Forgiving Ourselves For Our Mistakes

At The Podium

(first posted on October 24, 2010)

I was very excited to be asked to speak at a major national conference this past week. Although I only had two days to prepare, I felt comfortable with the topic and was confident with the message I had prepared. On the day of the conference, I arrived early and took time to interact with some of the participants during the group activities. After an active program, and networking at lunch, the participants settled in to listen to the speakers. I was second in the lineup.
The speaker before me was a very personable and engaging person who did not need a microphone. He walked freely around the room, and held us captive with his story about being called by the White House. As I listened to him and enjoyed his speaking style, I completely abandoned my plan to deliver my message from the podium where I could glance at my notes and face the room. By the time it was my turn to speak, the program was running 20 minutes behind and I felt the responsibility to get us back on track and speak to my slides.

The person introducing me called me to the front and invited me to share the story of how I came up with the name Yaya. I began telling the story. I explain that my mother thought I might have a problem with language because I could not say my name. She used to say, “pense que eras retrasada para hablar”. As I heard her words in my mind, I was automatically translating the message to English. So, I said, “My mother thought I was retarded”. The correct translation for “retrasada” is “delayed “ but I said retarded which has an entirely different meaning. Immediately, I realized my error, and was horrified as I was in a room with corporate professionals. AAACK!!
So what did do? I kept going without acknowledging my mistake. At that moment I thought I had lost all credibility with the audience, so I decided to charge on quickly as possible. I didn’t refer to my notes as much as I had planned and left out some of the great references I had researched during the preparation. To make matters worse, my positioning away from the podium was awkward with my notes behind me forcing me to turn away from the audience from time to time.
After the conference, I met with two of my NHLI hermanas (nhli.org), Rosalia and Carmen. I told them what happened and was feeling terrible about my mistakes. I explained, in very detailed fashion, each of my mistakes and was telling them, as much as I was telling myself, what I would do differently next time. 1) I would not modify my plan to match another speaker’s style, 2) I would not rush through my presentation ,and 3) If I misspoke, I would acknowledge it immediately and apologize to the audience.

These two amazing Yayas had this to say: forgive yourself. WOW! Those two words rescued me from the downward spiritual and emotional spiral I was on. I attest and agree with the notion that we overreact to our mistakes and as a result spend a lot of emotional energy on reliving the moment and beating ourselves up about it. If I can forgive myself I can save myself a lot of unnecessary pain and make better use of my emotional energy. So, what does it mean to forgive myself? It means accepting that I am human and as such, I will err. It also means letting go of the self anger, disappointment and feelings of failure. Easier said than done, verdad?

Well, here is how I am doing it. Every time that a negative thought comes up, “I can’t believe I did that”, “my reputation is ruined”, “they will never ask me to speak again”, I counter with loving and forgiving thoughts: “you are a good speaker”, “this experience is making you an even better speaker”, “you are learning valuable lessons that will make you very successful at what you do”. I know in my heart that if I were coaching a young speaker who had made this mistake, she would get my love and support and I would comfort her with the positive consequences of the mistake. I am treating myself the same way. Thank you hermanas for your love and salient advice!
Are you beating yourself up about past mistakes? Try letting it go and repurpose your emotional energies to love, comfort and forgiveness. Once your body, mind and spirit are freed of this burden who knows what you will accomplish.
I found this blog that has excellent advice on how to turn your mistakes into learning opportunities. http://blogs.hbr.org/hmu/2010/04/youve-made-a-mistake-now-what.html

Much Love,

Bye Bye Paycheck, Walking Away From Security

(first posted on November 8, 2010)

 

This week I attended a panel discussion on Latina Entrepreneurship. The room was full and women of all ages and backgrounds were on the edge of their seats, eager to learn from the four panelists.  The discussion began with introductions but quickly jumped to the main question: how do you walk away from a paycheck?

There was no easy answer for this question but it became clear from the comments in the room that entrepreneurs must be able and willing to tolerate a noticeable amount of risk and uncertainty. The panelists shared their stories which varied from leaving a job to start a business, becoming an entrepreneur after losing a job or after raising children. Yet, each woman had that pivotal moment when she made a conscious choice to leap off the platform of structure and security and fly into the wide open space of working for herself.  I experienced this moment and I can tell you that it is empowering, exciting, and elating as much as it is terrifying.  But, what got me and other women to make that leap was this strong undeniable belief in ourselves. We believed that we had the experience, the ability, the intellect and the chutzpah to achieve what it is we want to do. The planning — the what, the where and the how — came later.

Another popular question was. “How do you begin?” My notes have quotes around these very wise words, “You start by looking at yourself”. This is a very necessary first step which I took before doing anything. The more we know ourselves, the more confidence we gain around our abilities, and we are able to assess how much risk we can stomach. Be honest with yourself. Take the time to write down your dreams and take self tests and assessments. There are several tools on the Internet that can help in this process but these two books were very helpful to me: What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles, and Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton.

Looking at ourselves also means looking at our money. Are there costs we can trim? Can we begin to put away money to start our business? While I was working, I had automatic payroll deductions deposited into an interest-bearing account that I had designated as my future-business fund.  Having that account made me feel like I was working towards my dream and closer to it with each paycheck.  I highly recommend starting a fund for yourself as having money put away may ease some of the unease of breaking up with your employer, when the time comes.

After you’ve done that, start thinking about your support system. Who can you count on for advice and support? I believe that having a group of advisors is a critical asset that  every entrepreneur to acquire. Your family, friends and faith will get you through days of uncertainty. But also start thinking of people you know and trust who can open doors and are skilled in areas that you will need. Who do you know who is an expert in marketing? Who is a creative thinker? Who is a critical thinker? Having skilled advisers will help you make wise decisions. Finally, make sure to to visit www.sba.gov.  The Small Business Administration is a tremendous resource of tools and information to help you start your business. 

Do you dream of being the CEO of your own business? Are you looking to venture out on your own?  Do you seek some assurance that you will be able to let go and still be okay? It’s not too early to take these first couple of steps and you don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect to start. When I started jogging, I remember always stopping at a hill that I thought was too challenging for my out-of-shape body. Then, one day, I didn’t stop and concentrated only on putting one foot in front of the other as I jogged up the hill for the very first time. Before I knew it, I had run the entire hill! Sometimes, that’s what you have to do. Believe in yourself, take the first step and keep going. The first step is always the hardest. The second step is less hard, and so it the third, the fourth…  The first step may lead you to start your business on the weekends while you continue to work at your current job, or start that thing you’ve been putting off for so long. You may just be ready to take that flying leap right now.

I hope this will help you get started.

Much Love,

Does It Have To Be Goodbye?

 (first posted on October 10, 2010)

Melissa and Me

Relationships from work can morph into friendships

Transition. Does it seem to you like the whole world is in a state of flux? Transition correctly summarizes the past eighteen months of my life and, curiously enough, the lives of many of my friends and acquaintances. Folks are moving to other states or changing jobs, starting a new career or putting one on hold to be a full-time mom. We are forging new paths and developing new relationships along the way.

But, what happens to the old relationships? What of our former colleagues who we used to look forward to having lunch with? What of our bosses/mentors who knew our goals and dreams and took the time to coach us? What of our clients who we enjoyed talking to about our children and favorite hobbies? Does it really have to be goodbye?

I used to spend fifty hours of my week, and sometimes more, with the people I worked with. We supported each other through tight deadlines, budget cuts, as well as birthdays, anniversaries, deaths, births, breakups and new beginnings. I invested a lot of energy in these relationships and I didn’t see why I should let them go. It’s been an amazing experience to see how the relationships have morphed into something totally new. Though we are very familiar with our personalities and even with some of the details of our personal lives, the conversations somehow seem fresh and honest and more focused on what is most important to us. We talk much less about work and office politics and much more about our dreams and accomplishments.  

As I was talking with a friend and former colleague recently about the transitions in our lives, a picture came into my mind. I saw ripples in a pond with enlarging circles flowing away from the point of impact where the stone hit the water. This vision was the answer to my question. It does not have to be goodbye. The relationships we really care about will morph into new ones and just like the ripples in the pond, expand a bit further out from our daily awareness. If we make the time and find new ways of staying connected with the people we worked with for years, we just might be rewarded with a new perspective and the joy of catching up with an old friend.