The Strange Truth about Embarrassing Moments

This episode, host hotlou shares a brief story of one of those embarrassing moments everyone has had from over 25 years ago that haunts him even today.  Sound familiar?  Yup, we all have those moments that make us cringe for weeks, months, or even decades after they happen.  Turns out, this very common phenomenon has a very strange characteristic that — once you realize it — may just help you in your personal and professional life.

Embarrassing Moments

Embarrassing Moments

Embarrassing Moments 25 Years Ago

As noted in the show, only days after Richard Nixon passed away, Lou made an incredibly cringey reference to him during a brainstorming session in a competition called Odyssey of the Mind (which has now been usurped by Destination Imagination).

Still, after decades, it haunts him even today.  We all have several moments like this.  And even though in the show, Mike recalled the moment, it was only through prompting the story possibly a little too well.  Later in the show, Mike is asked about other embarrassing hotlou moments, but can’t really recall any.  And it’s worth noting, that there have been multiple episodes of the hotlou show that Mike co-hosted discussing very embarrassing hotlou moments.

But when asked, Mike could immediately recall numerous instances of his own embarrassment.

So what’s happening here?  This is a symptom of something called The Spotlight Effect.

The Spotlight Effect

The Spotlight Effect is the phenomenon in which people tend to believe they are being noticed more than they really are.  We do this all the time, in good ways and bad.

Bottom line, because we can only live our life through our own perspective and are consequently the center of our own attention at nearly all times, we have a catalog of everything that’s happened to us.  And we are constantly evaluating moments that put our social status in jeopardy.  And in most cased, the worst ones stand out to us so much more predominantly than to others — mostly because others are falling victim to their spotlight effect as well.

In the show, Lou refers to a quote that’s often attributed to Abigail Van Buren of Dear Abby, but according to Goodreads, is actually a quote from Olin Miller:

“You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.”

Isn’t that reassuring?

Legal Issues Only Mildly Related to Embarrassing Moments

If anyone can track down the Menard’s commercial with the music from the hotlou show, please reach out on  We’d love to hear how it’s used in such an inferior way.

Mike shared the relatively famous story of Burger King’s legal issue with an Illinois restaurant also called Burger King.  It’s well worth the read to see how it shaped trademark law in the United States.

And like so many of our stories, it turns out the story is quite apocryphal.  Our crack research team looked into the original owner of  And surprise, surprise, it wasn’t actually an owner of apple orchard.  It was, in fact, Apple, Inc. It’s merely a popular example used to describe the limitations of trademark law in the U.S.  So, you’re welcome.  Maybe you can share this story as if it were true at a future cocktail party. Then, have it become one of your embarrassing moments subject to The Spotlight Effect.

Celebrity Listeners

Only one celebrity listener to add this week: Celine Dion.  Not a great addition, but my heart will go on, nonetheless.




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