Why do opportunities often seem to come with a side dish of pickles? (Metaphorical ones.) I wish I knew the answer to that question.
We can talk about the metaphysical side of it, how there are parts of us that fear change, so they wreck havoc inside of us, and on the outside in an attempt to prevent us from taking that scary step. That's certainly part of my belief system, and it's just too big a coincidence, hearing all these stories from people who had a total shit storm happen as they were preparing for something big.
Like their computer breaking down just days before teaching an online workshop, and losing all their videos and course material, which happened to the expressive arts teacher Connie Solera.
Or computer breaking down the day after quitting their job and starting their freelance career, losing their entire portfolio in the process, which happened to fantasy illustrator Bobby Chiu. (The same thing happened recently to one of my friends, just when he registered his LLC.)
Or the first week of your first ecourse someone hacks your website, which happened to the creative entrepreneur Lisa Sonora Beam.
I've heard dozens of stories like this. Nowadays, I just expect something to go to hell whenever I'm doing something new that means a lot to me (which is why I keep not one, but two external backup disks).
Bobby Chiu said about this phenomenon in his book “The Perfect Bait”:
“When everything seems to go wrong, good things are just around the corner.”
April Bowles Olin said in her post 12 Tips to Bring The House Down at Your Next Speaking Engagement (which I recommend highly if you're preparing for a speaking gig) that 90% of the time something will go wrong.
But unlike backups, there are things you simply can't prepare for. And one of these things happened last Friday, as I was on my way to WordPress Meetup in Zagreb.
Stuck in a parking lot
I was one of the 4 people who had a presentation at the 10th WordPress Meetup Zagreb. I prepared all week, practiced my delivery, sent in a presentation ahead of time... I left nothing to chance. I wanted to look good in front of organizers and the guests, especially since it was my first industry speaking gig. (I did a few lectures before, unrelated to my work.)
The organizer offered to hook me up with a fellow web developer from my hometown who would be driving to Zagreb. On the morning of our journey, some parts of the highway were closed because of the strong wind, but by the time we had to go the path was clear.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan.
And then the most bizarre thing happened.
My travel mate couldn't get out of the parking lot because someone blocked his car with their van. It was already too late for me to take the bus, so the only thing we could do was wait.
We were waiting there for 3 hours, trying to reach the van owner by the number she left on her windshield, and the neighbors told us it was her habit to leave her car like that every single workday, avoiding paying for parking of course.
We called for all kinds of help, desperate to move out of that accursed parking lot already. The traffic officer left them a ticket, and so did the policemen who arrived later, but they couldn't help us move the van because the car tow wouldn't be able to enter the parking lot.
I called my boyfriend to tell him what was going on, and he said that there's no chance I'll get to Zagreb on time. The next thing out of my mouth was:
“I'm not even considering the possibility of not getting there. If I did, I'd break down into tears from all the disappointment. Not making it is not an option.
I'm getting there on time.”
He wished me luck, and I went back to waiting in the cold for that van owner to arrive.
When she did (minutes after my travel mate’s dad called the firemen to come tow the car), and apologized that she couldn't make it earlier because she was on a meeting, I snapped at her: “I was supposed to be in a meeting in Zagreb, and we're late because of you!” She was lucky we were in such a hurry to go go go, because I had so much rage to unleash.
There was another hour and 45 minute drive in front of us, and we were going to be late for my scheduled talk. I called the organizer to let him know when we'll be arriving, and to move my slot to last. He said he'll tell the other two presenters to keep talking a bit longer, so there's no pause in between.
Finally, after this completely unnecessary ordeal, we arrived.
Host of the 10th WordPress Meetup Zagreb, Emanuel Blagonic. Photo by Lucijan Blagonic
From a car to the microphone in two minutes
The previous presenter was just wrapping up Q&A when I walked through the door. I only had time to take off my coat, and was urged to go speak right away.
The positive side of all this was that there was no room for stage fright – I had bigger problems on my mind! Compared to, oh, you know, not showing up for my talk, the possibility of stammering, forgetting my points, sliding into a high pitched girly squeal, or talking too fast didn't seem like that big of a deal.
Photo by Lucijan Blagonic
Luckily, none of that happened. I've kept my best grown woman voice the entire time, and didn't forget to say a single thing.
Photo by Lucijan Blagonic
The audience said very nice things about my presentation, and the questions were great, too.
Photo by Lucijan Blagonic
Of course, they wanted to know about the parking lot situation because the organizer gave them a hint why I was running late, and this provided a nice comic relief. One of the women in the audience asked “Are you going to write a blog post about it?” I thought and answered “Hm, yes, I probably should write about that. It's good material.” - so here it is.
For my Croatian speaking friends: Video of the lecture and the presentation slides
Unfortunately for my international readers, the video doesn't have English subtitles.
You can watch the video on CARNet Media on Demand right here: Blogovi i content marketing za freelancere - Nela Dunato - 10. WordPress Meetup Zagreb
(Unfortunately, they don't allow embedding. Too bad.)
You can download my presentation here (PDF).
Here's a brief outline of my presentation:
- Web content
- Types of web content
- The benefits of writing a blog
- Common excuses for not writing a blog (and counter arguments)
- How to find topics to write about?
- Types of articles
- How to / tutorials
- Case studies
- Tips & Tricks
If you're interested in reading about any of these topics in more detail, let me know in the comments, so I'll try to cover them in my future blog posts.
I'm already planning some related content that goes in more depth than I could've covered in 20 minutes.
Overall, this was a great experience, and I look forward to more speaking and teaching opportunities in the future. (I've already arranged some in 2016 – more info on that later.)
Did you have any funny/bizarre/weird experiences when you were preparing for a new endeavor?
I’d love to hear them – please share in the comments!
One reason why I wasn’t freaking out as much was because I knew these things were also happening to other people in similar situations, and it wasn’t just me against the hostile Universe.
I've learned that sharing our difficult experiences is even more powerful than sharing our successes, even if, unlike this instance, they didn't have a happy end.