Admitting You’re Wrong Has a Cost: Your Pride

Ah, the first half of February is here, and yet we’ve only had one miserable snow. That’s sad :(

Today will be short. Apparently my 12th season of triathlon training is ramping up. Yes, that means, I’ve been competing for twelve years. That’s 39% of my life, making me super old! I met an athlete at my first race back in 2007 who had been competing for eight years, and I thought that was a lifetime :D

We live in a world of choices. Small choices that may not have consequences beyond the current hour, choices that may not make much of a difference at all beyond the year, or choices that will forever alternate the course that you are navigating. But no pressure – seriously ;-)

What you choose to do with your time and how you spend it are probably the most critical things that we each have to face, day in and day out. Taco night or peanut butter and jelly as you bolt out the door? Biking or swimming? Sleeping in or waking up to walk the dog? Europe or Australia? Do what’s right or what’s wrong? Today is all about doing what’s right, even if that is in great resistance to what your mind is telling you to do…

I’ve had a few experiences in the past few months, as well as many, MANY experiences in the past 31 years, where doing the right thing, because it is the right thing to do, didn’t always leave me feeling like I expected.  We’ve all been there! You can feel the pounding of a hammer from inside your skull, and the adrenaline being injected into your body. Perhaps the instant chill that freezes your blood and drains the life from your face. You realize you made a huge mistake (or someone pointed it out), and now you either need to own it and fix, or play the blame game and look even more foolish.

I don’t think I have any experiences where admitting I made a mistake was easy, but I have definitely, 100% learned the most from instances where I accepted responsibility and took steps to repair the damages. It is the most bang for the buck when it comes to character building, and you really learn a lot about yourself as you battle the pros and cons of shirking off ownership vs. accepting the responsibility.

One year, I was in charge of facilitating the student body elections at the university. In our testing, we used characters like Bugs Bunny, Darth Vader, and Weird Al to try out the ballots. Turns out I had configured the online election template wrong, and when we got to election day, a few students were met by an unpleasant surprise: the real candidates were mixed in there with the bogus ones. Quick fix, but not a good start to the election. Fortunately, it’s good to be able to laugh about this one now!

Back in my early career days, I got fed up with a coworker for not producing a deliverable that I needed to do my job (after four thousand requests). I sent an email to their supervisor but accidentally copied the person too. Oops! I make it a point to never, ever undermine someone, in person or via written communication, so that was a double whammy – I felt bad for calling them out, in “front” of them, and felt even worse for not realizing they were on the To: line! That was a hard pill to swallow as I had to balance my annoyance with an unprofessional (if accidental) move.

And finally, in a grand example of what not to do, I was leading a project where we were deploying some functionality to an external customer. Everything was ready to go, and all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed. Unfortunately, it turned out that we had forgotten to test a piece of it with the customer, despite the tests cases being ready. We shipped to production without that realization, and it turns out we got a phone call the next day asking why we didn’t coordinate test that functionality with him. Turns out, they needed a change to the feature, albeit a minor one. Classic textbook example of ball-dropping.

The great thing about being human is that mistakes are bound to happen. Pff, sometimes mistakes even feed off of each other to spawn a never ending tsunami of mistake-fueled chaos! It just goes to show that even with triple and quadruple checks, it doesn’t always imply perfection. I am usually leery of people who do perfect work because it makes me wonder what they are hiding. I also think there’s a sense of trust that’s established when someone you work with admits fault and then rights the wrong. That goes a long ways in this day and age!

I have learned much from the countless mistakes I’ve made, but the greatest lesson I have to share is this: swallow the humility pill, even though it hurts like heck going down, and admit when you total botch it! Just say the words “I made a mistake.”

On occasion, I will try and find myself playing the “blame someone else game” but let’s be real… the buck stops with you. At the end of the day, let your pride go, accept that your actions aren’t going to be perfect, and find healthy ways to patch the leak and move on!

Happy Friday! Here’s to many more lessons from the mistakes that will be made.

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