PODCAST 05: Embarrassing Mistakes

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Transcript and show notes:

Hey Y’all!

I have been hearing from folks listening to this podcast and in the Facebook group about what this year has been bringing you in life and business so far - thank you so much for the correspondence, it is just SO good to hear from you. AND hearing from you, there’s something that stood out -  and that’s how entrepreneurship is about building a business, but it’s also about so much more, right? It’s a lot of overcoming obstacles, some of which are personal obstacles, like self-doubt… And it’s about stepping into our own leadership and really owning our role as CEO. In this episode, I get into some real talk, and if you have young ears nearby, it’s time to put on the earbuds. The language gets a little spicy in places.

In this episode, I want to talk about something that I learned the HARD WAY - and I’m still a little embarassed about it, but I think it’s of the UTMOST  importance that I share this with you, because I need you know that you can screw up in a lot of different ways, and it’s never really the end. It might be harder to move forward, it might be gut wrenching and lead you to wonder “What in the world am I even DOING?! What is even HAPPENING?!” And I’m here to tell you it’s ok. Learn from your mistakes and don’t make them again. Ok are you ready to hear all about this big fat juicy mistake I made? 

Here’s what I did. I took a quick-easy shortcut, and - shocker - it did not make it quick OR easy. You know all those swipe files you see out there on the internets? The ones that say ‘use this exact text and just drag and drop your specific info and VOILA! Success!” Right? I took a quick-easy shortcut - and used copy from a swipe file EVEN THOUGH it didn’t fit my sense of authenticity. I’m not going to mention WHO I got the file from, because this person has really truly helped me build my business in many many ways and frankly, what I did was my fault entirely and I don’t want anyone to think it’s in ANY WAY related to the person I got the swipe content from. I knew I didn’t like the copy and it felt off for me, but I ignored that thinking it would be easier to just sub in my details as suggested. 

Quick side note here - swipe files are awesome! I’m in no way saying that using them is a bad practice, or shunning those who make them, sell them, use them, or buy them. Where I went wrong was NOT in using a swipe file! It’s HOW I used it, and how I was feeling about it from the beginning: I knew it wasn’t a good fit for me, but I used it anyway without taking my own oft-repeated advice. I’m sharing all this with you not so you’ll avoid swipe files forever - used properly they are a time saver! 

Now before we go further, I just want to point out that our business tactics and how we employ them are determined by us - individually, and they are largely very personal and it’s up to us to decide exactly what they are. Our mileage will vary. A tactic that feels out of alignment to me can be perfectly acceptable and on the up and up for someone else. And that’s fine - there is absolutely NO shame in that. What I want to talk about is why it’s shady AF to take someone else’s tactic and apply it if it’s NOT something that’s sitting right with you, to ignore that voice inside you saying ‘waaaaiiiittttt a minute…’ - EVEN under the guise of learning - EVEN IF you’re being told this is the MOST EFFECTIVE way to get a result.

So what’s the big deal? So what if I rather haphazardly use someone else’s templates that really wasn’t aligned with me? So what? Big deal right? Well, my friend, I learned the hard way that you should never, ever, not in a million years… ever do that. And in a minute I’m going to count the ways in which this can come back to bite you, ways that we don’t consider when we’re looking for the quick ease over the quality ease.

Because here’s what happened. And AGAIN - this is not to throw shade at anyone. Remember - this is a story about what happens when you don’t listen to that voice inside you saying, “No. This isn’t the way.”  Side note - You know the Mandalorian? OMG I loved watching that show. You know how the Mandalorian always says “This is the way.?” And how it’s always in reference to something like, impossibly virtuous and dangerous? I can’t not think of that every time I think about this story. First, because it’s very rarely true that there is one right way. And second, that right way can and should be adjusted to fit what feels aligned to us as individual business owners. 

OK so back to my embarrassing mistake - and why I’m so adamant with my clients about checking in on core values and being really intentional with them in our business…


I reached out to folks that I admire in the online business space to collaborate with me on an event. These are folks that I’ve been following and admiring for ages, who helped teach me through their experience. I’d never done anything like this event before - it was bigger and more complex than I had even imagined. It was a TON of work. And I was very nervous because I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but wanted to convey confidence. And in that moment of self doubt and overwhelm with the enormity of the task at hand, I would go on to make an utter fool of myself - I reached out to them using copy I didn’t write (it was given to me to use if I wanted and I chose to use it even though it didn’t sound anything like me). And I bet by now that you can guess how that turned out…

Again - this isn’t throwing shade at anyone - I’m sharing this story because I think we’re entering into a new phase in the business world. I love coaching, but I think the entire online industry is ripe for some change... there is imminent social and cultural change coming, and it is already changing how businesses operate - from inclusivity in copy, both visually and in the written word. By the way, have you ever tried to search for diverse photos in Canva? It's not just a time suck, y’all, it’s deeply distressing - more on that another time. We’re really being taken to task on identifying marketing tactics that align with our personal ethics. ie - If we’re using urgency in our marketing, are we using it in a way that's aligned with our values? Are our values coming through in our marketing AND are we actually applying them to our business as a whole, weaving them into how we do business? Are they woven into our brand and how we do our work? So this is my story about learning the hard way about navigating this, it’s not about challenging any one else’s tactics or ethics. Because to be perfectly honest - how we do business - barring illegal stuff - this is completely up to us, and it’s our responsibility to own that power. There’s a LOT to this conversation that I’m looking to explore more deeply this year, on my own and in this podcast.

Ok. So here’s the deal:

The idea was to create an event with an outrageously high audience reach. To do that, I’d line up speakers and in the end, create a rising tide of reach among a group of online business owners who’s audiences would all find mutual benefit in learning from each other. Sounds awesome right? I thought so too! I still do. It’s a very powerful way to bring awareness to folks in a mutually beneficial, really affordable way AND to help a very large number of people in a very effective way. It’s impactful and I love the idea behind it - it’s collaboration at a really amazing level. And this is why the crux of the problem is not the tactic itself, it’s how I employed it: without considering how to align it with me and my values. 

So here the mistake I made is embarrassing but true:

I reached out using copy that I didn’t write and didn’t align with me because it was an option to use the swipe file. What I knew I should have done at the time, was use it as a guide for writing my emails and put my heart and soul into that communication from the start. Instead, I opted for quick ease instead quality ease. (More on that is in episode 4 of this podcast if you want to know what the difference is between quick ease and quality ease.) Eventually I DID put that heart and soul in, but it’s not what I started with and that was a huge mistake on multiple levels. First, it was disingenuous. Second, it didn’t reinforce TO MYSELF that I’m the primary decision maker and person in charge of my business and a leader in my own right. I undermined my own capacity to lead! In other words - it was a total self-own. And third, it just felt… hard. Like it was so much harder, in hindsight, to go about it this way than if I’d just gotten grounded in writing in a way that’s in alignment with me in the first place.

Another mistake: This is an offshoot of feeling really uncomfortable with what I was doing. I wasn’t as clear about the requirements for participating as I could have been. I wasn’t trying to be sneaky BUT it was a complete and utter debacle. I felt weird about the copy, so I was really squishy in my communication. Instead of owning the requirements completely or ditching them entirely, I was kind of on the fence and didn’t communicate well. It’s one of the worst decisions - or really, nondecisions, you know, the decisions we make by not actually taking decisive action - one of the worst I’ve ever made in my business. It was a complete lack of leadership on my part and I regret it. And as a result of my lack of leadership, I ended up unintentionally shaming people that I admire about things like list size AND wasting their time. I probably don’t have to tell you - none of that wasn’t intentional. You know how I feel about our most precious resource, TIME. This. Was. Soul crushing. It literally made me feel ill. Ugh. It still makes me feel awful. It was not intentional, but listen - does intention matter when the effect is so awful? No. Not at all. What matters is the impact and the impact here was… shitty. I can still recall one conversation VERY vividly where I was called the fuck out on this. She was right, and I’m eternally grateful that she was as honest and upfront with me about it as she was, and because I really admire her work - it still stings. 

I let my ego tell me that it was more important to appear confident than to admit: I’d never done this before and I was feeling a lot of discomfort. An event of this size and scale and with so many moving parts - and I’ve organized everything from baby showers to international conferences and hybrid events and all that jazz - this was intimidating and rather than admit my newness and inexperience, I opted to do something I don’t recommend and actively tell my clients NOT to do: I decided to fake it til I make it. 

And the real kicker here is that I could have avoided this hugely embarrassing mistake if I had, instead of ploughing on ahead, just paused and given myself the opportunity to rise to the occasion:

I could have acknowledged that I was feeling overwhelmed and frankly a little intimidated doing something new, and dealt with that before taking action. 

I could have acknowledged the still small voice that was saying ‘something doesn’t feel right…maybe…’ and listened to where it was coming from - it was trying to tell me something important and I put it in the corner like Baby in Dirty Dancing, but there was no Patrick Swayze to bring them back center stage.

I could have taken a look at my core values. Any one of them would have helped me see a bigger, more expansive vision and better communication would have been inevitably better if I’d taken that time!

My core values are curiosity, courage, collaboration… literally looking at any one of these for a few minutes in the very beginning of a project that felt overwhelming and new… probably would have been a game changer for how I approached it. Just stopping and pausing for a moment to get back in touch with what my leadership really looks like would have done wonders for the execution of this event. LESSON LEARNED. The hard way.

OK - one last thought I want to share on this particular instance:

While I still feel embarrassed about how I showed up in my business in this situation, It doesn’t define me, and the only bearing it has on what I do going forward, or how I show up in the future, is that I know more about what I don’t want to do next time. AND I’m also not going to push off the responsibility of that onto someone else either. I’m taking these lessons forward with me. As business owners it’s important that we recognize that how we build up our business is 100% within our control and we get to choose what that looks like for us. The important thing is to know beyond a doubt what that looks like for us in our business, and to act on them with consistency and confidence, so we can lead. So we can be trusted. And more importantly… so we can create the world we’re living in to reflect what really matters to us. 

And finally, when you make an embarrassing mistake, it’s really important to handle it. Never ignore the situation or double down on your decision if it was actually a mistake. What does that mean? It means that we need to get into a place of responding instead of reacting. Without going too deep into the process I use to do that (that’s for another podcast, for another time), the most important steps are: 

  1. Listen. Whether it’s your internal voice, a friend or colleague, or someone in your audience - when something’s up, always listen first.

  2. Respond. Instead of reacting. Reacting is our default response when we’re told we’re wrong in some way, and our initial reaction is rarely the one we would choose if we were to step back from the situation. Consider what options there are that might be more helpful to the situation. Sometimes a mic-dropping clap-back is the exact right thing to do, but those occasions are super rare. Getting clear on your impact and issuing a real apology is what is required in most situations. Be sure you’re coming to this from a place of understanding the impact you’ve had or you’re going to be issuing an apology for your apology!

  3. Integrate. What I mean is, carry this forward with you. Take the time to consider what you learned and then put that into your business and life on purpose. Applying what you learned and creating systems around that will make it more likely that you avoid that mistake in the future. The bonus here is that it will also make it more likely that you avoid similar or related mistakes in the future.

Ok y’all. I’ve shared the down and dirty. Again, there’s a LOT to this conversation that I’m looking to explore more deeply this year, on my own and in this podcast. And PS - if the episode resonated with you, I’d love to hear what struck a nerve. Slide into my DMs or hit me with what your take-aways were via email - you can get at me at emily@changeagent.studio 

The next episode I’ll be talking about core values and digging into using them to have more ease, enjoyment, and effectiveness in your business. Seriously, if there’s such a thing as ‘easy buttons’ in business, this is definitely one of them!

Thank you so much for listening. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there, and I’m stoked that you chose to listen to this one.

You can find a link to the show notes on my website - you’ll find the transcript there along with any resources I share in these episodes. 

Go to www.changeagent.studio/podcast.