Back in the mid 2000s, I was working for an association as director of communications. I did not travel often or do much public speaking, but an opportunity came up for me to attend the Illinois state meeting of the company general managers. I prepared to speak about a legislative issue and the communications efforts we developed in collaboration with other industry organizations to address the issue.
I was thrilled to get this opportunity. I worked diligently on my presentation and conferred with our government affairs team and the PR firm we were working with on the campaign. I spent time studying my notes, practicing my speech and reviewing the slides.
I landed in St. Louis, Missouri and drove up to Springfield, Illinois, reflecting on my speech during the drive. Arriving with a couple hours to spare, I mingled with leaders and connected with the group host. I ducked into the restroom just a few minutes before my speech.
Once I began speaking, I was on fire. I stood at the front of the room and went through the PowerPoint, hitting all the points and feeling secure in the fact that I knew my stuff and my delivery was spot on. I felt strong and accomplished. It was pure adrenaline and I loved it.
I was so proud when I finished. I immediately made my way to the lounge and called my boss to let her know it went well. While I was sitting there celebrating my success and sharing my story with her, a gentleman from the session walked up to me and said, “I just wanted to let you know, your zipper is down.”
Yep... No kidding. My pride and celebration immediately plummeted to “holy cow, I’m so embarrassed.” I told my boss while still on the phone and we laughed until we cried. It was funny and sad all rolled into one. I’ll never forget the lesson I learned that day—check your zipper! But also—expect the unexpected and roll with it.
I could have lamented over the situation, but it was over. There was nothing I could change or do. I decided to bask in the glow of my successful presentation and not let the situation diminish my experience. There are many times when things don’t go as expected or something pops up (or in this case down!) and you need to accept it and move on.
We have talked about resilience in relation to the pandemic—I would suggest that resilience is now a part of daily life. We are constantly faced with career challenges that require our best skills to move forward.
Expect the unexpected and leverage your resilience for those moments—your strength to move forward is your superpower!
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Wendy Mann is the chief executive officer of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network and president of the CREW Network Foundation.