Recently I spoke at a conference and didn’t feel good about my presentation. I’d say I hit a single. I don’t like hitting anything less than a home run. And if I hit anything under a double, I feel terrible for days.
I knew I hadn’t done well. I chose the wrong talk for the wrong audience. It was a group of accountants and I talked about narrative strategy in marketing. Quite a dopey move. Regardless, though, people were kind enough and said they enjoyed it but I knew I could have done better.
When I left the conference, two gentlemen boarded my plane and walked by my seat. One leaned over to the other and said “I’m glad I don’t have to sit next to him.”
What? Was my talk that bad? Do they really not want to even hear the sound of my voice?
I spent the two hour flight reworking my talk so it would never fail again. And I made a list of all the good things that would come out of my recent failure, including having rewritten the talk to make it better. And yet the idea those guys wouldn’t even want to sit next to me bothered me.
And then it occurred to me that I really didn’t know the whole story. I’d assumed they didn’t want to sit next to me because my talk was so bad, but how did I know for sure?
When I got off the plane, I waited a couple minutes for them to come up the ramp and I mentioned we’d been at the same conference, I asked if there was anything I could do to improve my lecture. They both looked at me blankly. Finally, one of them said “Were you at the State Farm conference?”
I hadn’t been. In fact, those guys weren’t even at my lecture, and they weren’t even at the conference I spoke at. And when they got on the plane, they weren’t even talking about me.
The whole thing made me wonder what other false narratives I was inventing in my head. How many people do I think don’t like me who actually do? How many people have I been offended by when I actually just misunderstood them?
Since then, I’ve been careful to follow up on every story I tell myself about somebody being upset or disapproving of me. It’s been remarkable. I’d say up to 90% of the time, I’ve got the wrong story floating around in my brain.
Imagine how much unnecessary negativity floats around in our brains because we’ve made up a story in our mind, convinced the narrative is true?
Are there any stories floating around in your head you might need to follow up on? It’s certainly made my life better. Hope it works for you, too.