Crash and Burn: When Metaphor Meets Reality
It Started With a Lunch & Learn
In early 2009 I was asked to make a “Lunch & Learn Training” presentation for the local Chamber of Commerce. While it was an honor to do this, it came at a really difficult time. The pressure of my work life was incredible: during the 4th quarter of 2008 the (economic) world appeared to have ended and the 1st quarter of 2009 looked just as miserable. My leadership role had just expanded to include all the Idaho branches of a national financial planning firm, so I was on the road even more, with more advisors to supervise and ~$500M to monitor. Of course, being in that industry at that time presented its own “special” challenges. It was often an act of courage just to suit up and go in each day.
So, it seemed more than fitting that my presentation was titled “The Power of Passion and the Fuel of Focus.” I needed to daily tap into that core and figured other business people did, too. It made sense to go there, and better still to tap both the left and right brain of the listeners.
Whoa, was I wrong. It was an epic crash and burn. So, so epic.
In retrospect, there was probably nothing that I could have done differently to change the outcome. And, candidly, I don’t think I would have changed anything even had I known the group was preloaded to be so sour they could have provided the filling for a load of Sourpatch Kids candy.
…Star Wars Style
Of all the presentations I’ve seen, the ones most engaging and compelling are those that include a short video, especially from a popular movie, to quite literally set the scene for an idea or concept being presented. I used about three minutes from the beginning of the final installment of Star Wars. Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi steal their way onto Lord Grevious’s ship. Disastrous mayhem follows. It ends with Anakin crashlanding–in a huge and epic manner–what is left of the enemy ship. But a smiling Obi-Wan quips, “Another happy landing!”
The takeaway, of course, was that your expectation often determines your perspective. Anakin really expected he could successfully land what was basically a manufactured meteor; he was really upset by the crash. Obi-Wan was fine with it. Both went through exactly the same experience. Each had a completely different take on the outcome.
Unfortunately, those attending that “Lunch & Learn” didn’t want to hear that their expectations of life in general, and particularly their businesses in early 2009, hugely influenced their perspective. Their perspective, in turn, determined their actions. If most of those actions were birthed from an expectation of doom, how many of their actions would be positive and proactive? Few, if any. Those business folks wanted a silver bullet to make everything better. Understandable, to a point. But not something I could deliver to them.
That there are challenges in life is a given. How we respond to them is not.
What are your thoughts? Any “Crash and Burn” experiences you’d be willing to share?
[Also see Patience & Purpose]