One bad performance can erase years of progress

“You’re only as good as your next one.” — Mike Medavoy

In October 2004, singer Ashlee Simpson was caught lip syncing her song Pieces of Me on Saturday Night Live. The next day, lambasted by critics and fans worldwide, a career she had started at three years old was over. For Ms. Simpson, this one bad performance erased years of progress.

A performance need not be on network television: a fight with a spouse is a performance; delivering your doctoral dissertation is a performance; negotiating on a conference call is a performance. And it’s always a real possibility that you can lose your progress and everything you’ve worked for is unsalvageable.