Lessons from the Academy Awards 2017
Kitty Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT, RScP
Career Transition & Job Search Coach
I don't know if you watched the Academy Awards Sunday night or not. I didn't mean to, but I got sucked in with the red carpet pre-show and found myself unable to turn to another channel. I haven't seen most of the movies that were nominated even though I like movies. I loved Hidden Figures, the story of the African American women mathematicians (referred to as computers in the 1960's) who contributed to the NASA space program. (Who knew?) I also enjoyed La La Land, as did a lot of other people given all of the nominations it received. I have yet to see Moonlight (the ultimate winner) or Fences, Manchester by the Sea, Lion...and the list goes on.
In spite of my ignorance of most of the movies nominated, I enjoyed watching the Academy Awards show anyway. I thought it was entertaining and quite well done right up until the last moment. But more about that in a minute.
As usual, the women wore dresses that were beautiful, the men looking dashing, and they enjoyed their collective love fest to which they are entitled, I suppose. They do, after all, entertain, enthrall, and educate us all on occasion. They are collectively talented and successful people for sure. I am always inspired by the stories of those attending for the first time who share their childhood dreams of one day receiving an Academy Award.
I admit, I fell asleep at one point, so I missed the middle portion of the program, but I was wide awake at the end, and what an ending it was! I had just read a headline this week opining on what would happen if someone read the name of an Academy Award winner wrong. What are the chances that they could even happen? One in a million? It has never happened before, and I dare say it is not likely to happen again anytime soon.
But I think there is a valuable lesson to be learned from the grace and poise in how the "winner" of the award reacted. He turned to the real winner and admitted without hesitation, "there has been a mistake." There was no argument. There was not even a sign of disgruntlement, although perhaps he was too shocked to feel anything at the time. What we all saw on full display was the true camaraderie of professionals treating their colleagues with respect and behaving with humility that we don't often see anymore in our public figures.
I was moved by the grace and poise of Jordan Horowitz, the director of La La Land. For more on him and the events of last night, see this article outlining the timeline of the events.
It is pointed out in the article that what Jordan Horowitz did shouldn't be all that noteworthy, really. After all, he didn't win, and he voluntarily turned over the award as soon as he realized the mistake. Why is that so extraordinary?
Perhaps it feels noteworthy because we are not used to seeing that kind of graciousness from public figures right now. As a result, I found the moment both refreshing and heartening. Decency still exists. Honesty still matters. And yes, sometimes people make mistakes because we are human.
Someone mistakenly handed Warren Beatty the wrong envelope. He realized the mistake from the start. You can see his confusion, and watching it in real time, I was worried that he was having a stroke that was keeping him from being able to read the writing on the card. What was happening, however, was that he was trying to make sense of what he was reading on the card because it didn't make sense to him. He showed the card to Faye Dunaway who thought he was just joking around and being "impossible," and she read the title of the movie without reading the top part which named Emma Stone best actress in La La Land.
Who knows if anyone will lose their job over the gaffe? It was certainly embarrassing for the people in charge of the calculations and backstage machinations. But I found it refreshing to be reminded that we all make mistakes sometimes. And I was gratified to see an example of how to behave when mistakes happen. Jordan Horowitz stepped up and took command of the moment, and his decency was on display for the world to see.
Jimmy Kimmel was quick, too. "I blame Steve Harvey for this," was his quip. Now, I guess Steve Harvey won't feel quite so bad about his snafu at the Miss Universe pageant last year.
Lesson learned? When faced with a tough call, own it. If you can show grace and poise in the moment to boot, then that's icing on the cake. I would never have remembered Jordan Horowitz's name before...now I will.
Until next time.
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