At my first speaking engagement of the New Year, I had a scary experience that made me wonder what the rest of this year might bring. I was addressing the Minnesota Hospital Association about leadership in healthcare as our culture shifts from a delivery model based on intervention to one based on prevention. I suggested that authenticity, truth, transparency and accountability were the critical elements for successfully negotiating these uncharted waters.

When I speak, my style is one of passionate spontaneity; I have a basic outline, but as stories come to mind I tend to go off on tangents; this makes my presentations always different, and keeps me fresh and excited. This time, in the middle of my presentation, I got off on some tangential riff and then couldn’t remember where I was before I got sidetracked. The harder I tried to concentrate the blanker my mind became. It was only a matter 30 seconds but I felt a rising panic, and reached into my pocket to look at my notes, recovered my place and continued as if nothing had happened.

But I knew something had happened, and although I’m sure the pause was not what the audience remembered most about my talk, but it triggered some… OMG am I losing it …fears.

I would have loved to be able to find the courage in that panicky moment to share my truth, and say I forgot where I was; it would have been an example of what I was talking about, but at the moment I could not share my vulnerability.

The most profound teaching was not owning my truth but the awareness we never know when we might be stricken deaf, dumb, blind, lame, or otherwise incapacitated. Today I can still hear, see, smell, touch, and tell my stories. Today I am walking in the rain smelling the perfume of flowers, tasting with greater relish, listening more intensely and living life with joy. Above all is not to fear not fear and say thanks for every day.