Document Your Life #66 – So You Made a Mistake

Luckily, the mistake wasn’t mine (this time) but it still made me think about the subject of “making mistakes”.

Haven’t you ever made a mistake before? Sure. Of course. Absolutely.

We are, after all, only humans. We’re flawed and most certainly capable of making the inevitable mistake. Big or small. It doesn’t really matter. What matters more is perhaps what you do after the fact to correct it, to make up for it and to own it.

In my opinion, the worst thing is to shy away from it and not take responsibility for your mistake. The worst thing is when someone makes a mistake and they try to blame someone else for it.

Maybe it’s just a natural instinct as part of our human self-defense mechanism? Maybe it’s just our way of doing the best we can to save ourselves in an uncomfortable situation. Because, let’s face it, making a mistake and realizing it is so uncomfortable. There’s the rush of heat through your body, the slight acceleration of your heart beat followed by the “oh-my-God” thought racing through your brain or out of your mouth.

The mistake.

It’s real and it’s uncomfortable. Especially if it involves other people like, say, if you sent a quote to a client and didn’t inform them that the price was subject to change at any moment and without notice. And especially if that then happened and you got caught in the middle of it, because your clients accepted your quote but your supplier came back with a higher price after the fact.

So, what are you supposed to do? How do you handle it?

First, you fight like hell to get your supplier to honor the original price that you based your quote on. When that doesn’t happen, you get upset and maybe freak out a little as you try to figure out when to do to a) not look stupid and unprofessional in front of your client and b) not look stupid and unprofessional in front of your boss …and c) not to lose money and the client.

If none of that can be salvaged, then what? Then I think you need to inhale a BIG breath and just admit everything. Lay it all on the table. Admit your mistake, apologize, own it and apologize…again.

Yes, that’s also going to be uncomfortable because we never ever want to embarrass ourselves in front of others. We want others to think that we’re perfect. Which is, of course, rarely the case.

So, unless someone is actually and literally going to die from your mistake, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I would (try my best to) own it and note everything down so as to never make the same mistake again and just live with the fact that I learned a valuable (maybe expensive) lesson.

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