I will never forget it.
A couple of years ago, I was giving a speech to 200 people, and less than 30 seconds after I got on stage, I noticed a group of people in the front row who were chuckling, whispering to each other and pointing at me.
This couldn’t be good.
Mind you, at this point, all that I said to the audience was my name and why I was there. I didn’t say anything funny at all (not yet, anyway), so what in the hell was so damn funny??? I was so distracted and it was driving me crazy until I finally figured it out.
Yep, my fly was down.
Here I was on stage with my zipper completely down, more and more people were noticing my “wardrobe malfunction” with each passing second, and at this point I was completely thrown off my game because I couldn’t. Stop. Thinking. About. My. Zipper!
Even worse, there was no escape.
There was no podium to hide behind to stealthily zip it up. I was totally alone and vulnerable on the stage as I cluelessly showed off the front of my boxer briefs to 200 complete strangers. I officially morphed into one of those “public speaking nightmare” scenarios that I thought only happened in the movies.
By now, it was going from bad to worse in a hurry as the chuckling started to get louder and slowly spread throughout the audience. I had to act fast.
Zipping it up quickly and acting like my fly wasn’t down in the first place wouldn’t work because too many people had noticed it at this point. It was obvious at that point that no one was going to hear a word of my speech until I directly addressed the elephant in the room (I’m sure that there’s a really clever joke in that sentence somewhere.)
So, I stopped mid-sentence and said, “hold on a sec, everyone.”
Then I randomly broke out an old-school Michael Jackson circa 1985 spin move in the center of the stage and smoothly zipped up my fly as I spun. I wish that I had it on video because it was pretty epic (if I do say so myself), but it’s what I said next to the audience that changed everything.
“Sorry guys, but I had to interrupt my speech to give you all a quick life-altering tip. If any of you are ever dumb enough to walk out on stage in front of 200 people with your fly down like I just did, remember the 3 S’s: Stop, Spin, and Smile. It works in every embarrassing situation imaginable–trust me.”
Sure, what I said was corny, but the entire audience ate it up and started belly laughing. After that, I picked up from where I left off, finished my speech and received a loud ovation when it was over. Crisis averted.
So, how did I do it?
Stop Taking Yourself So Damn Seriously!
Can you imagine if I noticed that my fly was down on stage and I said something like this to the audience instead?
“Oh my God, I’m so embarrassed. I can’t believe that my zipper is down in front of all of you. Please excuse me for a moment while I get myself together. I’m so sorry about this, and I sincerely hope that I can earn your respect after this unfortunate mishap…”
Yeah, exactly. I’ve now made an uncomfortable situation into an unbearable one.
Why do we this to ourselves?
Because we take ourselves way too seriously, and we seriously need to stop.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it’s close to impossible to have a truly positive life without two key things:
1) A healthy sense of humor: Life is going to throw some curve balls at us (a flat tire on the way to work, a blind date that turns into the most awkward two hours of your life, or bombing an important job interview), and if we can’t find the humor in the less-than-positive situations in our lives, we will spend a large portion of our lives in misery.
2) The ability to laugh at ourselves: We’re all going to do some pretty stupid, embarrassing, and ridiculous stuff in our lives, and that’s why it is so important to give ourselves some kindness when those things happen instead of beating ourselves up for it.
Obviously, there are things in life that need to be taken very seriously, but there’s nothing positive or healthy about taking your life so seriously that you end up turning every molehill into a mountain.
I’m passionate about this topic, and it’s largely because I’m a complete goofball myself (the people reading this who know me personally can vouch for me on this.)
I laugh a lot (oftentimes, at myself), I do silly stuff at a moment’s notice, and I’m the guy with the guts to say in a business meeting, “I’m sorry, but I honestly have no idea what anyone is talking about right now. Can someone please explain to me in simple terms what ____ is all about?”
I can do this because I don’t take myself too seriously. People say that it’s my most charming quality (thanks for that, by the way), and I know that I find this trait incredibly charming in other people.
On the other hand, the opposite isn’t charming at all. It’s actually repulsive.
Take it from a guy who has been there.
Your Ego or Your Authenticity?
Take a minute and think of someone who takes him/herself way too seriously.
Be real with me–do you enjoy working with that person? Do you enjoy being around that person? Would you want to go on a two-week vacation with someone like that?
You answered “No” to all of the above, right? Okay, good.
Many people who take their lives too seriously do it because they’re coming from an ego-driven place. I know because I used to live there myself.
One of the ego’s many shady purposes is to protect you from looking silly at all costs, and one of the ways that it tries to keep you “safe” is by telling you that there’s nothing worse in this world than looking foolish in front of other people.
Here are some telltale signs that you might be taking yourself a little too seriously:
- You’re incapable of self-deprecating humor, being the butt of a lighthearted joke, or laughing at yourself.
- You would never put yourself in a position where you could possibly look silly in front of others (singing karaoke, giving a presentation at the all-staff meeting, getting on the dance floor at a party/wedding, attempting to cook a fancy dinner for a group of friends, etc.)
- You’re easily offended and take every little slight personally.
- You’re overly image conscious and care way too much about stuff that doesn’t really matter (the car you drive, how “cool” people think you are, your job title, the amount of Twitter followers you have, etc.)
- You need to have the last word in a discussion and you need to be right.
The sad thing is that I was guilty of all of those things because I desperately wanted people to take me seriously.
The irony was that when I took myself too seriously, unfortunately no one else did (chew on that point for a minute.)
It was only when I embraced my authenticity and stopped taking myself so damn seriously that the world finally started taking me seriously. Much more importantly than how the world felt about me, was that I liked myself so much more and I was so much happier.
The choice is clear: You can choose to listen to the voice of your ego, or you can listen to that voice inside of you that’s urging you to keep it real.
I think that it’s time to listen to the second voice instead.
I believe that the ability to laugh at ourselves is the secret to fully enjoying our lives.
The world desperately needs more fun, more laughter, and more silliness–and it’s up to you to make it happen.
Do you want to look back on your life with the regret that you didn’t enjoy life more than you could have? Even worse, do you want to live with the regret that you didn’t have the guts to try something that could make you happy because you were too scared of possibly looking silly?
I can promise you that if you choose that route, you will regret it. Deeply.
Instead, if you’re feeling the music and you feel like dancing, get on the dance floor shake your ass out of rhythm even if the haters are hating.
Instead, start that blog that you’ve always wanted to write, even if no one else gets what you’re trying to do.
Instead, find the guts to live with vulnerability and authenticity, even if everyone else thinks you’re weird for not following the herd.
Most importantly, stop taking yourself so damn seriously!
And if you do end up looking silly (and it’s a very real possibility that you could), just take a deep breath and remember this life-altering advice:
Stop, Spin, and Smile.
It worked for me.
Do you take yourself too seriously? Are you able to laugh at yourself and be silly? Either way, jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!
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