I’m 10,000 feet above the earth, somewhere between Panama and Mexico, and I’ve just finished my (plastic and not very tasty) airplane meal.

Suddenly I realized that I was just smiling and nodding my head,  as if something unbelievable had just happened. You know, like that exact same feeling that you have when your favorite band plays your favorite song live at the concert. The one you thought they were never going to play. 

And even though I didn’t attend a concert last night, I did attend a Fuckup Night. But it was not just a normal Fuckup Night, this one was a Private Fuckup Nights Event with Sanofi with the leadership for Latin America – and I was chosen to moderate.

I arrived early to the venue, to make sure that everything was in order. And, to be honest, I started to get nervous. I have been lucky enough to moderate quite a few events, but this one was on a whole other level. The venue was amazing, a historic three-story theatre called Teatro Amador, in the old city in Panamá. There was also a whole lot of production – lights, sound, and even confetti!

And even though I had done bigger private events, like our Johnnie Walker event with around 400 attendees, this one had a special challenge: it needed to be in English.

The Event

The time was 7:30pm, and it was time to get it started. No time to get nervous, just time to get excited for a (hopefully) great night. What I didn’t know though is that “a great night” was going to be an understatement.

The lights went down, the music started playing, the smoke started to fill the place, and a confetti explosion signalled the start of the event. I  took the stage. Now, when I’m on stage, I always like to take a moment to read the vibe of the crowd, and seeing that there was already a high energy in the theatre put my nervousness at ease. This was our night. So, I started talking about Fuckup Nights, the Failure Institute, our private events and what we think about failure. The audience went crazy. Everyone was clapping, laughing, cheering, and they were just incredibly engaged and happy.

And then I introduced the first speaker. Sanofi’s head of CHC, Alan. Alan had just arrived from a 13 hour flight from Europe, went directly  to the stage, and gave a great example of how a leader should lead: by example. With the best attitude, he was humble enough to take off his mask and share with  his whole team that he had fucked up. And pretty hard.

The speakers

I stood there just looking at everyone’s faces. They were  skeptic. “Wait, what? Why is my boss sharing this with us?”

Then I introduced Carol Ann who shared how her ego was the main culprit for an epic fuckup while launching a new project in Japan. Even without my mind-reading powers I could tell that the surprised faces in  the audience were saying “Wow, I never imagined my boss would be vulnerable enough to share this embarassing fuckup!

Finally, Paul closed the night with no less than a picture of himself dressed as a woman, and another one as a baby. Of course, naked. Is there a better way to show vulnerability? 

“I’m going to introduce you to my boss.”

The event came to its end. The audience was really amused about what had just happened. After I left the stage, I  saw the magic of Fuckup Nights.

People starting to share stories with one another, having a more personal approach with their leaders, and having those deep connections that we certainly forget in our day to day routines.

It was meaningful and authentic, and everyone was on the same level – “we all fuck up.”

Thank you very much for this. I’ve never had an experience like this before with my team“, a good man said to me, before asking how can he bring this to his team in Mexico.

I’m going to introduce you to my boss, he definitely needs to listen to some stories of failure“, said another lady, after taking a selfie with everyone.

Then another woman just kissed my forehead as a sign of gratitude (I guess?  I hope so).

So now, after realizing why I was smiling ” for no reason”, I actually realized how powerful it is to share your fuck ups at work. And not only at a Fuckup Nights’ event, but actually anywhere for the simple fact of opening up.

Because of the little seed that it plants in everyone’s head. Because of that little shift in mindset that triggers tons of impactful actions. Because of that vulnerability that brings people together and closer, as a shared humanity. 

After proof reading this article I realized that I didn’t have a final punch line. Or a conclusion. And I think there’s no need to. There’s just a need to wait for the next Fuckup Night to come.

Ricardo Castañeda

Ricardo Castañeda

Movement Manager

After studying Electronic Engineering and merging himself into the software world, Ricardo realized that rather developing bits and chips, his purpose in life was more related to human and social development. His professional experience in trasnational companies such as Continental and P&G, his involvement as Toastmasters’ President, 180 Degrees Consulting Mexico leader, and entrepreneur of 2 (failed) startups, lead him to be the current Movement Manager at Fuckup Nights.

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