Amy Carroll » Speaking Tips » Flops & Failures

Flops & Failures

Just when you think you’ve got it all together… failure sneaks up on you.

Just when you think you’ve got your nerves conquered… they ambush you and beat you up.

For four years now I’ve been coaching you, speakers who are growing your communication skills. I’ve written articles about overcoming your nerves, talked clients and friends off the ledge, and had countless conversations with my music major son about performance anxiety.

And most of the time, I’m not so nervous anymore.

Until yesterday.

Late last week, my worship pastor asked me to do the greeting at my church. Easy peasy. I’ve done it before, and it’s two minutes on stage telling everybody you’re glad they’re there, making a couple of announcements, and asking people to greet each other. No big deal. I’m a professional speaker. This is what I do, so I was happy my church staff felt free to ask me.

I launched into planning… my cute outfit. The other was going to be easy, so my outfit seemed like the most important aspect of preparation.

And it was all fine until we started singing. I was going to follow the first song, and I should have been fine. But I wasn’t. My heart was pounding. My breathing became labored gasps. My hands were dripping.

What in the world?

I wish I could tell you I pulled it together and overcame. But I didn’t. It was awful. I was a mess.  I’ll leave the details to your imagination.

Our church has three services, so I still had two to go. I retreated to the silence of the library to lick my hurt pride and reflect.

Here’s the thing. I really didn’t want to write this today because my mind keeps saying, “Are you CRAZY?! Don’t confess this. No one will ever hire your again. How can anyone trust you to help them if you can’t even help yourself?”

But my heart wants to share with you because I learned/re-learned some important lessons yesterday. Since I think the heart lessons are the most important thing even if some of you count me out as pitiful :), here I am baring my soul.

As I sat in the library and prayed, I asked God, “What happened? What went wrong?” He gently showed me:

  • I moved into this assignment in my own confidence. I had an “I’ve got this” attitude.
  • I saw it as a small assignment. (Small but not insignificant. I LOVE my church!)
  • I spent more time on my outfit than on my knees.
  • I was worried about proving myself. My pastor was in the room for the first time when I spoke from the stage. I think very highly of him, and I wanted to impress him. (ps. This is entirely my issue, not a reflection on who he is.)

So what did I learn?

  • My confidence is to be in Christ alone. I know that confidence is important for anything we do, but focus on self is one of my particular areas of sinfulness and weakness. Self-righteousness. Self-confidence. Self-ishness. God didn’t cause my flop, but He definitely has used it to renew a sense of dependence on Him and a deep knowledge that my only lasting confidence flows from Him.
  • There is no small assignment. I need to approach every opportunity as important and sacred since I’m trusting God to open every door.
  • Prayer is essential. As I’ve often quoted–It’s not just preparation for the work. It is the work.
  • The best lesson for messed up motives is from scripture: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17)

col. 3

So there it is. Up through last night, I really just wanted to throw in the towel, but quitting isn’t an option. We’re called, friends, so we’ve just got to fail, learn, and move forward. I’ve been speaking for 10 years. I’ve spoken to large crowds and small groups. I’ve loved it all, but I can’t forget the simple lessons. God is the source. Motives are everything.

Amy

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22 Comments

  1. Amy,

    Thank you for sharing this! I can relate to this! Announcements are not that easy. I find speaking far easier than getting up and making announcements.

  2. Amy,
    This is exactly what makes you such an effective coach! Your willingness to come alongside and share the ups and downs; to hold nothing back. It reveals a servant’s heart devoted to God. It also reveals you put your concern for us (your students) ahead of yourself. And from all of these comments, it looks as though I’m not the only one who sees you in that light.

    With a heart like yours, nothing is wasted. Everything is available to be used by God.

    Thank you so much for not only your words which teach, but your example of humility and authenticity.

    I’m speaking on Feb 7 and so this is perfect timing for me. I find myself getting overwhelmed and nervous and thinking “I can’t do this!” Your words remind me of the truth: I can’t on my own, but in his power, we (the Lord and I together) can.

    1. Laura, I was reflecting just this morning how He’s used your comment and all the others to minister to me and heal that stinging wound. (I tend to slide down the side of the pit–“I didn’t do the announcement well. I’m not a good speaker. I’m a terrible wife, mother, person.” You might know the drill.)

      Thank you for your kindness and encouragement. I’m excited to hear that God is continuing to open doors for you!

  3. Barry Carroll says:

    Love you hon! By the way……you looked great in that outfit!

    1. Thanks, Babe. That makes it all worth it. Snort! (Thanks for making me laugh every day even when it’s at myself! Love you.)

    2. Amy, love your husbands sense of humor here!!! Also love how God gave you the opportunity to speak again in that afternoon. (BTW, you probably didn’t do as bad as it seemed. We’re our own worst critic, right?) Thanks for sharing!

  4. Amy – I love your transparency with us – thank you for sharing how you learned through this — bless you!! 😉

  5. carol Boley says:

    Oh Amy, I feel your pain. I’ve done the same thing…and even had to stay up on “stage” afterwards to sing with the worship team. Yikes! So on that note, I offer just one little suggestion: remember there is no condemnation for you, my friend! My hunch is God was still glorified in your worship services, so you didn’t ruin anything. I bet others in the congregation related to you in that moment, and that you even made some heart connections. Just remember you are greatly loved…okay, I guess that was more than just one little suggestion…

    1. Carol, thank you for your sweet words! They are balm to my soul. My word for the year is “trust”, so I’m trusting God to redeem this situation completely. Love how you encouraged me in that direction!

  6. Gayle Haddock says:

    Oh, Amy! This is such a great post. Thank you for being vulnerable. Please know that you really encouraged me by doing so! I had a very similar experience last spring…overlooked a smaller assignment because my eyes were on a bigger one. It was such a flop and I walked away feeling terrible! Then a good friend reminded me that it was a great lesson to learn before the bigger event, and it pushed me to spend that much more time on my knees and in preparation for the next opportunity. What a great reminder of exactly how little I can do in my own strength!

    Thanks, as always, for your encouragement and very practical speaking tips. Love reading your posts each week!

    1. Gayle, I’ve struggled even this morning with an overwhelming sense of failure. Between spending time with God being reminded that I’m chosen and precious and the encouragement from my sisters that I’m not the only one, I’m feeling much better! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, sweet friend!

      1. Amy, after i posted my comment I wished I added: Sometimes we do prepare spiritually and still feel like a flop. But God loves our faith and obedience and is not impressed with the quality of a performance. Paul said he came to the Corinthians “with trembling.” That always encourages me!

        1. Oooo! Even Paul got the trembles. That encourages me too!

  7. “I wish you hadn’t been real” said noone!!!!!

    Every time I am real and authentic, vulnerable and real many from my audience come and thank me. They say it was my realness that captivated their attention, heart, and made an impact.

    So, here’s a thank you from your audience Amy. Thank you for being real. It definitely makes us sure that when we flop with failure we aren’t the only one.

    Here’s to tomorrows, second chances, brushing the dirt off our knees, try and try again!

    Blessings Amy.

    1. Ah, yes… second chances! Big sigh of relief.

      God was so good to speak to me in the quiet of that library, and I got an opportunity for repentance and a heart shift before the second and third services. What a difference that made.

      Also, I spoke briefly that afternoon for a friend’s event, and it was a wonderful time. I know God saw it all coming, and I’m thankful for His tenderness in allowing some redemption that very afternoon!

  8. Amy, thank you for the truth from a humble heart. I know this embarrassment. At the time, I came to the conclusion I should’ve prepared better instead of assuming I could carry it off on my own. Your counsel to focus on the Lord more than anything is not “to make it work,” but because HE is the one who is worthy of focus! Thank you for heart-affecting coaching.

    1. Beth,
      Preparation was a part of it too. There were a couple of announcements I needed to include. It was really no big deal, but usually I practice things in my head to make sure I know exactly what I’m going to say ahead of time. I didn’t do that this time, and it made me remember that I really don’t function well on the fly. You make a good point. It’s important to know our wiring too.

      Thanks for the encouragement! I miss our talks, and I hope you’re doing well.

  9. Amy,
    This was so good. Thank you for being so transparent and for reminding us to be totally dependent on Him.

    1. The minute we think, “I’ve got this, no problem” then give little attention to the huge assignment God has invited us to join Him on, we are in Trouble with a capital T! Remember who we are accountable to. Remember who our boss is. Remember, remember, remember!