It was two and a half years ago in my first full week of field training to be a salesman. We were doing a BBQ for an oil company field office with about 40 mouths to feed. We fired up our companies’ massive gas powered cooking machine and tossed 40-plus rib-eyes on its grill.
Things were going really well. The inch and a quarter slabs of meat were cooking beautifully and the smell was wafting into the nearby room where we would begin serving in a matter of moments. Soon, the first two trays of mouth watering, medium rare goodness had been carried into the gathering space as the conversations of oilmen suddenly gave way to the sounds of men savoring one of the best steaks they will eat that year.
I grabbed the third tray with about 14 rib-eyes. Mind you, it was a beautiful, fragrant sight, one that I had frankly never seen before in my life. These were expensive pieces of meat, something I never afforded myself on my home grill. I grabbed the foil container at the top of it’s long sides, using the sleeves of my brand new Fire Rated jacket as hot pads to carry the steaming load.
And then I dropped it in the dirt and gravel…
What followed by those who were training me was nothing short of “Biblical.” To say there was “wailing and gnashing of teeth” by my comrades would be an understatement. North Dakota is a “right to work” state. That means you don’t have to be terminated for cause. Yes, I wanted to fire myself in that moment. I’d gone from being the key leader of a great organization to being the proven fool on the low end of the new totem pole I was on…
We cleaned them up the best we could, tossed them back on the grill to toast the dirt, and had another member of our crew carry them in. I will never forget the look on the face of one of our cook-team, eating one of my “custom” creations near the end of the event. Our whole cook team had to eat my creations. I admit that even though I was mortified by such a singular failure so early in my new job, my friend’s attempt to make me feel even worse by his countenance and comments actually makes me laugh today.
Three weeks ago our cook team was back preparing rib-eyes for the same company. The faces on our cook team have radically changed over this period of time, and so has my competence. Yes, the one holdover from that fateful day tried to give me a hard time about what happened back then. But I surprised him by owning what happened, noting something along the lines of knowing how not to do it leads to doing it right.
Yes, dozens of times over these past few years, I’ve been doing it right – because I’ll NEVER forget doing it wrong.
When was the last time you learned how to do something right by doing it wrong? Did you want to give up? Or did you own it and move forward?