Hollie Steele is a 10 year-old singer who got a second chance. Consider that Britain's Got Talent builds its ratings by dashing dreams on live TV and her second chance seems downright miraculous. Why did she get a second chance? Because she made an understandable mistake, was surprisingly remarkable, and those with the power to give her a second chance stood to lose something by refusing her request.
So why won't we (your clients, superiors, and social contacts) give you a second chance?
1. Because we don't understand why you made the mistake –
Hollie was a young girl standing alone on a massive stage and singing to a huge audience. It was easy for the decision-makers to see why she would struggle. She didn't need to tell anybody she was nervous because her trouble was obvious.
Are you able to clarify what your mistake was, why it happened, and what action you'll take to prevent it in the future? If so, let us know. We're getting tired of you screwing up, tucking your tail between your legs, and running for the door. It makes us feel like we misjudged you when we chose you in the first place. That makes us feel terrible and then we drink more gin. Gin is expensive. Don't be expensive.
2. You never surprise us –
In her first audition, Hollie started her routine with a little dance. It wasn't very good dancing but it wasn't very bad either. Then she started singing and the entire audience was shocked by her enormous vocal talent. She surprised them in a way that carried through to subsequent weeks. Her surprise was still in the minds of those decision-makers when she asked for a second chance.
Have you ever surprised us with a brilliant idea, innovative concept, or simply wild enthusiasm? We'd like to make excuses for you and give you the benefit of the doubt. But when you haven't done anything that really stands out, it's hard for us to make those excuses. Why should we give you a second chance to be mediocre if that's all we can remember? Surprise us. Take a risk. Make a splash. If you must fail, do so brilliantly and have lots of metrics showing us just how you did it.
3. Your work ethic is unremarkable –
Hollie is a tiny workhorse. You can see it in her face when she sings. She puts every ounce of available effort into completing her task perfectly. Her hatred of failure is obvious.
We look at your work and sometimes have trouble figuring out what exactly you put the most effort into. We wonder if you want to do a great job or if you simply slide along hoping to meet deadlines. We don't want to give you a second chance if we're not convinced you really tried to succeed the first time. We don't mind paying for new pavement on occasion so long as you tore it up pushing a big idea and not by dragging your heels.
4. We lose nothing by saying no –
Hollie had one thing on her mind–she wanted the chance to try again. Simon Cowell had the power to give her another chance and he gave it. Was it because he's a lovely man with a heart of gold? Perhaps. Did he stand to lose favor in the eyes of millions by turning her down? Absolutely.
When you need a second chance, do you know of anything we might lose by turning our backs on you? Treat this with special care: If you happen to know of a way we stand to lose by giving you the boot, gently let us know. We hate losing things even more than we hate spending money buying gin. Don't make us go there.
5. You never ask –
Hollie broke down but her failure was understandable. She had a surprising history, strong work ethic, and the decision-makers stood to lose by turning her down. However, all of that would have been for nothing had she not asked for a second chance. When she did, ears were open and thumbs went up. As Simon said, "I don't know how we'll find it, but we will find the time." (For her second try.)
As you're running out the door with your crate of belongings, did it ever occur to you that you might get a positive response if you turned around and asked us for a second try? We like being gracious. We thrill in it, actually. If we can make lots of excuses for you and give you a second chance, we find that quite gratifying. But you usually don't ask. You assume that you see the big picture and that we won't have further use for you. You're probably wrong. Humble, but wrong.
To quote the ever-wise Inigo Montoya, "Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up,"
If you've made an understandable mistake, have surprised us with quality in the past, work hard, give us reason NOT to say no, and ask for a second chance? We're here to say yes.
We want to say yes.
Stop selling yourself short so often.
What about you? Do you remember a time when you might have been given a second chance had you done things a bit differently?
Seth Simonds is a helluva nice guy and a damn fine writer.
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0 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Jun 4, 2009
Love the topic Seth. And you’re dead-on about bucking the status quo and reaching deeper to make yourself irresistible. But man, part of me thought she was a bit bratty and they should have brought a big ol’ white hook out to get her. Like on the Gong Show. 😉
Jun 4, 2009
Hm. Should have known this was a Seth Simonds post: it was thoughtful, intelligent, heartfelt, and just enough different to be intriguing.
And thanks, because you’ve given me a lot of things to think about as I write my next marketing email – which has to describe how I TOTALLY screwed up in the first iteration of the page describing the offering I’m trying to market!
(Uh, if anyone is interested, the new page is the “featured program” off the website I list in this comment.)
Jun 5, 2009
But don’t we always see the person who begs for the second chance as being “bratty”?
I think she met the requirements for a second chance…but I guess we knew that already.
Thanks for hosting!
Jun 5, 2009
Thanks for the kind words. You’re much too nice!
Knowing how to apologize in a way that garners a positive response is definitely a learned behavior. Otherwise we retreat into self-deprecating exit monologues. I hate those.
All the best in your re-write. Show them what you’re made of! (the good parts)
Jun 5, 2009
I think your advice is sound. However, the singing little girl is a poor analogy. Too much is read into her state of mind
— “Hollie is a tiny workhorse. You can see it in her face when she sings. She puts every ounce of available effort into completing her task perfectly. Her hatred of failure is obvious.” —
Sometimes outcomes matter more than effort, and in the world of business and ‘your job’, the bottom line is paramount. Perhaps I’ll start pretending the work I do is more strenuous than it is, so that when I fail I can cry about how I just wasn’t prepared. Then I’ll get a second chance.
Jun 5, 2009
Two lessons to be learned here. One is “getting to yes.” You need to earn the answer, make it easy, and remember to ask. The second, equally interesting, is looking at an every day event, live, news, tv, whatever, and seeing it in a way that you can extract a lesson and articulate it. Often we have points we want to make and no examples. Maybe we should do what Seth did, find the example and then make the point.
Jun 5, 2009
I agree a bit Shaun – with this particular example. As the father of two daughters, I am pretty sure my daughters would act differently than this child did. It was as if she was putting on an act. Like her and her mother’d rehearsed it. Do I give her credit for doing it again, sure. But if you look closely, she’s working those tears. I don’t feel her sincerity. And to me, sincerity is THE most important thing when you fuck up and need a redo. Trust me, I’ve had a pretty big do-over in life, and until I got sincere about it, I was never able to grasp that true opportunity for a second chance.
Want a second chance – be sincere. Be honest. Do your best. Always. Period. If you don’t deserve a second chance, you’ll know it in your heart. And you’ll move on to something else.
Jun 5, 2009
I’ve only got my experience working with kids in a few different theater programs to go by. From what I’ve seen, stage fright is very real as are nerves during a performance. If Hollie is faking that performance, considering her age, she ranks among the elite actors of the world.
Look for a reason to believe that somebody is being insincere and you will always, always find one. Funny how that works, eh?
Jun 5, 2009
I’m keeping this kid’s name in the tickler file for a future Oscar. 😉
My novel – Minor King
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