Better Life

Hu(man) Error: The Big Reveal

The Big Reveal
Every guy makes mistakes. What’s important is what he learns from them. This week: a budding entrepreneur flashes a fashion tastemaker. He’s been buttoned up ever since.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet a fashion icon. He had been the CEO of one of the preeminent fashion brands in the world, and had founded another.

I was in my (relatively) younger years then, and going out drinking in the evenings was the norm. Despite our meeting being set for 8:00 a.m., I found myself out late the night before and, naturally, well served. The following morning I woke up in a fog, showered and tossed on my nicest pair of jeans and a clean shirt. I was feeling ready.

The man’s daughter was a friend and had generously arranged the meeting. There were six of us in total: the fashion maven, his daughter, a few friends, and me. The discussion on the table was the new label we were working to create. It was a weekend morning, but the maven looked very sophisticated – a cashmere sweater draped over a silk shirt, horn-rimmed eyewear; hair impeccably combed.

I held back from speaking much early on, until he asked a question on design inspiration, and I felt compelled to jump in. I tend to speak expressively with my hands, and as I began my explanation, I noticed my friends looking increasingly uncomfortable. Thus, I kept my comments brief. At that point, I looked over at a friend who wasn’t speaking. He was fixed on me. He pointed at my shirt: two of my middle buttons had come unbuttoned, and while speaking and gesticulating wildly, I had revealed some rather flagrant man-chest to this fashion tastemaker.

I was mortified, sure, but I buttoned up, composed myself and continued on in the conversation. The meeting lasted almost two hours, and gentleman left the discussion intrigued and encouraged by our idea.

As I reflect back on the moment, I think a couple things are important to note:

  1.  Before a big meeting, give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Give yourself a once over. (This is a great thing for a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband to help you with.)
  2. Be aware of all others in the discussion. Look around. Take hints. My friends helped me be sure that my little flash of chest hair didn’t become a full-on nipple slip.
  3.  Roll with your mistakes. For years, I have not been able to live this tale down. But every time it comes up, I own it. In the end, a little flash didn’t stop us from building a great company.