Best career advice I ever had.

Best career advice I was ever given.

Everyone knows me as a storyteller, but back in the 1990s I was an electrician in lighting crews for movies. I was invariably the only woman and I was known as “The Girl spark” or “Tank Girl”.

I felt very visible. I always had to win and keep the trust of the other electricians, many of whom were 20 or 30 years older than me. I was on a constant mission to prove my physical strength and technical knowhow – especially not to ever, EVER, do anything girly.

We used to have a motto, “Mess up, Fess Up”.

Here’s the story.
I was driving a giant lorry, loaded with cables, through Leavesden Studios, at the time that Tim Burton was filming Sleepy Hollow in the stage next door. As I manouvered the vehicle around a corner, who should I see but TIM Burton HIMSELF. Wowza! I’d loved Edward Scissorhands, and now here he was, the man himself. He looked up, saw me behind the wheel and did a double take.
YES HE NOTICED ME! “Tim Burton NOTICED me!” I thought. “omg…Maybe he’ll even hire me or something, who knows…” As I was all in a fluster, I drove my lorry through the soundstage gate.

Unfortunately, I was so distracted that I didn’t notice something rather important. Someone had CLOSED THE GATE. I drove my lorry through the closed gate, I tore through the metal, leaving a truck-shaped hole.
Now it was broken. And they needed it closed because they were recording Johnny Depp’s dialogue that day, so they lost a day of filming. Yup, my hero Tim Burton, lost an incredibly expensive day of filming… because of me.

It was very tempting to sneak away and let someone else take the blame. The other electricians found it hard enough to belive that I could drive a great big truck anyway. I’d be shamed and exposed. Heck, I’d probably never work again.

But I remembered our shared motto and… I fessed up.
How they all laughed at me!
But they also saw that I’d ‘fessed up to take the heat away from them.
After they’d finished laughing, they all got behind me to make sure I wasn’t fired from the job! It definitely improved my relationship with my colleagues and I was hired more, not less.

Here’s what ‘fessing up does.
1) The problem is found and dealt with straight away.
2) You get the chance to put things right and therefore strengthen your working relationships.
3) You build trust.
4) You don’t miss out on a learning opportunity!

Now that I’m a professional storyteller, I still on occasion get things wrong. If I mess up, I ‘fess up ASAP, I put things right and, ALWAYS learn from the occasion. And I still like spooky gothic things too!

PS I also love hearing stories about other people’s mistakes. Sharing our stories can be a great bonding and learning experience, especially if it gets put right in the end!

(below: Me and my lorry in Tudela, Spain. We were shooting a James Bond Movie.)

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