Archive for Failure Posts

published in Failure, John Petropoulos Memorial Fund, Public Speaking, Workplace Safety by Maryanne | January 15, 2019 | 14 Comments

The Bigger the Failure the Better the Lesson


Last week, I found myself delivering a safety presentation to a gymnasium filled with two hundred Junior High School students. The kids were great. Rambunctious yes…but for the most part, attentive and well-behaved.

The presenter, on the other hand, well…she had a few things to learn. And what better way to teach an old dog a few new tricks than by placing her so far outside her comfort zone that she has no choice but to learn them. For in terms of what I consider to be enjoyable activities, public speaking to teenagers ranks slightly below having a triple root canal.

Admittedly, thanks in part to my current Bohemian writer lifestyle, my public speaking skills are a bit rusty. But I certainly know the story (the circumstances that led to John’s death) and the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund’s (JPMF) workplace safety messages inside out and backwards. I’ve delivered our safety presentation dozens of times to a variety of different audiences over the years…but never to a gym full of 14-year-olds. In the past, other JPMF speakers have done the school presentations.

In other words, I didn’t know my audience and I hadn’t bothered to do the research to tweak my presentation accordingly. But (for a variety of reasons) since it was ME standing in front of those kids, it was me who had to deliver the presentation…so I did the best I could.

And it’s fairly safe to say I was a resounding failure.

But that’s okay because while I was flailing about at the front of the gym, focusing on the wrong elements of the story, failing to make our safety messages relevant to that particular audience, causing the microphone to make that horrific screeching sound (I think I actually heard some boos from the crowd on that…can’t blame them) and struggling with the damn audio/visual system, I was also learning.

I had no choice. My contact person at the school (also responsible for crowd control) just happened to be a very switched-on, take-no-guff Vice Principal who knew how to handle the students AND, I soon learned, how to make our safety messages relevant to them.

Since the kind soul  had to keep coming up to help me with the A/V anyway, at one point she started taking the microphone and explaining to the students the points I (in an ideal world) should have been making.

Here’s a brilliant example of the Vice Principal in action:

She took the mike, looked at the gymnasium full of kids, paused a moment for effect (which really works by the way…the crowd hushed immediately), then pointed at them and said: “YOU have a role to play in helping make sure police officers, firefighters and paramedics make it home safely to their families.”

Then she pointed to the overhead screen behind her where an image from one of the JPMF’s videos was paused on the screen, then resumed addressing the students: “Those first responders come into YOUR school, YOUR homes and YOUR future workplaces to keep YOU safe! They are extremely well-trained but they are coming into an unfamiliar place and cannot possibly know all the hidden dangers…which is why you have to help make wherever you are as safe as possible.”

Then she handed the mike back to me. Wow. A little later, she did the same thing with our traffic safety messages.

Afterwards, I confessed to her that I had gone into the presentation not really convinced that young people – many of whom don’t yet have part-time jobs or their driver’s license – would find the presentation of interest or relevance.

To this she looked at me, crossed her arms (she is a Vice Principal after all) and said: “Do you have any idea how incredibly important the Memorial Fund’s safety messages are for kids this age?”

Obviously not…but I was certainly starting to figure it out.

“They are certainly old enough,” she said, “to understand that what happened to John was not only preventable it was completely unacceptable. The Memorial Fund’s safety messages and videos are powerful and effective…you just have to tweak the presentation so that you make it relevant to their age group.”

We’re not supposed to be good at everything

The very next day, wouldn’t you know it – but I was having coffee with a JPMF Board member. He, too, has delivered many safety presentations over the years but, like me, had been hesitant about the relevance of our safety presentation to Junior High students.

I told him all about the presentation and what the Vice Principal had said, including her specific examples of how to make the safety messages relevant to teens.

After I finished speaking, he leaned back, nodded and said, “Yup…got it. After hearing that feedback, I’ll do those presentations from here on in.”

And there you have it…we aren’t supposed to be good at every single task. If public speaking was where I wanted to direct my energy, then yes, of course I’d learn from my mistakes and tweak accordingly moving forward. But sometimes it’s okay to fail at a task for the purpose of learning and sharing what we’ve learned, so that someone else can pick up the ball and run with it.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

published in Achieving Your Dreams, Dreams/Goals, Failure, Inspiration by Maryanne | May 23, 2017 | 4 Comments

Sound Advice from the Sidelines – Winning Words from Football Coach Lou Holtz


“Choices are our game plan’s bricks and mortar. Everything that happens to us is the result of the choices we make. You choose to act or procrastinate, believe or doubt, help or hinder, succeed or fail.”

– Lou Holtz, Winning Every Day; The Game Plan for Success

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled, The Question that Took Me to Chicago. As you may recall, the question was this: “What’s Important Now?”

I first heard of that question from Brian R. Willis of Winning Mind Training Inc. Brian discovered it in Lou Holtz’s 1998 book, Winning Every Day; The Game Plan for Success.

And wouldn’t you know it but I was in a used book store recently, scanning the shelves, and inadvertently came across Lou’s book. So I bought it!

It was outstanding 😊

If you’re not familiar with Lou Holtz, he had a 27-year career as a head football coach in the States.

Here are just a few highlights from Lou’s book:

“Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.”

“Don’t let what you don’t have keep you from using what you do have.”

“No one is interested in excuses, only results.”

“Too many people aren’t willing to make sacrifices to help themselves, let alone others.”

“You can’t accomplish anything big without doing the little things. Fundamentals are basically doing the little things correctly.”

“Enthusiasm is contagious. If you have enthusiasm for what you do, people will want to share in it.”

“Only you can change yourself. Don’t expect your parents, spouse, colleagues, or friends to transform you. It’s not their job.”

“You can alter any aspect of your life once you accept that you are the product of your decisions. Continue to do whatever you’ve done before and the results will remain the same. Revamp your approach to life and you will produce a different outcome.”

“I believe most problems are blessings in disguise. You can transform any tragedy into a positive experience simply by altering your perspective. We often cannot tell an obstruction from an opportunity until we view it from hindsight. So be patient.”

“The person who doesn’t fail is the person who doesn’t attempt anything.”

“Understand that failure is inevitable; see it as part of your learning process.”

“If you continually ask yourself, “What’s Important Now?” you won’t waste time on the trivial.”

“Make sure you do something every day to realize one of your dreams.”

“Preparation dispels pressure because it builds confidence.”

“Discipline is not what you do to yourself, it’s what you do for yourself.”

“Opportunity is never a polite thing. It won’t stand around waiting for you while you sit trying to decide whether or not to embrace it. You must have the courage to grab it with both hands when it’s in front of you.”

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.


Gold Medal Moments – Wise Words from Adam Kreek



“Life isn’t about living a bubble-wrapped existence. Life is about living a full life…and living to tell the tale.”

– Adam Kreek, Olympic Gold Medalist & Professional Speaker

I was recently volunteering for Threads of Life at the 10th annual Make it Safe Occupational Health & Safety Conference in Richond, BC (put on by the Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC) and one of the keynote speakers was Adam Kreek.

Adam won an Olympic Gold medal in Rowing in 2008. Four years later, he and three teammates orchestrated an unsupported row across the Atlantic Ocean (that doubled as a research and education project).

I must confess to being rather pleasantly surprised at being blown out of the water (couldn’t resist the pun!) by Adam’s powerful presentation – partly because I wasn’t particularly expecting to hear his messages at a safety conference.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a workplace health & safety conference is probably the BEST place to have heard what he had to say. Adam’s presentation was about passion, purpose, perseverance and performance…all of which are necessary in order for an organization to ensure their workplace is a healthy & safe environment for everyone.

I took quite a few notes during Adam’s presentation, so here are a few key messages:

On Achieving Your Goals…

“It’s actually quite simple to achieve what you want: Dream Big. Act Small. Work Hard.”

“It’s no so much about what you get. It’s about who you become on the journey.”

“Life is a game of forward motion…what are you moving towards?”

On Adversity…

“The goal remains…it’s just the path that has changed.”

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It’s the strength to continue that matters.”

“Reflect. Learn. Grow. Let it go.”

“There is an important difference between ‘I am a failure’ and ‘I am someone who has failed.'”

“I can separate the facts of the situation from the feelings of the situation.”

“Focus on what you can control.”

On Stress…

“Your nerves exist to serve.”

“It is so important to turn stress into ACTION.”

“Life is about action…moving forward. If I’m stressed out, I need to find a way to move forward.”

“It is important to take a break before we break.”

“You need to figure out how HOW you can you take a break that is regenerative and useful…for you.”

On Perseverance…

“People ask me how I crossed the ocean. I tell them ‘one stroke at a time.'”

When it Comes to “Success,” here are Four Important Questions to Ask Yourself…

1. Are you healthy?

2. Are you self-aware?

3. Are you serving your community or making the world a better place in some way?

4. Are you building authentic relationships?

Gold Medal Moments

At one point, Adam asked the audience “What is YOUR next Gold Medal Moment?” He then explained to us what it was like to cross the finish line and realize their team had won Gold. It sounded pretty incredible. But as Adam pointed out, that actual moment of winning gold passed very quickly…so when we are striving to achieve our own Gold Medal Moments, we would be wise to enjoy – and continually learn from – the journey/process of getting there.

In closing, I would like to share one more story from Adam’s presentation – because to be honest, this is the story I have been telling people over the past few days:

Shortly after Adam had retired as an Olympic Athlete, he was asked by a local school to deliver a presentation. He said sure – but he was really nervous because public speaking wasn’t something he had done much of at all. So he showed up, did the presentation and was pretty sure he’d done a lousy job! But he hoped that maybe it wasn’t as bad as he’d thought.

Nope. After he’d finished speaking, the principal took him aside and said, “Adam: that was the worst presentation I have ever heard.”

Well, all of us at the safety conference roared with laughter! Why?

Because Adam obviously learned from his abject failure and rocky start as a professional speaker – and went on to become an outstanding presenter 🙂

“You row an ocean by taking one stroke at a time. You build a business by solving one problem at a time. Make forward progress one inch at a time. Inch by inch. Repeat.”  

– Adam Kreek

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Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.