Freedom to Choose

A while back, I was heading into an important speaking engagement that offered a lot of opportunity. For me, it was a big deal, and was definitely the most daunting event I had spoken at, for a number of reasons. At the same time, it was exciting to have an opportunity to speak to a group of high-level professionals who I felt could benefit from what I had to share with them.

Normally, I’m a fairly confident guy who believes in myself and is willing to “walk the high wire” so to speak, and be able to live with the possibility that it may or may not go so well. I always figure that success and good outcomes are likely if I do my homework, research, and prepare well and just be myself.

In the weeks leading up to this event, I had spoken at another place in another state, and felt like it had gone pretty well overall. After the event, the coordinator sent me the evaluations and I read through them. At first, I liked the feedback from the audience, “great job” “really enjoyed it” “very helpful” and then I read a different kind of feedback from a couple of different people. “Boring”… “Terrible presentation”…. WHAT?…That felt like a punch in the gut… Suddenly I didn’t see the many nice things most of the people had said, and all I could see were these negative words. I’ll be honest; it hurt.

I was at dinner with my family a few days later, and I was sharing this feedback and how frustrated I was and my college student daughter said “you let them get in your head, didn’t you?” Yep. Guilty. Indeed, I had lost focus of all the good words and encouragement and let a couple of blunt, prickly comments rattle me and shake my confidence.

I talk a lot about a favorite book, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. In that book, he talks about the space between stimulus and response and states that there is the “only freedom we have”. OK, Jeff…time to practice what you preach. Focus on the big picture, don’t let a few negatives get you down.

The stinging feedback from a couple of people could either keep me rattled, and doubting myself or it could be the motivation to re-focus, work harder, research well, add new facts and content to the presentation, and raise the bar on what I delivered to my next client. I chose the freedom to get better. I dug deeper, read more, rehearsed, and rehearsed, and tweaked, and revised, and the finished product was something that I felt pretty good about.

The next speaking event day arrived, and I walked into the venue feeling relaxed and ready. The group was responsive, and engaging, and I couldn’t have felt better about the event, their feedback and smiles. Moral of the story? None of us are going to “knock it out the park” every day, to every listener or reader. Sometimes, we may get bruised along the way, but we have a choice. We either let it “get in our head” or we learn from it and get better. I highly recommend getting better. You will find that you can always improve, refine your work, and grow in the process.

Don’t let little things “get in your head”.

Choose to get better.