A summit the Fuckup Way

I remember when Eric (our BizDev Lead for Latam) talked to me while walking in the hall and said: “Oh, hey. I just had a call with IBM and you are not only going to moderate the event. You are moderating the whole summit”. Before I could even say “what”, he was already off down the road, heading to eat some tacos.

I was confused. What was this deal with IBM? What did he mean by “the whole summit”? And most importantly, why didn’t he invite me to eat some tacos as well? The next day we had a meeting with Liz (our Enterprise Coordinator for Latam), and Eric explained to us what was it all about:

 “We started talking about having an event for 400 of IBM’s leaders in Mexico. Suddenly, it scaled up quickly to not only having an event, but to also give an introduction to each one of their modules, which are based on their pillars, throughout the whole summit, but with the fuckup way”. 

And that’s how everything started. 

Fast forward to 3 months later, and there I was, getting ready to walk up that ramp and get into the amazing 360° venue they had for the summit. This was the beginning of one of my best personal experiences as a moderator. 

The event was divided this way: there were 5 modules to represent each of IBM’s pillars. Each module had a main activity. It could be either a keynote, a panel, or even an open discussion with all the leaders. My job was, besides moderating the Fuckup Night, was to give an introduction to each of the topics addressed, as well as a conclusion to summarize, having key learnings and takeaways. Sometimes I had to show where the bathroom was, cheer them up, and ask them to say “cheese” for the picture, but that’s another story. (Spoiler alert: they didn’t say “cheese”, they said “tequila”).

The first module was “Growth and Fixed Mindset”. Here I gave a full-blown keynote introduction about how Fuckup Nights started, what we have learned about failure throughout these 7 years, and how failure affects our perception. I also talked about how failure is deeply stigmatized in our society, and how we are expected to have everything “right, the first time”, leading to huge amounts of anxiety, an unnatural need to validate ourselves, and, therefore, increasing our Impostor Syndrome.

I also covered how to recognize when you are having a fixed mindset in specific situations, and how to move towards a growth mindset by sticking to challenges, making ourselves more resilient. 

Then it came to my favorite part of the events: the fuckups. 2 leaders from IBM and 1 external speaker stood up on stage, to be vulnerable, defeat their ego, and share their failures.The day before we were having a general rehearsal to make sure that everything was perfect (keep in mind that it was the first time they made this summit in years).

The two leaders came up on stage and practiced their fuckup story. And, to be quite honest, it wasn’t good. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that their story was not good. Oh man, they really had a good fuckup to share. The problem was that they were both giving the normal and traditional speech. No emotions, evading the vulnerable and personal parts of the story, and focusing on the success.

“I don’t blame you, we are not used to giving this type of speech. But this is really the magic of Fuckup Nights: to give yourself (and your team) a chance to see you as a human being, as vulnerable as you can be, and to share the authentic side of your stories”, I said. “Ok, let’s try this: forget that you are on this beautiful stage and imagine that you are just in a bar, with your best friends, having a beer. How would you tell your story?”.

I remember that (after I gave the general announcements, and prepared for one of the following modules), a person just came up to me and said “I have been working with these people for years. I’ve always thought of them as unbreakable, and very rigid. I think this is the first time I saw them be so human, and I can honestly say that I admire them more”. *Goosebumps on the rise*

We had a module about “Resiliency” with José Virela, who unfortunately had a tragic car accident (a truck landed from a bridge into his car), gave us a lecture of what resiliency really means, by sharing with us how after being paraplegic, he graduated from Medical School, became a Psychiatrist, before finally wining a couple of medals in the last Paralympic Games held in Peru.

I must confess. Normally I don’t like the “success stories”. Maybe that’s why I’m in Fuckup Nights. But this one really touched me. And I believe it did, because the way José was sharing his story was in a very subtle and authentic way. No egos involved. Not trying to preach or show “how he could do it, now you must be capable as well”. Not at all. He was just him, being vulnerable. And I think that’s what I really liked about his story.

Other modules that really caught my attention were the “Diversity and Inclusion” as well as “Trust and Transparency”. Here IBM invited some of their co-workers to share a life experience of how they lived these pillars inside the company. From two of the top managers explaining how complicated it was to not be a woman the management team 20 years ago, to a trans woman sharing how her team members supported her in the process, including a blind man who made a very interesting dynamic by folding everyone’s eyes to empathize with him. 

After two days of the summit, it was time to finish and say goodbye. I recall that I went next to the sea, took a deep breath… Wait a minute. I didn’t tell you that this event was in a hotel by  the beach? Well, yes, it was in a hotel on the beach. (Just to add on one more little detail to make this experience even more amazing).

Anyways, I was there, looking at the horizon, lifting my arms up to the sky. Remembering all those happy faces from the people, all those laughs, and even those tears. Right now, as I’m writing these lines, I’m having the same feeling again. It is difficult to describe. It is a mixture of pride and thankfulness. But I think this is how it feels when you have the opportunity to have deep and meaningful connections with people. And to have accomplished one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my life. 

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.