I went through the email one more time, to make sure there were no errors. My hand was on the mouse. Suddenly it went! The email got sent (I did not send it). Problem, it was not supposed to go before the company-wide webcast, scheduled for 1 hour hence. Oh no! this was sensitive information that had just gone out to almost 3000 people before it was supposed to.
I picked up the phone to the Executive Vice President.
“I made a mistake”, I said. “I sent the email earlier than planned. It was not intentional. I was just reviewing it before the webcast, and I don’t know what happened because I did not click send. “
A mistake can be defined as an act or judgement that is misguided or wrong. A mistake can be defined as an act or judgement that is misguided or wrong. Other ways of describing a mistake include error, fault, inaccuracy, omission, blunder, miscalculation, misunderstanding, oversight, misinterpretation, misconception, misreading.
It may seem trite or cliché to say that we all make mistakes, but it is true, simple because it is not possible to always have all the facts to make a decision or a judgement; one can’t always be alert and one simply cannot control the actions of others, which are sometimes the cause of mistakes that we make.
Yet, mistakes afford us an opportunity to learn, and when we learn, we grow. And growth is life, or at least, more than mere survival.
What is your relationship to mistakes?
If you are spending so much emotional, physical and intellectual energy avoiding mistakes, that you have no or very little time for the business of living and loving, you are on your way to stress, strain and struggle, if you are not already there.
If you are about not getting found out and letting others bear the blame, you can’t be sleeping, and that, at least, will lead you into greater trouble with your health and relationships. And by the way, siku za mwizi ni arobaini. You will run out of time, and out of people to blame. Plus, you are missing out on opportunities to learn from your mistakes. While people can forgive a mistake once, they are less and less understanding if you repeat the same mistake, or keep on blundering.
You can have a deliberate strategy to minimise mistakes, or at least, minimise the impact of any mistakes you may make. Preparing diligently for a task equips you with information and confidence to reduce the chances of errors. Maintaining good relationships, and building your reputation as someone trustworthy is like putting money in the bank. It will be there when you need to make a withdrawal. So, when you make a mistake, those on the receiving end will be ready to give you the benefit of doubt, because they know you are not like that. Accepting your fallibility also makes you more compassionate.
I learnt that keeping the mouse hovering over a command like ‘send’ can be interpreted by the computer as the action. I also discovered that if you compose the email and only add the addresses when you are ready to send eliminates the chance that it will go to someone before it should.
Most importantly, though, accept that you can, and do make mistakes, and be ready to own up to them. While you cannot make the other person accept and forgive your mistake, you can keep a clear conscience knowing you owned up and took responsibility. More importantly, taking mistakes in your stride makes it easier for you to avoid being overwhelmed by the business of avoidance, guilt, stressed relationships and fear of consequences. It opens you up to learning, setting you up for greater achievements at work and at home. And it presents you with possibilities when you set about discovering how else and what else.
If you are a parent give your children the gift of understanding that while they can avoid mistakes by being prepared, they will err sometimes, and that mistakes are opportunities to learn.
“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are here now with the power to shape your day and your future.” – Steve Maraboli.