvage attempts. Experienced reporters have struggled. I won’t give up. I stake out the beach in horrendous weather, waiting for the ace salvage expert to be winched down to the beach, some hardy old guy from Singapore called Red. I get an exclusive interview.
I went on to a successful career as a radio journalist. I was never lost for words. I had written, on paper, or in my head, every script. That became a pattern for my professional career.
But it has been a two edged sword. As I shifted career in my 30s and engaged in a whole range of adventures and personal development opportunities, I started to see how constant dry runs of every interaction I had was spoiling spontaneity and being present.
What a dilemma.
Now as I have hit the wonderful milestone of turning 50, I am developing ‘being in the zone’; where I am prepared, spontaneous and present. It’s a great place to be, and highly effective.
So this is my story. It can be my bio. It can be my blurb, with a bit of an edit. It is totally me, I can own every sentence of it. And drill down into the varied learnings, and opportunities.
Is it a Blab, or Blah Blah Blah?
I don’t think so.
It’s genuine and authentic. It rings true. And people remember it.
The point of this story is the contrasts and the journey from failure to success. There are potentially many levels to this story. And there are chapters that can be teased out.
This has all become part of my life story. Getting your story straight, the good, the bad and the ugly, the personal and the professional is going to be critical in 2012. With social media everywhere, there is no place left to hide.