I often reflect back on one of my first employments and how it taught me so much about the working world.
I was young and by all rights pretty naïve to the ways of cooperate America.
Now I wasn’t solving world peace, but I was having a blast encouraging people to “never grow up” because “there were a million toys that you could play with”.
This was my first taste of what it meant to work for a large company.
I was chosen to wear the giraffe mascot on opening day.
At the time I thought this was quite the honor, however looking back I could see that perhaps it was just because I was goofy enough to pull it off.
They were incredibly serious about training to be this epidemy of childhood fun.
I often had to wear the outfit to do regular things so that I could get used to walking in the bulky costume without tripping.
Two bars set beside each of my ears and a small peek hole was at the base of the neck.
I was constantly whacking the top of the mascot head on low hanging items as I would forget that I was supposed to be a giraffe. If the mascot had actual feeling it would for certain have had a concussion during the training days.
Opening day approached quickly and the buzz around town matched that of excitement and curiosity.
Now I have never been into sports.
Most of my cardio is taken care of when I sweep the room with a glance.
However, I felt like I was in the sports tunnel ready to burst out on the scene and pump up the crowd.
The management team surrounded me with a lot of “You’ve got this!” and “Energy! Energy! Energy!”.
The doors opened and from that little peek hole in the giraffe suit I could see what felt like a million parents and children screaming and cheering for this childhood icon.
This was the moment I had been training for.
This was the moment that I had tripped, fallen, and learned how to speak with my boisterous actions for.
The line of children quickly formed to take pictures with the toy mascot.
The first child stood there anxiously pointing and laughing as one of the team members led her to me.
I was smiling from ear to ear in that costume.
I knew that nobody could see me smile, but it was incredibly hard not to.
The little girl yelled the mascot name and came running up to hug me.
With my arms open wide and my secret smile I bent down to give her the warmest hug that this giraffe could give.
What I did not account for was her mother standing so closely behind her.
What I did not account for what that I had forgotten I had a giraffe neck that extended at least three feet from my own.
What I did not account for is how heavy the head was when bending down.
As I knelt to hug that cute little girl, I quickly knocked her mother out with my big giraffe head.
It was like slow motion as the mother fell flat on her back to the asphalt.
The mascot was instructed to never speak.
That was one of the major rules.
You speak with actions and not with words.
As that mother went crashing to the ground, the most horrendous thing came out of the black netting at the base of the giraffe neck.
I won’t repeat it, but it rhymed with fit.
I was quickly escorted to the break room where the head of the mascot was removed and I was immediately reprimanded.
Just 15 minutes earlier I was being pumped up to be the greatest giraffe there ever was.
How quickly my neck fell from grace.
I sat there sweaty, embarrassed, and with half of a giraffe body.
I looked at my manager and realized there was nothing I could do but own it and say sorry.
So, that is exactly what I did.
It was within that moment that I learned taking accountability isn’t always easy, but it is always the right thing to do.
I could have said “BUT!!!” and continued on with a million different excuses on why I swore, but it wouldn’t have changed that I broke the cardinal mascot rule.
Shockingly enough, I did not get placed in mascot jail.
The grand opening did not end.
The balloons didn’t all deflate at once.
The crowd didn’t wither away.
Twenty minutes later I was back out there greeting the kids and dancing around like nothing had ever taken place.
The woman was fine by the way.
She enjoyed telling people that the Giraffe at the local toy store knocked her out.
I had a few weeks of being called “Rocky”.
Life in the toy business went on.
In life, both personal and business, we will make mistakes.
Those mistakes will range in levels.
That is not as important as how you handle those moments.
Will you stand up and own up, or will you excuse the mistake away until it is tucked nicely under a rug?
Taking accountability for becoming a swearing giraffe taught me a valuable lesson.
Who you are, what you stand for, and the character in which you see yourself all comes to a spotlight in moments just like these.
Being so humanly human allows you to create loyalty with the people around you.
They begin to understand that you are not perfect, but that you take accountability and move on.
They begin to understand that accountability doesn’t have to be scary.
The truth is STUFF happens!
These moments and how you choose to write the story become the very foundation of the employee and future leader that you are shaping up to be.
So, what’s your story?