By Ron Culberson. With a master’s degree in social work, Ron Culberson spent the first part of his career working in a large hospice organization as a clinical social worker, middle manager, and senior leader. As a speaker, humorist, and author of "Do it Well. Make it Fun.The Key to Success in Life, Death, and Almost Everything in Between", he has delivered more than 1,000 presentations to associations, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporations. His mission is to change the workplace culture so that organizations are more productive and staff are more content. He was also the 2012-2013 president of the National Speakers Association and is a recognized expert on the benefits of humor and laughter.
Does this sound familiar?
It’s the Saturday of your high school prom. You had a crush on another student for several months and a few weeks before the prom, you got up the nerve to ask them to go with you—and they said yes. You rented a tuxedo or bought a dress, made dinner reservations, and arranged for transportation to the big event. When you go into the bathroom to take a shower that Saturday morning, you look in the mirror and see a pimple the size of Rhode Island on your forehead.
Panic sets in. You search online for 24-hour emergency dermatology clinics and discover that apparently, dermatology is not a 24-hour emergency business. You run to the drug store and pick up concealer cream but since it doesn’t exactly match your skin color, once it’s applied, it looks like a patch of Silly Putty with a bubble in the middle of it. It reminds you of a joke involving carpet layers, a lump in the carpet, and a missing hamster.
You then try to cover up the pimple by combing your hair across your forehead. Not only does this look ridiculous, the pimple pokes through the locks of hair like someone peeking through the shower curtain looking for a towel. By noon, you’re exhausted from trying to hide, cover, and conceal, so you simply give up, realizing that you have little control over human biology.
Later, when you finally get dressed, you look in the mirror and realize that your clothing fits perfectly and the muted colors blend nicely with your drab alabaster skin tone. But there in the center of your forehead, all you can see is a red neon sign that warns, “Bumps A Head.” Later, at the prom, you’re convinced that your date keeps staring at your forehead. At the same time, you notice that they have a wart on the side of their ear that you never noticed before. It’s actually more obvious than your pimple.
(Please note that the previous example may or may not have been based on real events. Let’s not focus on that right now but instead, let’s look at the problem.)
As much as I would like to think that I can overlook the occasional blemish in my life, I must admit that I’m terrible at it. Early in my career, one of my front teeth looked like it was heading for the exit. It seemed to bend more and more every day until it was approaching a right angle.
As a speaker, I’m very aware of anything that might distract the audience from my profound insights and engaging repartee. That’s why I don’t typically call attention to my good looks and chiseled physique but rather try to make my appearance blend into the background. This tooth, however, was projecting my Appalachian-ness a bit too blatantly and I was very self conscious. Ironically, no one ever mentioned the angle of my tooth and when I pointed it out to a friend, he said, “Oh, I didn’t notice.”
And that is the problem with my perspective. I am acutely aware of problems that are usually of no concern to others. For instance, a few weeks ago, I was dining at a nice restaurant and excused myself to go to the restroom. Before returning, I started to wash my hands but the water pressure was so high, the water shot out of the faucet, up the side of the sink, and directly onto an area of my pants where no moisture should exist after a trip to the restroom. All the way back to my table I kept brushing my pants and saying, a bit too loudly, “Wow, that water pressure in the bathroom is like Old Faithful. Boy, those sinks can sure spray the water. I’m drenched. Gee, gosh, wow!”
When I arrived at my table and continued my nervous declarations, everyone just glanced my way but never paid any attention to my pants. I was sure they would accuse me of having an unfortunate toilet incident or suggest that my bathroom skills were not what they should be. But alas, I was the only one who cared.
As we go through life and in particular, as we go into the holiday season, perhaps it would be helpful if we didn’t always focus on the pimples, the crooked teeth, and the wet spots in our lives. Instead, maybe we should try to see the good around us rather than the one thing that’s creating a challenge. When we realize that the problem is only a small part of who we are and that our lives are full of smooth skin, straight teeth, and dry pants, the blemishes might not seem so important.
I guess what I’m saying is that maybe, we should get better at seeing what’s right rather than what’s wrong. It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Well, it is. In fact, it’s as obvious as the pimple on my face.
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