When I was in college, I was a member of the Phi Sigma Pi Co-ed National Honor Fraternity. Each year we would travel to a different state to attend the annual convention. A few friends and I were in the hallway of our hotel waiting for everyone to finish getting ready for a social event that evening when I decided to break out into an impromptu free style dance routine. I decided to do a little move that we might refer to as dropping it like it’s hot which basically entailed dropping down into a deep squat and coming back up rather quickly, then repeating that over and over again. While I was doing this move I was singing a line from the song, Tootsie Roll. “Dip baby dip! Dip baby dip!” Two dips in, the crotch of my jeans ripped from knee to knee. Yes…you read that correctly, I said knee to knee because it burst wide open at the seam in an arc that spanned from one of my knees to the other. When it ripped, it made a popping sound that was so loud that someone came out of the hotel room and said, “What was that noise?” They had heard the sound inside the room even though the door was closed! Needless to say, from that point on my nick name was “Rip baby rip! Rip baby rip!”
There are three major wardrobe malfunctions that might occur that can turn a lovely day into a devastating one. In addition to a ripped crotch I’d say that the other two most common ones would be a broken heel or a major stain. In my little overactive imagination our wardrobe, or what we wear represents our life or our business. We come up against setbacks which can be embarrassing or debilitating as well as a major blow to our confidence.
Our heels represent our platform or what we stand for. It reminds me of a powerful quote, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” In business and in life it is imperative that we know what our foundation is and that we stand firmly and strongly upon it. If it is weak, like the broken heel, we will be thrown off balance. We want be able to walk tall but with one broken heel, that will be hard to do. Depending on when, where and how our heel breaks, we may even get hurt. These three things translate to the fact that we must be consistent (balance), operate with integrity (walking tall), and have an intentional plan for maintaining physical and psychological safety (because we might get hurt).
The rip in the crotch represents being exposed. Unfortunately, when it comes to business and life, the better that we do, the more people try to find things that are wrong with us. Now we can try to tie a coat around our waist, which represents hiding, but that won’t change the fact that our crotch is still wide open. For that reason, the approach that I’ve found to be most effective is transparency. “Hey ya’ll, would you believe I just ripped my crotch!” When I train and teach, I’ve found that people appreciate and relate to honesty. We are not all perfect and we don’t always have all of the answers and that’s okay. Therefore I recommend authenticity at all times.
I also believe that if anyone is going to drop a big story on me, it’s going to be me. You can’t blackmail me if I willingly share the information, and if I’m planning on engaging in something that I’m too ashamed to willingly share…then perhaps, I should consider another route. Even if what you’ve been through carries a stigma or is looked down upon, you never know how you are being a blessing to someone else who needs to know that they are not alone.
Finally, a stain or your clothing represents a mistake. As much as we try to avoid them, we all make them and just like certain substances that we soil our clothing with, they are often hard to simply wash away. In such a case we must look at it as an opportunity to learn. For example, if I know that my colleague often animatedly talks with his hands, then I know not drink red wine near him when I have on a white shirt. If we look at that from a real life and business perspective it simply means that we try new things, and if they don’t work, we use that knowledge to inform our future choices and decisions. Don’t waste a moment wallowing in guilt or shame. Take that mistake and count it as a necessary test or trial that was a mandatory prerequisite to your inevitable success.
This week I challenge you to answer the following questions. What do I stand for? How can I effectively deal with being exposed (talked about or criticized) in a way that is meaningful for me? How can I turn my mistakes into opportunities for learning?
Wardrobe malfunctions are a part of life. Plan accordingly.