It’s Ok. We All Screw Up
November 5, 2020
There have been many instances in my life where I have screwed up.
One of my amusing memories is of an email I sent out that got me into big trouble. I was having trouble dealing with one of my superiors to whom I had an indirect reporting line. So I wrote a formal email detailing the issues I had with that person hoping to send it to my direct boss. I was spaced out for some reason. Instead of sending that email to my supervisor, I sent it to the very person I was complaining about. It became a big issue and cost me a lot of sleepless nights. I eventually salvaged my situation and survived to tell the tale.
This memory brings a smile every time I think about it. But, when the problem happened, It felt as if my world had collapsed.
Another bad one that I remember from early in my career was when I closed a big sales deal. All the seniors in the Organization congratulated me. But to my horror, I had committed a big mistake in the pricing for the contract. A couple of days after all the congratulations and celebrations, I had to convey the bad news regarding the error, and we had to renege on the contract.
There is any number of such instances I can go on sharing, where I have screwed up. I am sure everyone else has similar war stories.
There is no excitement in our life if not for all the screw-ups and problems we bring upon ourselves. It’s almost as if we can’t help ourselves from not committing mistakes.
What can you do when you realize that you are responsible for some screw-up?
Do you beat yourself, or do you try to deflect blame, or do you give up, go into hiding and stop taking risks?
Looking at the rearview mirror of my life, I have had lots of screw-ups to learn from.
Here are three lessons that may be useful to remember when a screw up happens.
Don’t Hide- Shine The Light Of Acceptance.
When a mistake we commit comes out, there is a deep fear and panic that is aroused. When that happens, there is a survival instinct that tries to push us into the shadows to avoid the pain. However, below the fear and panic, there is a more profound emotion- Shame.
Shame is an emotion in our ego’s darkness that creates the belief that we are unworthy, incompetent, or untrustworthy because of the screw-up. When we bring up the courage to accept our screw up, shame will no longer have a hold on us.
Problems hidden will always get caught out eventually. So, it’s better to accept this fact and try to deal with the fallout of the mistake. There will be some pain for sure. But we will sleep lighter.
Find The Silver Lining
Remember the mistake that occurred due to a petri dish getting contaminated, leading to Sir Alexandar Fleming discovering Penicillin- a wonder drug that saved millions of lives.
There is always a bad side to a mistake. But there is also a good side-an unintended benefit you may or may not see at the point when the error happens.
Sometime in 2009, just after the global economic crisis, a close friend of mine who was doing very well in his job got into trouble at work. Some office politics happened, and he found himself out of a job without any back-up. He tried for a job at other places, but he did not get a break anywhere because the economy was in a tailspin. Everything looked bleak. Out of the problem, the opportunity emerged. My friend had a flair for solving problems. He offered his services to clients for a small fee to solve their problems. One client led to another. In a couple of years, he became a successful management consultant creating value, doing something he loved, earning substantially more, and being more fulfilled.
A screw-up can open a gateway to some opportunity if you are alert and willing to do something. Have faith; there is always a silver lining.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Screwing Up.
Many people lose confidence and go into a shell when mistakes happen. They become diffident and fearful. They think, “No point being a cowboy and making more mistakes. Let me play it safe.”
A quote attributed to Albert Einstein says, “show me a person who has never made any mistake, and I will show you someone who has never tried anything new.”
I would not be the person I am today without the mistakes and screw-ups that have taught me valuable life lessons. In the end, everything turned out, Ok.
Mistakes happen only when you play the game. If you sit on the sidelines, there is no play and no chance to make mistakes. And, more importantly, no opportunity to learn and grow.
SO, don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Have a mindset of doing more stuff, and if mistakes happen, don’t worry- if the mistake does not kill you, you are good. Just focus on finding a solution.