Welcome this week’s guest blogger, Chase LeBlanc, founder and CEO of Leadagers LLC, a foodservice and hospitality industry consulting firm (www.Leadagers.com) ~
I have …
When I was in 11th grade, I was in DECA, a school-sponsored “practice” business program. Individuals and groups participate in District and State competitions for the opportunity to attend Nationals. I jumped through the preliminary hoops and had made it to the National DECA Convention. For me, winning for the first time at anything other than Checkers was a big deal. And I was more nervous than a first-time sky-diver.
There in Orlando at the opening breakfast were thousands of kids from every state, along with their teachers, chaperons, judges, and sponsors, all waiting for the introductions to begin. The hotel was large and the ballroom felt cavernous. In the back of the ballroom, there was a stirring, a murmur, which quickly honed to cheers. Inspired by boredom, our massive group of teens had seized on the opportunity to express their home-state pride.
“Gimme a T-E-X-A-S! Texas!” Kids up on chairs doing their best call and response – rapid-fire, loud, proud, and unbridled cheerleading. Of course, it started turning raucous and soon the chiefs were looking to quell their tribes. My Colorado delegation was sitting on their hands. A mite too shy, sleepy, or — as it turned out — too smart to get involved. I, however, saw the “we’re-as-cool-as-you” window quickly closing, as all the proctors were now actively hushing their charges.
Not one to allow Colorado to be outdone, I quickly jumped to my feet and scrambled to the tallest standing position my chair offered me, proudly yelling, “Gimmie a C, Gimme an O, Gimme an L…”! As I made a break-out from the descending cone of silence, I realized…All Eyes Were On Me.
And then… I blanked out.
Three letters in and I forgot how to spell “Colorado,” the state where I was born and had lived my whole life. I seized upon a simple task…and JACKED-IT-UP. The laughter was extraordinary, as adolescent cruelty can be. I sat down with the laughter ringing in my ears and tears stinging my eyes. It wouldn’t stop. The group was heartily enjoying my self-inflicted demise; with the addition of name calling and sugar packet pelting, we were rapidly moving into pulling- the-wings-off-flies territory.
Then it came, the rage to make it right. In one fluid motion, I jumped back on the chair again, and as you can imagine, I had fully commanded everyone’s attention. I proceeded to finished what I started. Yep, this time I remembered how to spell “Colorado.” And the ridicule quickly morphed into applause. I had made a mess out of a semi-easy undertaking, and was I ever slammed for it! But, I had also made the hard thing (getting “back on the horse” in front of everyone) look easy, and was praised.
It was a turning point for me, as right then and there I vanquished any possibility of experiencing stage-fright, or fearing public speaking, cold-calling, or performing. And never have I had the impulse to hide after making a mistake. When thousands of people see you fail and laugh in your face, you have a choice – let it tear you up OR leapfrog the mistake and get busy with whatever is next. For certain, you will always have a choice in your response. And, as an answer to any test, the best of you will always be better than the least of you.