Saturday, September 15, 2012

Plan for an Unexpected Change in Plans

Saturday was supposed to be my big day. The first installment of my new radio show. I was so excited. Proud. Ready. For the past three months, I had eagerly awaited the moment when I would be in the studio, the producer would introduce me, and I would begin serving the local entrepreneurial community with weekly shows of inspiration, guidance, and expert guests to help them get the most out of their businesses and their lives.
Sponsors had made strong commitments to our listeners to support them on their journey. Guests were in the studio to share their stories. Friends and family were loyally perched on the edge of their seats in support of my new endeavor. I had pages and pages of notes and reminders to myself... that were intended to help me relax and not betray the anxiety I felt about my debut. The entire free world was waiting to hear my show, and I was not going to disappoint them!
... Oh, yes, I was prepared. I had notes for every possible event... What if the guests don't show up? Got that covered with an extra feature. What if the taped interview I did with a successful local business person was accidentally erased? No problem... I'll just talk about his book, and how much can be learned from his experiences. What if I get hungry? Protein bar. Check. Water. Check. Bathroom... already timed the trip so that I can fit it in during a break.
Nothing was going to shake me up... I was ready for anything... Bring it on!
And then, of course, the unexpected happened. About two minutes before we were to go on the air, the producer says that we will be cutting away to a live press conference from Aurora, Colorado, where the Governor, the local Police Chief, and the FBI will be giving more details about the horrible tragedy at a local movie theatre just a couple nights earlier. He tells me that he's not sure when the conference will begin, so that I should start the show, but that as soon as the press conference begins, I will be cut off.
Talk about a curve ball!!! I went from "all systems go" to mortified in the blink of an eye. Should I race through my intro and get as much of it out as possible? Should I introduce myself to our listeners--who have no idea who I am or why Glen Beck isn't on-by telling them that we have a new show, but they'll have to wait until the horrific details of a National Tragedy are replayed before we can start the fun? Can I run? Cry? Reach out for a lifeline?
I think the technical term is discombobulation. My cool was completely blown. How do I show my compassion for the victims and their families, while sticking to my plan to deliver an inspirational show? What do I do now? No time to regroup; this is live radio. I can't call a quick 20 second time out to check with the coaching staff. I have to call an audible... on the fly... for my first play in the game... ever! Maybe, if I'd had just a bit more experience, I would have been able to handle this better... or perhaps if I had given my plan some flexibility, I would have been ready for a detour.
Well, I'll save you the trouble of searching for a link to my debacle of a debut. Suffice it to say that I panicked. Kicked it wide right. Threw it right into coverage. Air ball. Whiffed it. Pick your sports metaphor... the bottom line is that I blew it. I had so overplanned, that I left no room for life to intervene.
Life is much more like jazz, with crazy solos and occasional detours, than a symphony where everyone plays their part according to a beautiful script written long ago. The great artists may have a general idea when they sit down to create, but the final result frequently looks or sounds completely different from what they originally had in mind.
Our businesses are like that, too. We don't live in a vacuum, and the events we encounter are frequently out of our control. Being prepared is important, but being flexible is essential for the times when your plan needs a tweak on the fly. Of course, you need a business plan. Absolutely. It will be your guide through good times and bad... as long as you remember that it is not written in stone.
So, the moral of the story here, is that you must, of course, be prepared... and be prepared to ditch your well thought out preparations when the market tells you that the wind has shifted.
Ok... So, it turns out there was another lesson for me here... and maybe it is one for you, too.
Just as I was about to wrap up this story, I received an email from the radio station, with a link to the show. Like craning your neck at a car accident on the highway, I had to take a listen. Guess what? It wasn't as bad as I thought. Fancy that! I was a little hard on myself...
Lesson number two for me... and maybe you... We are creators, and sometimes we let our inner critic overwhelm our precious creations. I call this my Loyal Soldier, a term I learned from Molly Young Brown... more on that in a future blog. For now, the message is-be kind to yourself during the creative process. As your business evolves-and you evolve with it-there will be times when you don't do everything right. You will make mistakes... be prepared for that... and be prepared to forgive yourself and move forward.

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