My biggest failure

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What’s your biggest failure?

That’s become kind of a trendy question to ask yourself. Various TED talks espousing the merits of failure have gone viral. “Fail faster” has become the battle cry of Silicon Valley.

But I’ve never liked failing. Doesn’t taste good.

So I’ve been pondering this question. Reflection seems natural lately, because I recently passed two milestones:

 – my fifteenth anniversary of my first speech to PR pros on boosting media pitching.
– my fifth anniversary of cutting the employer cord and running my own business full time.

Thinking back to that first speech is crazy, because at the time I had no idea what a fork in the road that would be. If that day finished out the way it started, no way would I be writing this post.

I had barricaded myself in my hotel room – okay, I even locked myself in the bathroom inside my hotel room – because I was too scared of going down to the meeting room to give the speech.

Took me about two hours to get up the nerve to head to the elevator. Upon arriving outside the meeting room, I stood in the hall away from the guests as they filed in. No one recognized me – I’m sure they were wondering who this Michael Smart guy was on their programs. I was too scared to speak to anyone before the training, so at the appointed time I just burst through the door and blurted out my memorized opening line. Makes me laugh now.

Fortunately, the audience was receptive – I think they sensed my nerves and were emotionally cheering me on. We ended up with a powerful exchange of ideas, and they sent me off with kind applause and generous speaker evaluations.

Paid training gigs soon followed, then multiplied. Before long industry organizations were putting me “on tour,” setting up pitching workshops around the country for me to deliver. Land in Boston at midnight, do a full day training the next morning, fly to LaGuardia that night, full-day in NYC the next day, then on to DC, Chicago, LA, and so on.

People liked it. Their placements climbed. So did my rates.

So why did it take me TEN YEARS from that first speaking success to take the natural next step and go all-in on my own training business?

Even after I took that plunge five years ago, I can now look back and see decisions that should have been natural for me that I delayed. My big leaps forward have been rewarding, but with hindsight I realize they would have come a lot quicker if I hadn’t procrastinated taking the first step for so long. I’ve been very fortunate, but would have been able to help more people – faster – if I would have acted instead of waited.

And that, I’ve realized, has been my biggest failure.

So I’ve been working on that. I’m cramming a bunch more of those delayed decisions all into this calendar year. I want to help more people achieve more media relations success instead of holding others back by my reticence to grow.

One of my big leaps of faith is a dramatic upgrade of my Inner Circle program. I’ve been spending the first part of the year crisscrossing the country, learning new skills from new coaches and putting them all together into this new version of my most popular offering.

The enhancements are designed to get everyone who joins quickly up to speed with the veteran members, booking quick wins and re-programming their perceptions of their own value right from the start.

The new stuff gets unveiled next week. You’ll see it in on my site Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET, after the people who requested my Inner Circle success manual get first dibs on Monday. Click here to be taken to the Inner Circle sign-up.

Check it out, and if it’s right, don’t wait. Big growth requires big action.