Have you ever made a big mistake? …and it was so bad that you decided to ignore it? Did that make it better or worse? How did you handle it?
Vinnie, my comedy mentor, asked me a few weeks ago, “Something’s off. You OK?” Friends and people close to us can sense when we’re a little off. When I told him the story you’re about to read, he said, “That’s inspiring! You’ve got to tell people this story.”
Last spring I decided that I needed to make some changes in my life. The changes had to start with my business so I could have more personal time. Vinnie had been telling me, “You work constantly and you’ve got to cut back!” I knew he was right — working harder and more hours doesn’t always equal results.
I needed to let go of one aspect that was taking a large portion of my time. I love marketing, but decided to invest in that area of my business in order to earn more and have the ability to take more time off. I got so busy with boot camps and traveling that I just kept throwing all the work their way, so my expenses went way up. Bottom line… I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening.
When you put your head in the sand and keep digging, eventually something has to give. As Patricia Fripp so brilliantly says, “It doesn’t matter how much you bring in — It matters how much you keep.” Ouch.
I found myself with a huge bill and little in my bank account to cover it. I had to stop digging or they were going to repo my shovel! LOL (It’s much easier to laugh about it now!)
I eventually had to regroup and take responsibility for my mistake and focus on a way out. That’s what inspired me two weeks ago to write an article about responsibility. I did some praying… spoke to a couple of mentors… and took a breath.
If I was going to get out of this hole, I decided that I needed to step back and take inventory. What do I have? As I was pulling into my own garage I realized that I have a garage full of my educational tools. And that reminded me that I have a huge list of customers. Everywhere I travel, so many people tell me stories about how my products and programs have helped them. Just last week in Wisconsin, a speaker came up to me and said, “I’m a techie, but your That’s Me on CD program motivated me to get my first product done. Here it is!”
I love hearing comments like that! So, as I pulled into my garage, I had an idea for how to create a win/win situation. I decided to ask my customers for help, while offering them a great discount at the same time. I wrote a transparent e-mail to my past customers about what I had done and asked for their help. They could either buy one of the programs that they didn’t yet have, or pass the offer on to a friend or colleague. Either way, it would help. I held my breath, said a prayer, and sent that single email.
And now, as Paul Harvey would say, for the rest of the story. According to my email stats, 719 people actually opened and read it. The response was amazing! I received emails from people apologizing that they couldn’t buy anything! WOW. That’s why I wrote in the email that it would be a great help just to forward the message to somebody else. Within 48 hours, I had more than $11,000 in orders come in. I received so many emails appreciating my openness and honesty, and others sending me well wishes.
I also received a few emails that I didn’t expect. One message from a woman said, “Wow! You’re a great writer! You almost got me…” She thought it was just a marketing ploy. Ouch! I’d be happy to show you my bank account to prove it!
I’m not sure how many people would be willing to open up and say what I did. Another person took the opportunity to reply and tell me that of all the World Champs, he thought I was the worst! LOL. I’m not sure what his intention was — but hey, he’s entitled to his opinion, and I love the other champs, too!
So, what does this mean to you and what did I learn from this?
#1) Take responsibility. I could have passed the blame, but that would only add to the drama and drag out the problem.
#2) Take inventory of what you do have. We all have resources and contacts that sometimes we overlook. It’s helpful for us to step back and look at ourselves from the perspective of other people.
#3) Be willing to ask for help. Don’t let ego get in the way of a brighter future. Often people around us want to help when we need it, but they simply don’t know how. When another mentor, Dave, was afflicted with cancer several years ago, he learned that he needed help and gave people small specific ways they could. He found that people were thrilled. Many times, givers need to ask for help. Myself included.
#4) Prayer helps. Amen.
#5) Good intentions build relationships. I often erroneously say. “I’m not a good networker.” I guess, in a way, it’s because I focus on creating programs that help people I’ve built more report than I thought.
#6) Some people will kick you when you’re down. Focus on those who help you up.
#7) Even when you’re open and tell the truth, some still won’t believe you. Oh, well.
#8) Goodwill is priceless. I’m going to do more to build up the goodwill account if I should ever make a big mistake again.
The income helped me out of an immediate need. I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m on track and on my much better trajectory. I’m thankful to all the thoughts prayers and well wishes. I appreciate them as much as the orders. They make me feel good and appreciated. That helps the mindset, which helps me to be creative about solutions. I thank Craig and Ed, my best friends, for listening when I needed it. You guys are amazing!
I hope that this may inspire you. I know I learned my “ostrich” lesson. Things are starting to pick up, and I believe much of that comes from the moment I decided I needed to take control again. Maybe there’s another lesson you see in this? Please post it!
World Champion of Public Speaking
#4 is so true! Great post. Praying for you today.
I don’t often have time to read your stuff, but you know I care about you and always send you good energy when I see your name come up in my mailbox. I don’t think this was a marketing ploy, but I do applaud your subject line …..it got me to open the email and read it all the way through. Excellent writing – heartwarming and inspiring experieince. What doesn’t kill ya, makes you stronger stuff 🙂
Asking for help can be very tough, and can backfire (personal experience) I’m delighted that you were able to reach out, resulting in a mountain of good headed your way. Your very rich in the good will department my friend and rightfully so!
I’m swamped – at work, at home, everywhere. I need to be focused on my work deadlines right now but for some reason (because I’m swamped at TM too?) I opened my personal email to check on – yes – Toastmasters emails.
I always enjoy getting your emails, Darren – but this was the best for me. Best timed, best message (I needed it and was ready to hear it) and best circumstances. If alligators biting at one’s heals can be considered ‘best circumstances’.
I’m very glad I got distracted. Now I need to get back-on-tracted. Thanks for the honesty and the perspective, Darren. Make it a wonderful day!
Always appreciate your drive determination and honesty Darren, every item I have purchased of your material is fantastic, all any of us who buy it need to do is “put it into action”. That takes commitment and follow through and I fail in that area a little myself. I may be a little slow but I never quit on my goals.
As for the Nay Sayers I learned a valuable lesson many years ago in sales; Some will, Some won’t, So what, Next. Be pleasant, be polite but don’t ever take their crap personally.
Taking responsibility is the most important lesson I’ve ever learnt, never blame, never justify, never deny and never quit.
And never beat yourself up. Warren Buffet suggests winners have an inner locus of control, we need to look honestly and learn from our errors (or expensive lessons/failures/mistakes) but do not dwell on them. The losers in life Blame, Justify, Deny or worse they Quit.
Finally although I am not at all into religion I respect those who do have a strong faith and I love the saying, “Gods delays are not Gods denials”.
We just happened to have put a different deadline date to hers.
Good luck and continue to take a little time to smell the Roses.
You are a world class person and I respect you greatly.
I so admire your tenacity and willingness to be vulnerable. I always learn something from you, Darren. I am years behind you in this profession so my eyes are wide open and watching you. You are a great mentor, a great role model and just a great guy. Keep on keepin’ on – I know you will because I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone so tenacious and gracious and so willing to give.
And yes, prayer helps no matter what your faith or who your God is!
I like Kristin’s description of you: “tenacious and gracious”! Rings true. Glad to hear you are bringing it to Paris!
I was most inspired by your newsletter. Thanks for your candid comments and insight into your personal business actions. I feel with all the other things you’ve taught, this also is good for teaching and learning. Keep up the good work and good intentions. Good Luck, I’m sure that this will be just one more of your great successes!
One of the hardest thing for a human being to do is ask for help. We don’t want to appear weak. Actually it is the strong and wise who know that we won’t be judged but appreciated for showing that we don’t know it all.
“We do better when we know better.” Maya Angelou, Author
And the only way to do better is to ask for guidance then share that knowledge, your friend and student Rena
I say you recently in Vancouver giving a training seminar for us Toastmasters. The material you presented was world class which has helped me enormously to become a better speaker.
I gave a speech not too long ago on proactive/reactive and by knowing the difference it can save you miles of headaches.
You could have become reactive when faced with your dilemma and made some bad decisions that would have made the situation even worse. Instead you took responsibility and when driving into your garage you saw the solution, which lead to a making a proactive decision based on a positive thought that lead to a positive action, which in turn yielded positive results.
When we make a decision based on a reactive feeling or thought it normally ends up compounding the problem.
I am glad you shared this story as it shows what can be done when we remain proactive looking for a positive solution.
This is the first I have learned about your predicament. Impressed, as always, by your candour. Ignore the negative or critical people. It can happen to the best of us. A multi-millionnaire friend of ours (in UK) always said the secret to his success was to keep down his overheads. Wise words. You will come back stronger than ever. Good luck. Eileen
The 8 lessons you learned from this experience are great, especially #4 and #5. Thanks for sharing so openly and helpfully. I do think in #5 you meant rapport, not report. Don’t give up!