The Speaking Event I Try to Forget

I’m writing about an event today that I have literally tried to block from my mind since the day that it happened. I would like to say that I learned from that experience and shrugged off all of the emotions associated with the complete and utter failure that I felt like I was, but I haven’t. Writing this even now makes my chest tight. Some things just stick with you.

It was a few years ago and I was booked to speak at one of the top business schools in the nation on the topic of money. This was a group of MBA students that were close to graduation and many of them were in the process of signing huge contracts with impressive Fortune 500 companies as well as receiving big signing bonuses and even bigger starting salaries.

Granted, it was a different audience than I usually spoke to: all men, many older than I was and with more education than I had. Today, that wouldn’t bother me because I have plenty of reps under my belt of speaking at EntreLeadership as well as coaching business leaders all over the country. But this was when I was a few years younger and had only been speaking for about one year to mostly to high school students and at a few women’s conferences. Nevertheless, the conference call preparing me for the audience went well and I felt great about the event leading up to it.

I went to the event and gave my talk to a classroom auditorium of about 25 men and a few women. Everything was going fine until one of the men in the audience interrupted my presentation while I was talking about debt and said,

“Why would I want to pay for a car in cash when I can take out a loan with 0% interest and invest that money and gain a higher interest rate during that time?”

What happened next was every speaker’s worst nightmare.

Y’all, I froze.

I froze and then I stuttered.

I mumbled something about you need to pay off your debt because then you can invest with even more money but he continued to pour on a barrage of accusatory counterarguments, one of which included, “Do you even understand the time value of money?”

I stuttered more. The audience began whispering to each other which became so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think.

I have never wanted to disappear more than I did in that moment in that hot room with all of those eyes glaring at me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know the answer. I knew the answer the moment I walked out the door but I had never been interrupted during a talk and asked such a pointed question in front of everyone and I panicked.

The whole thing was a traumatic blur but I think I finally said “You can. You can do that if you want.” I tried to continue my talk after that but it was pointless. I had lost the audience and lost every bit of belief I had in myself. I wrapped it up quickly and got to my rental car as fast as I could.

And then I cried.

I cried the entire drive back to Nashville, sobbing and wiping away tears of humiliation and complete defeat. It was something I’ll never forget, no matter how many times I have tried. (And, oh how I’ve tried!)

This is the point in which most stories will have a takeaway, right? This is where I am supposed to share a magical lesson so that I can now say, “Man, I am glad that happened!” But I won’t. I am not glad that happened.

But what I can tell you is this: what happened to me will happen again and it will happen to you.

Bad things WILL happen. You WILL fail sometimes. People WILL reject you, or your ideas, or your product, or your dream. That will happen and it will hurt. There’s no way around it.

But you have to keep going, anyway.

Even though it hurts. Even though you’ve lost belief. Even though there’s no magical lesson and the thing scarred you to the core, you have to keep going, anyway.

Just as my dad made me literally get back on my horse when I was bucked off when I was seven years old, you have to get back up, anyway.

Being thrown off a horse and busting my head open as a child made me hate horses and never want to be near one again – but what a shame that would have been if that would have happened. I would have missed out on a lifetime of loving, riding, owning and enjoying horses if I let that failure of a ride be the end. But I got back up, anyway.

And even though that event made me never want to speak again, what a shame it would have been if I had let that happen. I would have missed out on an incredible last few years of a speaking career – one that I hope and believe is just getting started. I had to keep going, anyway.

You will fail and I will fail again. It’s certain. But we have to get back on the horse, walk back on the stage, put ourselves back out there and keep going, anyway.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
– Winston Churchill


For those of you that want to know the answer to his question, here you go:

Everything we teach is about reducing your risk and increasing your power. Can you do what that guy was asking above? Yes. You can. But you will have significantly greater risk and less power. Let’s look at two scenarios:

Scenario #1: You take out a 3 year loan for $17,000 with 0% interest. You know you can make the monthly payments of $472 (which is the actual average car payment in North America today) so you think this is a great deal.

Scenario #2: You save that same amount for three years and buy the $17,000 car in cash.

Here’s where the risk/power comes into play:

Let’s say six months in, you lose your job. Or have a medical emergency. Or have a family member out of state that is diagnosed with cancer and you want to move to be with them.

In Scenario #2, you can redirect that money in savings to whatever you want to. Your priorities have changed and you have complete power and control to put that money towards taking time off, or medical bills or anything you want. You have no risk and all of the power.

In Scenario #1, the bank doesn’t care about your job or family or health. You will owe them that car payment no matter how much your priorities have changed. You have zero power and all of the risk. The bills and payments due will not stop pouring in.

Can you technically invest over paying off debt because of the “time value of money?” Yes. But think about the other cost of your power and control. I’d rather be in complete control than “slave to the lender” any day.

“The borrower is slave to the lender.”
Proverbs 22:7