If you’re going to fail, at least make it spectacular.
I used to think I was destined for BIG THINGS. Not exactly sure what these ‘big things’ were, I nevertheless felt it in my heart and soul that I was going to make a big impact one day.
Todays tale is about the day that I did exactly that: I made a really big impact.
For a period of time before I had children, and in the early years of trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, I worked for an Internet-based career development company.
While on the outside the job seemed like an odd choice, it satisfied many of my check-list attributes of the ideal job:
1. Work from home (I’m an introvert by nature)
2. Research-based (I am a book-and-facts-nerd)
3. Being part of something designed to help people
4. Managing people and processes
Best of all, I made what was good money doing something that was relatively easy for me — a win-win.
Other perks included meeting new and interesting people that I would not normally get to meet, and doing a little travel.
The meeting I’m about to share with you will be seared into my brain forever. Not because it had some life-changing value or catapulted my career to new heights of success. I mean, I was catapulted, but not in the direction I might have preferred.
Let me explain.
A large part of my job involved researching attributes and values that underlie our human-nature career choices — for which my education in psychology provided the ideal foundation. This research sometimes involved meetings and negotiations with academic and business professionals who were involved in recruitment, training and human resources.
My boss (who I really adored), asked me to meet with one particular ‘important person’ who was flying into town to discuss what we were doing. For reasons I cannot remember, my boss couldn’t make it to our dinner meeting.
I was equal parts honored and nervous.
In preparation for the meeting, I did the usual stuff:
- Printed out copies of important or helpful documents.
- Placed them in my lovely and rarely-used leather-bound document folder.
- Reviewed items for discussion.
- Chose my most serious (but not too serious), casual (but not too casual) business attire.
And of course, chose the shoes that went best with the outfit — which also had to be suitable for the snow and ice that lay on the frozen Calgary ground.
It’s important to know I love shoes. Like, LOVE shoes. (Not important for the story — just in general).
At that time, I had a much more limited budget for shoes than I do now.
So, my shoe choices were usually made based on their pricetag, function, and fit (I have flipper-width feet unfortunately) — not necessarily in that order. Which often meant my shoes would be cute, but not super high quality.
All I remember about the shoes I wore that day was that they had a low-ish heel made from that industrial-grade plastic stuff. You know the stuff I’m talking about. The hard, durable, we-also-make-outdoor-furniture-from-this-stuff black plastic.
No biggie. My fashionable wide pant leg covered the majority of the ugly heel, and the cute toe-area could be seen. That really is all that matters, right?
Wrong (as I was soon to find out).
We had chosen a familiar place that was convenient for us both to meet and have dinner. Picking my way through the snow in the parking lot, focusing hard on not falling, I stumbled in the door about 5 minutes late.
The restaurant was open-plan, high ceilings, with some comfortable booths around the perimeter. There were a couple of steps down into the main dining area from the entrance.
The polished wooden floor was filled with tables, chairs filled with hungry customers.
Not liking to be the center of attention, I quickly scanned the restaurant, secretly hoping that the person I was there to meet would perched on a stool at the bar, or perhaps the closest possible table.
My preference was always anything but a Grand Entrance.
No such luck.
Sitting on her own, wearing an expensive suit and having a pre-meal drink, she sat in a comfortable booth way at the other side of the restaurant.
I had to walk through the sea of seated people to get there. Ugh.
“You’ve got this” I said to myself.
“Chin up, shoulders back, look like you own the place” (the confidence-boosting words were barely formulated in my brain as I took a step forward).
Have you ever heard the thud and echo of something heavy crash-landing on a wooden floor in vaulted-ceiling building?
Neither had I.
Until that day.
The day my hard-black-plastic-heeled-shoes slipped on a tiny bit of melted ice and caused my legs to fly out forwards at the perfect angle to allow my behind make direct impact with the floor.
Nothing subtle about it.
Despite my prayers, I had indeed made a Grand Entrance and a Big Impact… all rolled into one.
(In retrospect, I would have preferred a Mariachi Band and a host of Flamingos to announce my entrance — it would have been more subtle).
I sat on the floor for a nanosecond making sure that the only thing that was shattered was my pride.
Wishing above all things that the ground would just open up and swallow me… unfortunately, no such luck.
Instead, I had to somehow haul myself up from the floor and limp — walking only on my toes with evil-plastic-heels raised above the slippery wooden surface — my way past every. single. dining. table to the booth in the back corner.
(“Chin Up. Shoulders Back. Walk … just… walk” my mind whimpered, while my cheeks burned red and I avoided eye-contact with All. The. Eyes.)
That was the longest walk of my life.
It was also the longest dinner of my life.
(Partly from embarrassment, and partly because I stayed long enough to ensure that every single person who had witnessed the debacle left before I did).
When I got home, I threw those shoes in the trash.
What are the hard-learned lessons of todays #tuesdaystale?
1. Always buy the best shoes you can afford. If plastic-heeled shoes are the best you can afford, remember that (emotional) safety always comes first. When in doubt, flip-flops are absolutely okay.
2. Don’t be afraid to make a Grand Entrance — they happen despite you, so you may as well do it your way.
3. If you’re going to fall (or fail) don’t be afraid to make it SPECTACULAR. At the very least, you’ll have a good story to tell.
As always, thank you for reading! I love to read your comments and feedback :)
Originally published at https://www.tanyatinney.com on September 22, 2020.