I Was Burned but I Called it a Lesson Learned

I do a lot of speaking, and I never take that honor and responsibility for granted. I get to do what I love because people regularly pay me to stand at the front of a room and teach them things. That's still amazing to me.

A while back, I got to stand before an audience of a couple of hundred people who had taken two hours out of their busy lives to learn more about education in this country, and that is an beautiful thing. I have no idea what I looked like up there on stage - I hope I appeared composed and calm, because inside, I was bonkers. In the two hours preceding the event, I'd had my own, private Gift of Failure experience. In the interest of viewing every failure as an opportunity, I'd like to take a moment to pass on a few things I learned from my many failures yesterday.

1. All of the streets in downtown Newark are either one way, inevitably oriented in the opposite direction you need to travel, or - and this one was new to me - marked for straight-ahead travel only. As in, yes, there are plenty of streets that run perpendicular to the street you need to get off of in order to go around the block, but that particular maneuver is illegal. In fact, if you try it, LOTS of pedestrians will be kind enough to point (and otherwise gesticulate) this out. Which leads me to...

2. There is a police car parked at every corner in Newark. I have no idea how many police officers the city employs, but it's a lot. And they are all waiting for drivers to try to make a turn off of these turn-less streets to nowhere. Especially the ones with New Hampshire plates. Here's the URL for a handy way to pay traffic tickets online, by the way.

3. The people of Newark are lovely. To the fifteen people I spoke with in search of the Holy Grail of Newark (AKA public parking, see point number 4), you are a beautiful, merciful, and kind people. Good Samaritans all. At the very least, you offered up your pity, which was nice, in its own, quiet and sad way.

4. It only looks like Newark has parking. This is a tantalizing mirage; do not be fooled. I can only speak for my own experience at lunchtime on a Wednesday, but as far as I can tell, Newark only contains "LOT FULL" parking areas, staffed with employees who are very good at the finger wiggle that signifies, "Don't even THINK about pulling into my lot, lady, because I already have six cars too many in here."

5. Even when an event is professionally managed, make sure they have reserved a parking space for you.

6. And that you know where the company parking lot is.

7. And that you have a direct line to the person in charge of the event and the number for the security desk and the number for an alternate person who can call down to the parking garage to insist, yes, it's okay to let the nice, sweaty, nervous lady into the parking garage even if her name is not on the list.

8. They don't let you in to some parking garages when your name is not on The List.

9. Parking garages have security cameras that you will only notice after you have pulled down your pants between two cars in order to change out of your comfy driving clothes and into your not-as-comfy speaking clothes.

10. Sometimes parking garages have no pedestrian exits. True story.

11. I may be late to the party on this one, but high heel shoes have metal in them. Just enough, apparently, to set off metal detectors, so even when you are in a hurry, and you have already been through the metal detector three times, twice without your glasses, they are still going to ask you to "step to the side, and wait for someone to do a manual scan."

12. When all of these things happen to you, you need to take a deep breath before shaking hands with the person who hired you. He or she deserves your best, speaker-ly, pleasant (if sweaty from running six blocks in metal-filled heels) self. Wait until after the event to share your story with a sense of humor, have a few good laughs with the event director over the irony that yes, your book is indeed called The Gift of Failure, and, see what you just did there, learning from your own failure? Finally, thank them so much for having faith in you, as you silently resolve to leave three hours of wiggle room - not two - before your next event.