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An embarrassing story can serve as a lesson learned.

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Well, this is embarrassing

I’ve got a fun but embarrassing story to share with you. Last week I was honored to be invited to a private event, which turned out to be awesome on three levels:


1. One of my mentors, Mitch Joel, was having an event in New York City to promote the launch of his new book, Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends On It.

For those that haven’t heard me mention Mitch in the past, I was introduced to him by a mutual friend several years ago, and he agreed to come onto the podcast back in October 2009, where he gave some great advice about public speaking.

We hit it off right away and it turned out to be a life-changing meeting, as about six months later we’d meet for lunch in Montreal, where he set up an introductory meeting with his book agent, which started the ball rolling and ended up landing me a book deal.

Mitch is president of digital ad agency Twist Image and one of the top thought leaders in the game today.

2. For this event, he was being interviewed by Seth Godin, one of the most successful marketers and authors of all time. How successful? He has written 17 books. All of them are best-sellers. All of them.

I got to see Seth speak in person for the first time just six weeks beforehand, and it was a great event and left me with actionable items that I put into use just days later.

3. Lastly, the event was being held at Google headquarters in New York, which, hey, sounded like a pretty cool place to see an event.


Running Late

The event was scheduled from 5-7pm. I had it on the calendar, I had RSVPd, and it was fairly easy to get to from my apartment. That wasn’t the problem.

The problem was I got caught up in some work, I looked up to see it was already 4:45pm, and I double checked the event details, assuming people would roll in around 5pm and there would be networking for the first 30 minutes or so.

I was wrong.

It turned out that it started at 5pm sharp, with the discussion starting at 5:10. Freak out.

I threw on jeans, a dress shirt, and a sports coat and sprinted out of my apartment, greeted by humid 80-degree weather on a sunny June day. Luckily the subway pulled in right as I got into the station, and I was on my way. I darted above ground on the far side of Manhattan, and started searching for the specific entrance that was listed in the invite. Of course I missed it the first time.

Once in the door, I navigated the other late-comers to grab my badge. I jammed the button on the elevator to get to the fourth floor. I checked my watch and it was just about 5:05pm. And then the elevator doors slid open and I stepped out, a bit frazzled, perspiring a bit, and my eyes darting around to see where to go next.

Snap Decision

As I looked left, I saw a large, glass conference room with several people in it, one which was Mitch. He looked up and noticed me, so I made a bee-line for it.

I greeted him cheerfully and shook his hand, congratulating him on the book.

Then I turned to the right and there was Rick Wolff, Vice President and Executive Editor at Grand Central Publishing, the man who gave me the book deal and someone with a truly fascinating resume. I shook his hand.

To his right I met another person, who I believe was Rick’s son.

Then I turn back and realize there was one other person in the room, and next thing I know, I am shaking hands with this person as well, and Mitch is saying:

“Jim, I want you to meet Seth Godin.”


Mitch and Rick were explaining to Seth that I was also an author, yet something in my head was rapidly putting up red flags.

Have you ever had that feeling that something just wasn’t right?

The synapses were firing, but I couldn’t quite figure it out, as I was a bit awestruck, a bit nervous, and still a bit rattled at being late.

Something was off, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck it was.

Then a young woman entered the room, wasn’t quite sure who I was and was being shy about interrupting, but made a comment to the effect of “Well, we should get started.”

Then, the following thought actually entered my mind, as I looked around the conference room to see that it was basically empty. “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe there aren’t more people here… am I the only one that showed up? I feel really bad.”

It was only moments later as the group exited the conference room that my brain finally caught up with itself and I realized what I had done:


In other words, I had burst into the green room – the name for the private area where speakers or guests relax backstage before a major event or TV show – unannounced, and hung out there right before their important speech.

My mistake was clarified as we moved to another part of the building, where I proceeded to enter a large theater with about 200 people eagerly awaiting the event.

Lessons learned

Fake it till you make it.
Although in own head my brain synapses were firing, and I was pretty embarrassed after the fact, I’m pretty sure that no one in that room really noticed. The reason? I acted as if I belonged there… as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

In this case, I got the courage to walk into a situation that was above my head, because I was unaware of what I was doing.

However, to truly succeed in business, you need to take risks and do things that scare you. You might not be ready to put that first novel out into the world, or start a podcast, or launch your own business, or introduce yourself to a best-selling author. You might tell yourself that you’re not good enough or experienced enough yet.

When people say “Fake it till you make it,” what they are saying is not to lie about your qualifications, but to put yourself in these situations before you’re actually ready. Only by doing so will you push yourself to new levels.

Wikipedia describes Fake it till you make it as follows: Using the tactic as a means to imitate confidence, so that as the confidence produces success, and thus in turn will generate real confidence.

This article talks about the The Scientific Evidence In Favor of that phrase.

Do you want to be a published author? A small business owner? A professional speaker? Start acting like it.


We’re in business purgatory.

In the past week I’ve engrossed myself in my autographed copy of Ctrl Alt Delete, and it’s been an eye-opener. Mitch talks about the current business climate, and how incredibly fast everything is changing.

We’re truly living in a revolutionary time for business, one where many industries will be completely disrupted if they don’t “reboot” the way they are thinking for a connected, global, social, mobile world.

Here is one example that seems so obvious, but isn’t being done.

Mitch describes an experience where he was visiting New York City and tried on some jeans at retail store Uniqlo. He liked them so much that he ended up buying 2 pairs, but he would have bought 2 more, but they didn’t have them in his size.


His question: “What if there had been a simple touchscreen that allowed me to buy those jeans right then and there? They could be sent to my home or hotel… Seems simple enough in this day and age of ecommerce, doesn’t it? Pushing that idea farther, I should be able to conduct that exact same kind of transaction from my smartphone, right?”

Of course!!!

Why isn’t every single retailer doing this???

What’s interesting is the fear that shoppers will be “showrooming,” going to stores to check out merchandise in person, but then buying online, but why not use technology to their advantage?

I’m sure there are some retailers out there doing this, or I’ve seen some try and track down items at other stores, what better way to reply to that disappointing phrase, “I’m sorry, we don’t have your size in stock,” with the action of, “However, if you scan the barcode with our smartphone app and punch in your size, it will be delivered to your home within 3 days with free shipping.”

Your career needs to squiggle.

Obviously if this disruption is affecting businesses, it’s also having a huge impact on us as employees. In the second half of the book, Mitch dives into all the ways we must adapt our careers, rebooting our lives to think about the workplace in an entirely new way.

What really hit home for me is just how impactful mobile is going to be. Yes, we all know that smartphones are everywhere and mobile is a big deal.

But Ctrl Alt Delete breaks it down even further, showing how the convergence of TV, computers, tablets, and phones will have an impact on your life. If you’re not thinking about these things in your business and career, the results may be, well, pretty embarrassing.

Check out my free online salary negotiation course, “How to Negotiate Salary: The Negotiation Mindset.”

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