I’m going to share a personal story here, one that actually destroyed me emotionally. But only for a moment. When it was over, it gave me exactly what I needed to be a better leader. If you’re interested in being the best version of yourself, listen up. This has to do with being brutally honest with yourself, even at the cost of making a fool of yourself.
I write books for professional men and women. Self-help and how-to, mostly. When someone who needed a book written contacted me, his professional stature intimidated me a bit. So much so, that when he asked me what it would cost to write his masterpiece, I fumbled and jumbled my quote horribly. So much so, that I severely undercut myself. Severely.
He agreed to my teensy price and we ended our call. I was devastated. What had I done? Why didn’t I say anything? How could I possibly move forward, knowing I would be making mere pennies, thanks to my fumbly foolishness?
I had a choice to make:
1) I could either move forward and write his book for peanuts, or
2) I could call him back and tell him I made a mistake.
If I went with option one, I knew I would regret it and hate every step of the process.
If I went with option two, I risked making a fool of myself and looking unprofessional.
After wresting with both options, I decided to go with option two. I decided to be honest, even if it meant I might look like a fool. Here’s what I said:
Mr. Author. I owe you an apology. For reasons I can’t quite explain, other than I became flustered while talking to you, I severely misquoted you. I said I would write your book for X dollars when the truth is, I should have quoted you four times that amount. So sorry.
I don’t know how it happened our what I was thinking, but I would be doing myself and my clients a huge disservice if I moved forward writing your book for what I quoted you. Yes, I am so very sorry. I’m embarrassed and humiliated. I understand completely if you want to move on and find someone else to write this for you.
And do you know what happened?
He said he would like to move forward with me anyway.
Yes, I was as stunned as you are.
Mr. Author told me he valued my work and appreciated my honesty. He could hear in my voice how terrible I felt and understood I simply made a mistake. After we hung up, I had an unexpected emotional release and I cried
- because telling this man I made a mistake was very difficult.
- the perfectionist in me was still beating me up.
- because I was honest and it felt good.
- I realized, even if he decided not to work with me, being honest and standing in integrity felt better than any check in my hand would.
Choosing to be honest is actually a gateway to freedom. Had I lied to him or myself and moved forward anyway, I would have done more damage than good. One lie leads to another lie, which leads to another lie, which in turn lead to another lie. My emotional release was my body understanding that, and thanking me for being true to myself and to Mr. Author.
Looking back, I can safely say that even if Mr. Author told me to go fly a kite, I still would have felt free and safe, because I told the truth. There were no stories to protect and no lies to continue to weave.
Decide to be honest, no matter what. None of us is perfect. All of us make mistakes. Besides, look what happened when I told the truth. I ended up getting paid what I should have from the beginning.
See? It really does pay to be honest.