It was a bright and beautiful day and I was on time to deliver a lecture in a college for their yearly student conference. I was mentally and physically ready to get onto the stage to energise and motivate hundreds of students who were keen to hear what I was going to share. The Topic was "7 steps to success".
Minutes before I got onto the stage, the staff coordinator came along with a person who was holding a coffee flask to serve coffee. I obliged her hospitality and agreed to have a quick cup of coffee before I got onto the stage. The person opened the hatch of the flask which popped due to the pressure build up from the steam and big droplets of coffee were all over my bright white shirt. My shirt was stained with coffee droplets all over. The coordinator started to panic and was offering suggestions to remediate the situation. I had to make a choice on how to respond to the accident and I had to make that choice quickly.
I could react to the situation and get upset with the person who did this, go aside and try to wash the stains away, get flustered and fumble or keep calm and continue to focus on how best I can present the content to the students and add value to them. I chose to take the last choice. I did not look down at my shirt or pay any attention to it till the session was over.
Before I knew it, I was called on stage with a loud cheer from the crowd and as I got started I was so engrossed that I forgot my shirt was stained. The story does not end here, as I got onto the stage I realised that they did not have a prompter in front, for me to see the content I was presenting, my laptop was at the AV desk and the large screen was not in my view. I was blind to the content I was presenting. Yet again, it made sense for me to stay calm and focus on the topic. Prior preparation and on the feet thinking to ask the audience for key words, helped me deliver the presentation effortlessly and share my perspective on what it takes to be successful.
Summary: You cannot change what happened to you but you can change how you respond. The swan seems serene and calm but underneath its paddling vigourously. Stay Calm !