This moment, right now, is all we have. We can go back and forth in time in our minds, but this is it; the rest is memory and imagination and so what we do here  matters; every second!

I know this, I understand this and I try to live into this every day, but “getting” a concept is very different to viscerally experiencing it and it becoming a true way of being; that takes practice, a lot of practice.

Yesterday, I wrote about how I threw away a once in a lifetime opportunity to step up and take a big emotional risk; how I hid in the crowd like I have done so many times in my life and allowed my fear to become a block to what I really wanted. Well, that wasn’t the end of my embarrassment and victimhood that day.

I was at an event run by someone I really respect, one of the best coaches in the world; someone who coaches Presidential Candidates; Rich Litvin. He was teaching us how he does what I love to do: ‘deep coaching’ (guiding people to overcome their deepest fears, discover their secret dreams and then take steps to make them happen) and giving us the chance to either be coached by him or to see him coach up close. It was an incredible day and I learned a hell of a lot! At the end of the last session he opened up the floor to questions; this was my chance: I could ask him anything about coaching, about anything he has done, any of his thought processes. This was an opportunity to discover his secrets because he would answer any question asked of him.

So, I put my hand up, I didn’t want to miss this. They handed me a microphone and I waited, he pointed towards me and I stood up; what incredible insight would I ask about? What secret would I uncover with my laser like question?

Well, as I stood up I started speaking but without putting the microphone to my mouth and so I could barely be heard……

<as an aside, I HATE talking into microphones, I did it for one of my talks and it completely threw me off hearing my own voice and having to hold it close to my face and took me a long time to get into flow. Here I only had a few seconds and felt very self conscious>

…….then, when Rich pointed out that I need to put the mic to my mouth my voice blurted out of the speakers and made me jump! I had my note pad in front of me and was fumbling with that looking for inspiration, I was panicking. I asked a question that I had thought of at the start of the day; it was a very open question that had actually been answered many times in watching him coach and in the way he described his coaching. He did his best to answer what he thought I was asking and his answer was far better than my question but when he said “does that answer your question?” I said no!! Why the hell did I say that????

Then, I fumbled some more words out, trying to come with a better question, but it only got worse. I stood up there for a few minutes and essentially asked this man a basic question that anyone in the room could have answered (it was a room full of coaches). What was I doing??

At this point I could no longer hear what he was saying, I had gone internal and just wanted to sit down. I waited until it felt like he was done and I thanked him and sat in my seat.

I was cringing. I exposed myself and wasted another once in a lifetime opportunity. I felt powerless and stupid.

In the old days it would have been a bad experience that I would try to forget about, put it behind me and it would gnaw at me under the surface. Now, instead I let it bother me; I sat with it and really thought about what I did and why I did it. Then, I asked myself a powerful question:

“How can I use this?”

So, I reviewed what happened; What did I do to create that experience?

I wanted to speak out for the sake of it without having a clear question that I wanted an answer to and instead of being in the moment I was regretting my actions earlier and thinking about not wanting to go away without asking something; I was anywhere but here.

So, what could I have done better?

I could have taken a moment to think about what I really wanted to know; get clear on that, then formulate a specific question and put my hand up.

I could have kept quiet and listened to other people ask their questions which could have inspired a powerful question in me.

I could have made a choice that I will only speak if I have something worth saying, that I will keep quiet unless I am very clear and very purposeful.

What would you have done?

This difficult lesson is one that I carry with me and am using to ensure that I speak less and wait until I have something worth saying. I have known this for a long time and have definitely been doing more of that when I am coaching, but it took this visceral experience to help me really “get” it. Will I still talk too much and say stupid things; damn right! But, I will focus on asking more specific and powerful questions.

Rich said that for him coaching is not about giving our client answers, but instead about getting her to ask better questions. The same is true of this coach!

Have you ever asked a really stupid question for the wrong reasons? What is a better question you could ask? Comment below!