Making mistakes

Each of these reactions tells us a bit of what we believe about ourselves and the world around us.

I recently made a mistake… a really big one that involved many zeros. It was not a mistake I could hide in a cupboard. There were consequences: a large amount of money would need to be paid to another party because of a miscalculation. It would not help me to hide my head in the sand like an ostrich.

When I compared my calculations with those of the other party, our answers were poles apart. I knew something had to be wrong. Either I had made a mistake or they had done so somewhere along the process. Luckily I found a sympathetic person who could help me unravel the mess and point to the source of the error. It turns out I had misinterpreted a certain rule and entered the wrong amount in a certain field on a form.

There are mistakes we make that we can rectify ourselves. Sometimes we just need to say “I’m sorry”. But with this one, I needed help. The technology did not allow me to correct the mistake myself. I needed someone on the supplier’s side to do the correction on the back end of their software. That would only be possible if I was willing to acknowledge that I had made a mistake. If I tried to hide it, it wouldn’t get fixed and it wouldn’t go away. If I tried to blame their guidance that wasn’t clear in the first place, I would only get their backs up.

The best solution was to acknowledge I had made a mistake. That did not mean I hit myself over the head and called myself all kinds of names. Making a mistake does not make me a lesser or bad person; it only means I am human.

Then I needed to be vulnerable and ask for help. To get this mistake corrected also required me to be transparent and allow the person assisting me access to all the facts. And while they were busy checking the facts I could only but wait.

So next time you discover you have made a mistake, ask yourself, ‘what is my reaction telling me about what I believe?’

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