Did you notice a little swagger on air? Or a peaceful, relaxed state? Were you impressed by my performance on national TV, in what is normally considered, an intensely stressful situation? The stress of the situation is in fact the fuel on which the show burns. It’s the reason people tune in to watch. They want to see people freeze, stutter and get a strip torn off them for, “not knowing your numbers!”
However, people also tune in to see the odd success story. I wasn’t worried about looking unprepared or about not knowing my numbers. Nobody knows those things better than me. I was mentally prepared in that regard. Truthfully, I was excited about the massive opportunity but nervous I’d blow it because of the plague I’d contracted. I worried my body wasn’t up for it.
When I landed in Toronto, I hustled to my hotel room and called the one person I thought could fix me up in a hurry or at least make me appear cured for a few short hours. My sister in law, the superstar pharmacist.
“Emily, what I am going to do (hack, cough hack…)” I didn’t even get through the sentence without a minute long coughing fit and Em gave me some serious sympathy.
She told me there wasn’t much I could do to fully suppress my cough and hesitantly suggested that I go get myself so day-time cough medicine, but warned, “Considering you’ve never taken cough syrup before, we can’t be sure what your tolerance will be. Go easy on it. Take a small, test dose, first.”
Unfortunately, there was no time to “test dose.” I’d been up since 4 am that morning and knew if I took even a small dose at say, 7 pm, it’d keep me up all night when compounded with my nervous anticipation. I couldn’t chance it.
When the alarm sounded at 5am, that god awful hour, my jet lagged mind and body were convinced it was the middle of the night because my body clock was still on west coast time, three hours earlier. Exhausted, I pulled myself out of bed and began practicing my pitch in the mirror, hacking and coughing until I almost barfed. That’s when I reached for the cough syrup.
I read the bottle carefully and felt confident the suggested dose would cure me.
It did not.
The rest of the morning was blur, filled with preparation, excitement and waiting. But it also had some pretty sweet hang time with my good friend Jana, who was my rock through the whole ordeal. She told me it would all be fine even though my coughing fits were getting more violent and debilitating then I thought possible.
By 10 am, I knew I’d be required to enter the Den before 12 noon. Desperation took over. I wasn’t going to blow this opportunity or look like a fool on National TV, with bumbling, goofy clown music over my episode while I coughed my lungs and my breakfast out. No way, No how!
I popped the syrup’s cap, paid no heed to the recommended doses and took a swig. There was nothing to lose. Bottoms up.
Jana and I chatted in the contestant area for about 20 minutes and I thought it was all for not. Then, I felt my body sink into the couch while simultaneously expand to fill the entire room. My exhausted mind started to perk up a bit while my heart slowed to a beat that couldn’t have been slower if I’d been sleeping.
Confident. Grounded. Unshakable.
These are the words that best describe how I felt in that moment. I don’t think a punch in the face would have aggravated me. I felt good and then Jana noticed I wasn’t coughing and I felt a whole lot better. “The cough syrup was doing it’s job so I could do mine,” I thought as the producer called my name. It was time.
As I floated down the stairs, into the mouth of the Den and feeling like a million bucks, I heard them.
“I guess that’s Toni with an ‘i’!” “It’s a she!”
Their surprise was a reaction I’d experienced more times than I can count. It’s a benign, often subconscious slight but it didn’t disappoint me like it use to. Secretly, I was blowing up inside, trying to stifle my bursting smile, at least a little. You see, I've learned from experience, that people prepare differently depending on what sex they expect to talk to. It’s mostly a subliminal thing and when I walk through the door, and don’t match the image in their mind, I have a slight leg up.
They mistook my name as man’s. They weren't mentally prepared to talk to a women. A name shouldn’t make a difference -especially in the 21st century- but it does and I believe in using every weapon in your arsenal. They say luck is when preparation meets opportunity and their subtle, sexist murmur gave me the last dash of confidence I needed to slay some Dragons.
They never really stood a chance.
Founder | Abeego
Watch the Dragon's devour and gobble Abeego up on CBC Dragon's Den now!
Read Part One| Pitch or Heave for our complete Dragon's Den Experience.