Day 98: Don’t Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

A while back my son gave a talk at a virtual conference. I attended. He did great. He was prepared, engaged, laid back. He crushed it.

The talk was recorded and today I asked him when the video of the talk would be available online. He said that he didn’t know and then said something like:

I don’t think I could watch it. I couldn’t relive that disaster.

What? In what universe was that a disaster? Talk about taking a success and turning it on its head. That’s snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

What Was He Talking About?

I asked my son why he felt it was a disaster. It really boiled down to two items:

  1. His talk wasn’t as technical as most of the other talks at the conference.
  2. He had some technical issues right at the beginning.

Ok, fair enough, all true. However! Those are minor footnotes to what was a really successful event!

While his talk wasn’t super technical, it was really well received. The attendees were engaged, he got a lot of questions from the audience, and feedback was universally positive, both on the content and on his presentation skills. Yes, he did have some technical issues to begin with, but he worked through those, recovered, and didn’t let those issues harm his attitude during the rest of the presentation.

In my book, I thought the entire thing was a resounding success. I’m so proud. In his book, it was a disaster.

What’s Going On Here

I think it’s natural to be your own worst critic. I think that’s what going on. He was presenting alongside industry professionals with decades of experience and selectively comparing himself to them. I say selectively because in many ways his presentations was better than most of the other presenters. Yes, they were more technical, but in terms of presentation skill and quality, no one blew him out of the water and he was in the top 25%.

That has me thinking: How would I want my son to react in this situation? How would I want myself to react?

If he asked (which he hasn’t 😀 ), I think I’d tell my son three things about how he should react to this situation:

  1. Focus on the things he did well.
  2. Identify the things that he wasn’t happy about and mentally flag those things as areas to focus on next time around.
  3. Recognize that anytime you step up and “put yourself out there” you’re doing something that most other people won’t do, and be patient with yourself. The fact that you’re doing anything at all is awesome in it’s own right.

I Need That Same Advice

The reason I’m trying to look at this situation from this perspective, as my son’s father, is that I know I need to listen to my own advice. I am often my own worst critic and it’s hard for me to give myself the sort of clear-headed best-intentioned advice I will give my son. So as I look at the advice I would give my son, I’m thinking about how that advice applies to me as well.

Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash

1 thought on “Day 98: Don’t Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory”

  1. Such a tough lesson to stay consistent with. We are our own worst enemies sometimes. This ties back to the default mode that is discussed in Why Buddhism is True. Traditionally we evolved in much smaller communities where putting yourself out there was frowned upon. Now we can talk to hundreds and thousands of people at once over video chat. How does that play into our evolutionary development?

    Keep being a positive influence and I have a feeling the kid is gonna be just fine.


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