What happens when things don’t go as planned?

A. You send messages to superman/woman to save you

B. You figure what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

Success in Failure

A recent episode with high school students brought this question to the fore.

My first reaction was to be mad, to blame and find fault.

Then, I stepped back and realized this mistake presented a learning opportunity for me and for these aspiring adults who will soon be our colleagues.

Where is this pearl hidden behind a very apparent failure?!

The Mess Up

Our local high school organized its first public speaking competition and 27 students signed up.  Parents, myself included, volunteered to coach the youth.

I arrived prepared for my group coaching class on Friday… none of the students showed up!

No one knocked … or tried opening the door … or sought another way inside … or even tried to contact me by email to inquire.

Later, students told me they had been waiting outside in the hallway in front of a closed door.  Waiting.

Had they walked 10 more meters, they would have found the classroom’s SECOND DOOR wide open with me inside.

Teen girls hanging out

Open shop sign

A random group of seniors (not involved in the competition) were hanging out in front of the closed door.   Did the younger students assume these older kids knew better and so they simply waited?

When we finally connected over email some forty minutes later, some of the students sent apologies and requested the opportunity for a replacement session.

The Dis-service of “Being Nice”

“Please, can we have a ‘Do-over.’” 

It sounded like my children’s explanations of their video games.  “I died, Mom, but it’s OK.  I have three more lives.”

For a moment I almost acquiesced to the students’ request.  After all, I could have poked my head out into the hallway and inquired of the students whether there were new arrivals and were they looking for the coaching.

But these are high school students!  They’re almost adults.  Coddling them neither respects me nor them.

With regards to myself, I had showed up prepared and on time.

In pondering how to respect the youth, I refocused on the over-reaching goal

  • To spark their commitment to defend a position with fervor
  • To ignite the desire to explore the topic from a variety of angles,
  • To encourage persistence and keep their flame burning to ward off discouragement

A “do-over” sounds nice…but might it really be mean? 

It’s stealing a valuable learning opportunity from the youth.  Or force feeding kids who are not hungry.

Can giving a second chance (being nice) really be mean? Yes, when it keeps one from getting stronger. Click to Tweet

Being Firm with Kindness

Instead I wrote them all the following note:

Dear All,

I am sorry about the mix up yesterday and understand the frustration of some of you when you feel you were at the right place and we did not connect.

This may not feel like the kind of coaching you were expecting … keep reading.

Some of you suggested that I reschedule.  I won’t…because this is also life and possibly the best coaching for us all in 

  • how to handle the unexpected and
  • how to show our determination to succeed

Here are some ideas for the future

Send an email – Try to connect

Send an email if you have questions or cannot reach us…we might be wondering the same thing!  And I learned that I could have sent you all an email prior to our meeting with my phone number so that you would have been able to call.

Overcommunication is better than missing out.

Knock (bang) on the door

I led a seminar to teach teens life skills and one of our guest speakers had her entire speech about knocking and pushing on doors she thought were closed.

Showing up is good…and not enough. 

Getting the job, getting the _____ (whatever you want) requires more.  Show your commitment to opening up the door.  GO FOR IT!!!

Avoid excuses

We all have a part of responsibility.  I could have gone out into the hallway and checked out the situation instead of staying in the room.  You could have knocked on the door, emailed or….


I realize this might not read like the note you expected.  It might even sound like “sermoning.”  Please know that this note is the coaching!

What the jury wants to hear in your speech is your PASSION, your CONVICTION, in all facets of your talk

  • in your logic
  • in your choice of words
  • in your tone of voice
  • in your posture

So we messed up with getting together on Feb 2.  Some of our best lessons we learn through mistakes.  This is a small one.  No big deal.  It becomes a big deal when there is no learning.

So, guys, go out there and show the jury your belief in yourself, your determination to do well, and your readiness to learn and bounce back.

BON COURAGE.  Wishing you each VERY WELL.

Sincerely, Denise

Motivating our Loved Ones

My own son also entered this public speaking contest (he’s in a different coaching group).  I wonder how to help him get grit too.

Often the most impactful way to motivate my own teen is to share experiences of every day life.  We discussed this episode around the dinner table.

He changed the topic of his discourse to speak on first impressions!


Photos from Unsplash.  Cartoon from Fotolia.

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