The Dog Peed on My Speech
Recently I went on a ten-day holiday with family and made the decision in advance to leave my mobile phone and laptop behind, in order to enhance the peace, quiet and relaxation. Also, we were going to a remote area of Mongolia and would be away from cell phone signals and wireless infrastructure much of the time.
In hindsight, the debate about whether leaving these devices at home enhances or undermines the value of a vacation is now a very lively one. In hindsight, the short-term relief and relaxation was more than offset by the mountain of messages awaiting me on my return, and the impact that had on the following weeks’ pace of work, which became much more hectic and stressful because of my ten-day “escape.”
So if you ask me whether or not, if I had it to do again, I would leave the phone and laptop at home, I would probably say “never again.” But, technology and our relationship to it is very fluid and dynamic; so let’s see what I think a year from now.
When I returned from this recent trip I had a variety of work-related deadlines which I’d known about in advance. Shortly before the trip I also received an invitation from a good friend to speak to a smallish (15-20 executives) group over breakfast on some business-related issues, which I accepted.
Then came the flurry of deadlines and busy days between the return from my holiday and the morning of that presentation. As a result, I did not have time to sit down and write out the talk, nor did I really want to approach it that way, preferring to write down a series of bullet-point notes and speak on an ad lib basis from those.
So, the day before the breakfast talk, I managed to squeeze in some time while eating lunch at my desk, and jotted down some talking points, intending to revisit them and refine them later in the day, or that evening. I printed these out on one page and put them into a clear plastic folder.
Despite good intentions, I got distracted with other stuff and went to sleep that night without refining the speech notes. I had a vague feeling of guilt and a sense that the notes were not as good as they could be or should be, but I planned to rise early the next morning and revisit them over coffee at home before the breakfast meeting.
Which is exactly what I did, until the family puppy dog intervened.
With a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I had set my speech notes draft down on a low surface next to my briefcase near my desk.
As with most mornings, my visit to the kitchen for coffee received an exuberant greeting from the family dog, a chocolate brown poodle puppy, whose name is Qiu Qiu. Qiu Qiu is about the size of a large rabbit and could probably outrun the average rabbit. His laps around the dining room table are made at dizzying speed.
By the time I returned to my desk with coffee in hand, Qiu Qiu had been there and back. As I reached for the draft copy of my speech notes, I realized Qiu Qiu had left me a message as only a partially house-trained puppy can do.
Qiu Qiu peed on my speech.
Let me say that again, because I’m not making this up. Qiu Qiu the dog peed on my speech, about an hour before I was supposed to deliver it.
A battalion of thoughts raced through my mind, some of them involving hostile intentions. But then after a moment’s reflection I thought, well, you were just wondering whether that draft was up to snuff, and Qiu Qiu just emphatically confirmed that it was not. So rewrite it.
Which is exactly what I did. I changed the whole approach of the talk.
It reminded me of the classic excuse offered by one student who failed to hand in his homework assignment on time. When asked by the teacher, he said “The dog ate my homework.”
So I wove “The dog peed on my speech” into my introductory comments for the talk that morning, which gave everyone, including me, a laugh.
By the way, here is a picture of my meanest, toughest critic, Qiu Qiu the dog. We acquired Qiu Qiu at the time of last year’s Mid-Autumn Festival, which is where he got his name.
On that note, let me wish all Readers a very happy Mid-Autumn Festival, and suggest they keep their speeches away from their pets.