Man Plans, and God Laughs: Be Prepared to Pivot

Published on October 12, 2023

A few years ago, my opening story for a keynote involved reenacting a CPR scene. CPR is what you use when someone’s heart stops beating. In my twenties, I was a volunteer medic in Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

The whole point of the story was this: “Look, I’m not here to suggest that you start beating on your customer’s chest, but I am here to suggest that you breathe life into their lives. When you do that, there is no other differentiation.”
So, I’m reenacting the scene, counting “1-1000, 2-1000, 3-1000, 4-1000, 5-1000, 1-1000 2-1000.” I’m doing CPR and suddenly my partner yells, “Stop CPR, we have a pulse!”

I’d been sharing this story for a while, and it was so vivid that people actually came up to me and said that they could picture the lights flashing and the sirens blaring. However, it was a heavy story to open a speech with, so I was looking for that one little piece of humor to take the edge off.

It took me two weeks to find it, but I stumbled upon the word “although.” I would begin by saying, “I’m not here to suggest that you pound on your customer’s chest.” I would pause. Before I could complete the sentence, a person in the front row of the 500-member audience yelled out for everyone to hear, “Although,” eliciting laughter from the audience.

I remember thinking, “I just worked so hard on that one word, and you took my punchline.” But obviously, I couldn’t afford to alienate the audience, so I looked at the person and said, “You know, that’s pretty good. I have to take you on the road with me.”

Then, I decided to go for it. I paused, I said “Although” and the entire audience burst into uncontrollable laughter.

There’s an old saying: “Man plans, and God laughs.” We have to be prepared for all situations, not just the ones we hope for but also the unexpected ones. We need to be prepared to pivot, as life has shown us time and again.

So, prepare meticulously for that perfect speech, story, or sales pitch. However, at the end of the day, don’t be married to it, as unexpected twists may occur and you will have to adapt.

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