Tanking a meeting

January 2, 2021 (3y ago)

I went into an important meeting with senior people and completely tanked it knowing I wasn't as prepared as I'm usually and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have taken in some time.

It helped me kill some of the cognitive distortions I have been carrying around for a while and a framework to identify and solve for many similar distortions we tend to neglect.
If you are an anxious person, there is a good chance you spend a good amount of time working through what I later learned as "cognitive distortions" and specifically two of the common distortions

  • "All-or-nothing thinking"
  • "Filtering".

Usual thoughts before a big meeting

I'm not prepared well enough and people will find defect/counter-point to my recommendation and the meeting will be a failure and hence I'm one too and that's how others will perceive me.

Usual thoughts after a big meeting

Exaggerating every counterpoint and new recommendations as a failure on my part for not being prepared well and ignoring many positives/appreciations that happened.
classifying the meeting as a failure

Thoughts after a tanked meeting

I knew this meeting wasn't going to go well and I knew a lot of my ideas might be shutdown. But even with minimal effort, I had a few positives and that's great. A single bad meeting doesn't hurt my impression as much as i imagined.
** *In other words, the worst possible outcome still isn't half as bad as I imagined it would be. ***

For the uninitiated

Cognitive distortions are beliefs held by individuals that makes them perceive reality inaccurately. Negative inferences cause negative emotions, creates an overall negative outlook, and can sometimes create a heightened state of anxiety or hyperactivity(feeling of hopelessness).

All-or-nothing thinking

Inability to have a non-polarized view of a situation and hence forcing one-self to make an extreme stand as either I'm a success OR I'm a failure and because there is always something that can be picked up as a mistake/defect, end up feeling dejected most of the times.

E.g I don't have any discipline because I can't stick to a regular habit (running, yoga) and hence I cannot do anything that takes discipline.

I fail to consider that perhaps I just don't enjoy running or yoga and my performance is indicative of my interest more than my capability.

Ask(challenge) myself, are there any activities that I do well that requires discipline? Turns out there are a few like finishing hobby projects, developing a new hobby, or successfully clearing entrance exams to help pursue higher studies in a field that interests you.


When we give abnormal importance to negatives than towards the number of positives from a given situation. Typical signals include extremely high expected outcomes out of a situation and setting oneself up for disappointment.

E.g A performance appraisal where s/he gets a hike and is shared a good amount of positive experiences and also constructive/critical feedback to improve.
We fail to give equal importance to negative and positive feedback and instead, dwelling only on the negative feedback for weeks thereby giving a negative tone of your performance appraisal discussion. Sometimes leading to drastic decisions (deciding you suck at this job quitting a job and similar cycles across the next few).

A better route is to intentionally look for positives in any situation and look for evidence to counter your negative thoughts.

** E.g If you were indeed bad at your role, why would they give you a hike or ask you to take up additional responsibility?**

It turns out these patterns are not that uncommon and there are structured ways of going after. Couple of formats I have found very helpful.

Putting thoughts to trial

This format forces you to put your negative thoughts on the stand(like a trial) and confront it with actual evidence and then help arrive at a fair judgment.

Worksheet Template: https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/putting-thoughts-on-trial.pdf

Decatastrophizing thoughts

Helping you breakdown your "catastrophic" thoughts and actually evaluate the chances of it happening by reducing all your opinions to a fact which is true or false and avoid bias.

Worksheet Template: https://positivepsychology.com/wp-content/uploads/Decatastrophizing-Worksheet-2.pdf


High velocity & ambitious startups can sometimes amplify the anxiety & distortions as there is a good chance that 80% of the times, you are working on a very hard problem with high expectations and there is a good chance of not meeting them. The end result by itself is not bad if you aim ambitiously but it requires cognizance of the same and a team that knows to handle and balance growth and people's health.