"Tell us a joke," the final task of the second round of intense challenges in the top-twenty stage of the Grant's whisky global ambassador job interview. This should have been easy. Tell a joke, any joke.
My mind froze.
Never has my mind frozen when it is time to tell something funny. Never the funniest, but always ready to spin a yarn. Not this time. My brain panicked, desperately searching for a joke to break the tension. But all I could think of was my default "I know the worst joke" mantra. Writing that joke here is not acceptable. Telling it to a panel of three people who will help determine my fate with the company...not even close to something that would happen.
Looking back, it would have been better to reveal the joke. It is terrible, but it always gets a laugh. An awkward, begrudging laugh. That laugh would have been less uncomfortable for everyone involved than watching me drip sweat and say, "nope, can't, won't, nope."
For those reading this and unaware of what I'm talking about, let me give you some context. I recently returned from Scotland, a trip paid for by William Grant & Sons. I had applied for the position of Global Brand Ambassador for Grant's Whisky, and out of 5000 applicants, I made it to the top 20. Whisky is my life, and William Grant & Sons is the company I credit for igniting my passion 14 years ago. I absolutely adore this company.
Anyway, back to the story. I'm lost for words, and all I have to do is say something funny. I left that room kicking myself, and then a flood of jokes rushed into my brain—every dumb one-liner I had ever heard.
But let me tell you, the entire trip felt like one improv moment after another. The Grant's team constantly pushed us out of our comfort zones, and it was nothing short of brilliant. For 36 hours, my heart didn't stop racing.
Speaking of being out of one's comfort zone, while there, I lived with a German in a cottage across from my favorite distillery. It wasn't something I would intentionally add to my bucket list, but boy, if it wasn't one of my favorite experiences. Stephan, or as we nicknamed him, "Gómez," was the most insanely awesome roommate I have ever had. A true force of nature who made my own ability to over-consume and rebound the next morning pale in comparison.
During the trip, I witnessed a Scot free-flowing a rap about our "better together" experience. There's a well-written joke hidden in that moment somewhere, but I'm still so impressed with Danny's talent that I can't find the words to write it.
My partner for the two-person challenges was a Scot named Amy. She didn't fancy me at all, which is a completely normal thing for me, but she found delight in my ridiculousness. She bailed me out of a few botched challenges, but my triumph came when we encountered a "fill in the blank" question. Who are the Three Musketeers? Athos, Porthos, and _______? "Mentos, the fresh maker," I confidently said. It was, of course, wrong, but the person grading the test awarded extra points for making her laugh out loud. My stupidity has that effect on people.
Back home, my family got involved in the vaudevillian-like experience of pushing boundaries beyond the norm. My sister, always one to provide support, reminded me that I am not funny and called me a basic b*&ch just before "game day." My youngest daughter simply sent me text messages of emoji alcoholic beverages. And my wife said, "You've got this"...which I think is code for "You ain't got this."
I worked tirelessly to secure a spot in the top three, but ultimately, that work wouldn't be enough. However, I hold no jealousy or envy towards the three who made it to the top. Each of them is insanely talented, and I am genuinely excited to follow their journey.
The only real bummer for me was when I got home. My youngest daughter gave me a hug and said, "I really wished you would have got the job, Dad. Because I really wanted to travel with you." It felt like a gut punch to see my daughter grasp the depth of my desire to land the global ambassador job, knowing it would have meant a shared adventure, only to fall short of the goal.
But fortunately, travel will forever remain in my soul. William Grant & Sons will always be the whisky that fuels my wanderlust, and my daughters will certainly get to stamp their passports with me, regardless of how it all shook out. And who knows, maybe one day, I'll have another chance to tell that joke and bring laughter to a room filled with whisky enthusiasts.