Do you know how to tell how good at something someone is? I've learned:

Clueless people brag about how great they are.

Masters tell you the disasters they overcame on the way to mastery.

The masters' stories are more fun and educational. I hope you enjoy and learn from mine.

You Value Experience, But Not Any Experience

When you hire, you look for experience, but not any experience. Anyone the same age has the same time of experience.

You don't value someone sitting around eating cookies and ice cream. You value someone who's put out fires.

You want to be able to handle fires yourself.

Which means you having faced them yourself.

My Latest Disaster, and How It Helped Me Grow

My latest disaster doesn't match the recessions, missed payrolls, screaming Board Members, and so on I've faced, but it embarrassed me in a vulnerable moment.

Last weekend was my second webinar. My goal is to give value throughout and talk about my online course at the end.

I've taught in-person for years, but webinars are new. It's just me, no support staff, starting simple, with only slides for video.

The weekend before, the first went as planned, giving me confidence.

Without warning, in the week between, the webinar hosting service changed its interface, which I learned moments before the webinar. Everything went wrong.

The software broadcast sound before the webinar: A laptop next to mine showed the viewer experience, which was a countdown timer before the webinar started

I heard sound coming from it--my voice! Before the webinar began, it was broadcasting my voice!

Viewers could hear me. What had I said?

Nervous before, now I could have panicked... except the timer was still counting down. I had under a minute. What was done was done.

Then, as the video went live, I saw...

The software only showed a split screen: My face was onscreen! I was in a dark room, with only a laptop camera.

I hadn't prepared to perform. I looked unprofessional.

I had to decide in the moment to keep or cancel the webinar.

With people online I couldn't cancel.

I flubbed around with the controls, trying to show only the slides. Which led me to inadvertently close the webinar.

I couldn't restart it.

To salvage the moment, I went to the webinar site, scheduled a new webinar, emailed the old participants, and hoped they'd find the new one.

The interface didn't show attendees. I couldn't tell how many attendees came over. How could I tell when to start?

Thankfully, some wrote in the dialog box.

The Show Must Go On!

I started and did my best.

What could I do but present? Despite stage anxiety, I've learned to enjoy being on camera, though not looking dark and shadowy.

I put faith in my material and my attendees' understanding and gave my webinar, however amateurish it looked.

(The problems continued after the webinar, by the way. I couldn't stop the software from sending emails, and so on.)

Why I Couldn't Have Hoped for a Better Experience

The next morning, I realized I could not have hoped for a better outcome.

Why?

Hadn't I spent months building up to start my webinars? Hadn't I planned for success? Hadn't I tried to avoid such an outcome?

Yes, but ice cream and cookies don't make for experience. To feel comfortable in future webinars, I have to know I can handle fires.

I wanted fires--on a small scale, when I could handle them.

You want fires.

You want disasters.

You want them early, to prepare you to handle big ones later.

Having survived the worst webinar experience I could expect, I made the worst, most nervous, poorest lit, lowest quality camera webinar I'll ever make. Rather than hide it, I'll share it (though at least starting past the initial confusion).

I won't feel bad if you consider the quality beneath you and too distracting from the content. I consider the content strong, based on my first Harvard talk a couple years ago.

It motivates me. Having hit rock bottom, I have only upward to go. I'm grateful it happened so soon.

Here it is, if you dare: How To Decide Without Regret

Published on: Feb 23, 2016