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Own The Night

Our biggest failures are our greatest lessons

Sometimes, we go through big failures or mistakes that leave us with a burning shame. And that feeling of embarrassment can be so hard to shake because we keep replaying what happened over and over in our heads and just keep thinking “if only I did this instead”.

It’s time to rewrite the narrative and come to terms with the fact that these experiences are our greatest lessons and instead of being ashamed of them we need to own them.

We need to be proud of our biggest let downs, not let them force us to let up, and learn how to reshape that burning shame into burning ambition.

Here’s a story:

Last year I was invited to a networking event at Legal Seafoods in Boston.

I was pretty hyped because 1) I love seafood and 2) it would be a great opportunity to meet some high level people in the pharma industry.

As a true scientist, I researched the heck out of my plan. I looked up where the restaurant was, I decided to valet at the Marriot next door because on-street parking was tight, and I planned my route to get there just early enough to be fashionably late.

I got my best networking outfit on and hit the road. I landed at the Marriot right on time, valeted with ease and went and sat outside the restaurant while I waited for my “ideal time” to be fashionably late.

When that time came, I headed in and walked up to the hostess and said with the greatest confidence “Hi, I’m here for the networking event with so and so” to which I was greeted with “Who?”.

I said “so and so, they have an event at 7pm?”

The hostess politely said nah bro they don’t.

I went outside and looked at the email invite and my heart sank. I was at the wrong Legal Seafoods. The right Legal Seafoods was 2 miles away which in Boston takes roughly 45 minutes to drive.

So I go and get my car at valet and drive the 45 mins to the right one. During that time it started downpouring and I found an on-street spot two blocks away.

I parked my car, I sat there for a minute, and then I started crying. Bawling might be a more appropriate term actually.

My entire confidence for that night was gone. I could see the people inside having a grand ole time but I just couldn’t bring myself to go in because social anxiety took over my poise after the mix-up debacle.

I was ready to meet strangers and start up conversations when my plan was going as planned, but once it was smashed into pieces by my own foolish mistake, my confidence plummeted and my ego completely deflated.

The Takeaway:

You may be thinking - wait, that’s not a happy ending at all. And you’re right it’s not, but there is a whole big takeaway from this.

I put so much faith in things going to plan that every positive thing that I expected to happen that night hinged on the plan working exactly as I wanted it to. And when it didn’t, the only thing that went to sh*t was me.

If I had entered into the night with less expectations and more willingness to accept whatever obstacles came my way, I likely would have made it into the party that night with my head held high (or at least on).

So what do I do now?

  1. Roll with the punches. I set my expectations lower, try to plan less and treat obstacles as adventures instead of setbacks. Whatever happens is just a great story waiting to be told later.

  2. Own my obstacles. My anxiety creeped in that night because I was thinking of myself as a loser so I figured everyone else would too. Now, I set the tone and I own my actions: “Yep, I went to the wrong restaurant, can you believe that! Hahaha”.

  3. Attend more events. Yes you heard that right! The more things I experience, the more comfortable I become with any hiccups that occur. The more we do uncomfortable things, the less uncomfortable they will feel over time.

In the end, I’ve owned this night. I’ve told the story more times than I can count and I remember every detail like it happened yesterday. It’s a beautiful reminder of how the experiences we go through can reshape the one we haven’t been through yet.

Without this ridiculous night, I would have never thought to change my approach or learned how to do so. I would have never thought about it over and over, replaying what I could have done differently only to come to the conclusion that it couldn’t have happened any other way because - it didn’t.

And honestly, the learning experience was well worth crying in the rain on a side street in Boston and not eating free lobster.

I think.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.
Hellen Keller


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