The Most Important Thing to do When You Make a Mistake

When was the last time you made an embarrassing mistake?

My answer would be, “Yesterday, thanks so much for bringing it up!”

I’ve been convinced for quite awhile that evil elves live inside my computer and conspire against me with every technological weapon at their disposal, putting their tiny pointed heads together and hatching plans for my destruction.

They are in league, I believe, with snakes, and automated bank accounts, and their goal is to scare me and send me screaming into the night.

Well the evil tech elves almost succeeded yesterday.  My fear?  Pushing a wrong button. Yesterday, in an effort to improve elements of this site, my fear was realized.

As a result, those of you who subscribe received a strange, second “post” by email that probably seemed like something I had scribbled on the back of a dry cleaning receipt while I was stopped at a traffic light.  Some incomplete thoughts.  The sort of beginning of a draft for a post.

When it dawned on me what had happened, I felt like I had gone to the grocery store and then realized I had no make-up on and was still in my bathrobe and fuzzy slippers.


My attempt to stretch, to get better, to upgrade in an area had resulted in a downgrade.

Have you been there?  I think we often respond one of three ways when we make a mistake:

1.  We Quit.  My first inclination was to say, “Ok, I am so done with technology!  I hate making mistakes (especially ones on display for other people).  I’m just not going to try new things in this area.  Evil elves, you win!”

2.  We Blame.  When Maggie and I play golf together we have codes that we write next to our scores.  One of them is NMF.  Can you guess what it stands for?

Not my fault.

Somehow, no matter how bad our score is, it feels better when we shift the blame for the disaster.  Usually the focus of that blame is John, who we think has advised us of the wrong yardage, or the wrong club, or has looked at us funny.

3.  We “Fail Forward”.  In his book by that title, John Maxwell writes that the major difference between achieving people and average people is their perception of and response to failure.

I’m trying to learn doubles tennis and  the other day I got angry at myself for a shot that hit the white tape on the net.  My coach stopped me and gave me a long lecture on how that was exactly the wrong response.

In doubles it’s especially important that you get the ball low over the net.  He said, “If you get angry or scared you’ll try something totally different next time and that would be the worst thing you could do.  If you hit the tape, you’re an inch off.  The most important thing you need to do is just keep doing what you’re doing with a minor adjustment.”

If we’re not making mistakes, we’re not stretching enough.  Maybe we’re playing it too safe.  Working on anything that matters to you requires bravery.

So, I apologize for my blunder and I hope you’ll forgive the irritation.  If it happens again at least you’ll know I’m still trying to learn something new.

Would you be willing to share an embarrassing mistake you’ve made?  Did you learn anything?

2 thoughts on “The Most Important Thing to do When You Make a Mistake

  1. Funny you ask. I just made one yesterday! I could elaborate on why it actually happened (which would fall into the Blame category), but the fact is that instead of sending out a spreadsheet of current projects to a team of 20 prior to a status meeting, I sent out my daughters summer soccer schedule!!! I received an IM from a dear friend in India who was on the distribution list (very politely) asking me if I was sure I sent the right document. I was so embarrassed! I quickly tried to recall the message but of course, most had already opened it. The only way I could think of to handle it was to joke about it. At the start of the status meeting I mentioned that my daughter is ALWAYS looking for fans so hey, come one come all! They all laughed and we moved on. But I learned that I can’t take myself too seriously. We do all make mistakes and I think it makes us human and relatable. I love this post, Laura. And I might have to steal the NMF code (love that!).


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