“In fast times, it’s not what you know that matters.”
We’re all familiar with that sinking feeling of being in over our heads or frozen with fear while staring at a monster challenge that seems impossible to conquer.
For me, the horror show began with a seemingly simple request. I was invited to speak at a business forum in Seoul celebrating the inauguration of President-elect Park Geun-hye, Korea’s first female head of state. The conference would be a gathering of Korea’s top business leaders, government dignitaries, and some power players in international economics. I was asked to give a presentation on “leadership for the future” based on one of my leadership books that had been recently released in Korean. Having done some research on the management challenges facing Korean businesses, this seemed easy enough. I accepted and booked my flight.
Two weeks before the forum, I began to smell trouble. I received a briefing document outlining the topics and questions I was to address. The list included issues ranging from national economic policy to government’s role in establishing new social structures. I completely panicked when I saw the question about diplomatic and economic relations with North Korea. Surely they had sent me another presenter’s brief by mistake.
The organizers assured me that this was no mistake, but I soon understood how the mix-up came about. The preface I wrote for the Korean edition of my book addressed a few economic issues—raising questions more than providing answers, really. I had simply made a couple of good points and was now being mistaken for an economist. If you’ve ever rattled off a few well-pronounced phrases in a foreign language and had someone mistakenly assume you were fluent, you know the predicament. Not only was I out of my league, I was in an entirely new game.
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