I got lost on the way to SOBCon Northwest to hear famed inspirational business leader Jonathan Fields speak a few weeks ago…and learned a lot about how writers can overcome fear and embarrassment.
It was a really humiliating experience, especially because the conference was right across the street from our hotel.
Have I mentioned that I bawl like a baby when I get lost?
I thought the conference center would be across from the front door, but that turned out to be wrong. I didn’t get the greatest directions since it sounded so easy to find.
To make things worse, I went down the street to the drugstore to get a couple things first, and then got hopelessly disoriented. I was hauling the new laptop we bought our teen for college, which weighs a ton.
Soon, my nice professional outfit was completely bedraggled, I was covered in sweat, and emitting occasional pathetic sobs as I trudged up and down the streets of downtown Portland.
I was in no shape to network and meet anyone. I thought seriously about going back to my hotel and driving home.
Most of the buildings were the security type where you need a badge to get buzzed inside.
I wanted to get on a megaphone and tell all of downtown Portland, “Don’t you understand? I’ve driven for 3 hours and paid hundreds of dollars to attend SOBCon in large part because I really want to see Jonathan Fields! And he’s speaking right now. I’ve got to find this place right away.”
It seemed like hours were passing. Jonathan Fields was the kickoff speaker, first on the program. I didn’t have a watch handy, but it seemed increasingly certain that I was going to miss his talk.
I was just so super-disappointed in myself. I started a lot of negative what-if type conversations with myself.
Why didn’t I leave with a group of other SOBCon attendees? Why didn’t I have the conference center phone number handy?
After asking directions a half-dozen times, from hotel concierges, office managers, people I accosted on the street, I hit one who actually knew where I was going, got back on track, and found the conference center.
I just cried harder when I saw how it was right out the door of the parking lot behind my hotel.
Finally, I stumbled into the conference center. I could see everyone was already seated and listening to a speaker.
I wanted to curl up in a corner and hide.
But that’s when the magic started
“It’s OK,” she said when I told her what happened. “You’re here now. You made it. Can I help you carry all that?”
I took a minute to inhale a donut, mopped off my forehead, and tried to pull myself together. I slunk into the hall and flopped down at the first table, which was mostly empty.
Business expert Carol Roth, who I know from a previous SOBCon and who was also a scheduled speaker, signaled to me — come over to my table. She walked over and helped carry my things too.
I started to feel hopeful — like somehow, I was going to be able to let go of the ordeal I’d just been through and have a productive day at SOBCon.
Finally, I looked up. And Jonathan Fields was just walking up to the front to begin his talk.
I hadn’t missed anything.
6 Fear-Busting Tips I Learned
- You’re not failing as bad as you think you are. Everything gets exaggerated when we think we’re screwing up. Realize that other people may not be thinking you’re such a failure. That could just be you.
- Don’t despair — help is on the way. When we despair, we start to make assumptions about what will happen. We think everything is going to continue to suck just as bad as this moment. But you never know how the people around you will stop to help you out when they see you’re in trouble.
- You won’t miss the important stuff. Have you noticed that we always seem to be there for the moments in our life that are really important? I learned later the whole conference was being recorded and streamed on the computer — so I could have watched Jonathan Fields’ talk later if absolutely necessary.
- Stop beating yourself up. If I could have stayed positive, I no doubt would have been able to find where I was going a lot faster. Instead, my I-get-lost-a-lot panic set in and then I became a hopeless mental mess.
- Learn to bounce back. If I couldn’t get over wandering lost for an hour, I would have missed the opportunity to learn from everyone at SOBCon that day, speakers and attendees alike. We all mess up — the key is to recover and keep going.
- Keep a perspective. In the great scheme of life, whether or not I got to hear this one talk was probably not that important. I let it become super-critical in my head, which created a panic when I couldn’t get there right away.
What have you learned from your screwups? Leave a comment and tell us about it.