Leadership / Management | Training & CPE

We’re all screw-ups. Dealing with it makes us great.

78527873 We've planned and planned and planned. Everything's going to be perfect. We've rehearsed this thing to death, backups are in place, and nothing -- absolutely nothing -- can go wrong now.

And then the curtain goes up.

Listen, we all screw up from time to time. We're human -- it's part of our charm.

One of our biggest mistakes, though, is assuming that we're in control. We're not. Sometimes, to put a family-friendly spin on the old saying, stuff happens.

And that's when we figure out who the really talented people are.

Exhibit A: Ira Glass.

Executive producer and host of the iconic weekly radio program "This American Life," Glass appeared live at Powell Hall in St. Louis recently to discuss the media, the message and his views on how to build the perfect story.

When it comes to speaking in front of a live audience, Glass is a pro. He's done it more than a few times.

On this night, though, things started going wrong from the start.

Thanks to travel SNAFUs, he arrived in town late, and his cab pulled up to the front door of the theater at the very moment he was supposed to walk onstage. He had to iron his shirt. He forgot his belt. Worse, he had no time to either test the audio elements of his presentation (which he had planned to deliver cooly from an iPad that he would hold during his presentation) or get a backup system in place.

Can you guess what happened?

Right. The audio files on his iPad -- the ones he had planned to use to accompany his live presentation -- would not play. He tried over and over and over, to no avail. And keep in mind, this was happening in front of a live crowd of more than 2,000 people, all of whom paid good money to be there.

Glass ran off stage and grabbed his backup iPad, turned it on and gave that a try. No dice. At that point, everyone in the crowd who had ever given a presentation was uncomfortably feeling his pain, but Glass soldiered on.

Finally, he figured out the problem: A closed door in the wings of the stage was blocking the signal to his iPad. Some staffers propped open the door, and -- voila! -- game on. From then on, he delivered a brilliant show.

Here's the point: Nothing went right for Glass that night, and he didn't panic. He calmly went through his checklist until he found the problem. And he was great from that point on -- so good, in fact, that by the end of the show audience members were inviting him out for drinks.

The moral of the story: Our problem isn't being perfect. Nobody's perfect.

Our problem is dealing with imperfection. If we can do that well, we're gold.


Bill Sheridan