Mistakes happen, but life goes on

I recently finished reading Jessica Bacal’s Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong. I was intrigued by the title and drawn into the promise that the book would feature, well at the risk of repeating the obvious, women in power admitting they had made mistakes. 

Admitting a mistake in the privacy of your own office is hard enough, but these woman were asked to detail their mistakes with the understanding that the interviews would then be published, and available to be read by the public for all of eternity. Or as long as the book remains in print, whichever comes first. For that reason, I couldn’t fault the few who chose to play it safer with their stories than others.

As way of saluting their bravery, I’ll return the favor.

Wasting Money

Wasting Money (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

When I was first starting out in my career, I was given the task of instructing our purchasing department as to how much material to re-order for an upcoming build.  Simple, right?

The challenge was the material had to be bought in huge reels sold in volume and then cut into smaller pieces by a third party. The third party then re-spun onto smaller spools measured in square feet, before shipping it to the manufacturing facility where it was cut at third time into rectangular slivers measured in millimeters.

I knew how many end parts we needed to build, which told me how many slivers were required, but I needed to work out what that usage translated into terms of reels.

I failed this particular word problem. I may have misplaced a decimal, or I might have miscalculated exactly how much film could be wrapped around the spindle of a large cylinder. It doesn’t matter. All that mattered was we wound up buying years’ worth of material with a no return option based on my recommendation.

Embarrassed by my blunder, I wanted to take it out on the supplier. I asked them why didn’t they question why we were suddenly ordering several times more than we typically did. Their answer was, they just thought our business was booming. In other words they took the money and didn’t question their good fortune.

AWESOME ... TPD Officers Placed On Leave After...

(Photo credit: marsmet463)

Fortunately, I managed to keep my job. We found a space to store the excess without too much impact on our bottom line. Eventually we consumed the material, but until that day, at least in my mind, it served as a monument to my huge blunder. Rest assured, I never repeated that particular error again.

People will say you should own up to your mistakes, but to do so you have to do more than just admit to them. You have to break down the elements making up the blunder and figure out a way to turn a short term awful experience into an experience worth learning from.

I became more willing to ask for a second opinion if the numbers just didn’t seem to add up, and better about referencing past transactions whenever possible. Additionally, I became more aware of my individual impact on larger business decisions. Taken together, the lessons I learned by this one major blunder helped me develop the skills I needed to advance through my company’s ranks.

Reading about mistakes is a good way to learn a lesson, but occasionally it is best to learn the hard way.

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We all need attitude adjustments sometimes

Alan Cohen To make the world a better place, s...

Alan Cohen To make the world a better place, see the world as a better place (Photo credit: symphony of love)

In one month I am going to be the proud parent of a kindergartener. I’ve already verified that I have more than one package of tissues ready in the house. I’m as ready as I can be. He, on the other hand is more than ready. He can read more than a few sight words, knows his numbers and letters, and can perform some basic addition and subtraction. His day care teaches all these Pre-K basics as part of its curriculum, including the dreaded weekly homework assignments.

The Joys Of Homework

The Joys Of Homework (Photo credit: Cayusa)

These assignments are a struggle for everyone involved. My son would rather be doing anything other than writing his words for the week three times in a row. I would rather he was able to enjoy his time at home too. He writes a few of the letters backwards and gets frustrated. He gets distracted and starts doodling on the page. He winds up dragging out the assignment three times as long as it needs to be, especially if I am not hovering over him ensuring he stays focused.

I admit that I equally share his dread of homework too. I only get to see him awake for a couple of hours each night during the week. It bothers me to see him stressed during that time. But on a selfish note, it also annoys me that I am prevented from relaxing while I am forced to play warden.

However I don’t share my opinion of his homework with my son. Too much is at stake.

With Maya Angelou’s passing a number of news and media outlets have run pieces featuring some of her most inspiring quotes. One of my favorites is this, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.”

Cover of "Change Your Attitude"

Cover of Change Your Attitude

Homework isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and my son’s homework is only going to get more labor intensive as he gets older. Therefore since changing the practice of homework isn’t an option, if I am going to follow Maya Angelou’s advice, I am going to have to attempt to change my attitude about his homework.

My son still looks to me to provide guidance. If I let on that his homework is a pain, he is only going to reflect and magnify that opinion, making the weekly struggle to get it done that much more painful. It is already difficult enough to keep him focused on the assignment. If he drags it out any more it will take us two nights to complete rather than the one. Even worse, his attitude could then influence my younger son’s view of the task too, and my youngest is at least five hundred times more stubborn than his brother.

I am going to have to focus on how it is teaching him responsibility and how procrastination can be a really bad thing. Rather than dreading pulling out the sheets, I am going to look forward to that moment when I tell him it is all done correctly and he beams with pride. I am going to keep my mind on the prize, the sight of my son dressed in cap and gown crossing the stage.

If I do this right, with any luck he’ll mouth the words ‘thank you mom,’ as he accepts his diploma. That event combined with that little phrase will make all the stress and lost evenings worth it.

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The promises we make to ourselves are often the hardest to keep

Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs (Photo credit: .imelda)

We celebrated Easter over the weekend. My older sister came to visit with her family and we all celebrated with good food, conversation, and bags and bags of candy. I will be honest with you, I wanted to give myself a vacation from writing. What is the good of setting your own schedule if you don’t get to take some time off now and then. I rationalized that I could take a holiday off and no one would notice.

I announced this to my husband. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I felt my skin begin to crawl. I’ve been writing about execution, accountability, and leadership and here I was talking about shirking from my responsibilities just because it wasn’t convenient. I felt dirty. But the words were out there, all my husband would have to do is say something like “sounds good,” or “you’ve been working hard, a break would do you good,” and the conversation would be over.

He didn’t say either. Instead he just looked at me with a frown and said “you have to. It doesn’t have to be long, but you have to.” He kept me from making one of the worst mistakes – assuming that everyone’s lives were just like my own.

I follow several other blogs. After reading a series of good news stories on one of them, I reached out to the blog’s author. I wanted to know how she had been fortunate enough to find her publisher. She nicely wrote me back that her publisher found her after coming across her blog. Now she has a deal on a trilogy. What if the agent, publisher, bulk book buyer, kindred spirit looking for inspiration, or media mogul of my dreams was surfing the internet and found someone else all because I just didn’t feel like writing today.

English: A milk chocolate Easter Bunny.
English: A milk chocolate Easter Bunny. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Sure I might not know that I had missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime, but it still wouldn’t change the fact that I missed the opportunity to be noticed. And for what? Sixty to ninety minutes and a chocolate bunny?

I’ve read that it is a good idea to detail your posting schedule is on your ABOUT page. I’ve not embraced this idea to date because once you put something in writing, you’ve made a commitment. I don’t like to make promises I can’t keep. But perhaps it is time to do just that.

Over the last six months, I’ve kept promises made to myself. I’ve written on my writing days and spent time with my family on my off days, but perhaps it is now time to make promises to you the reader. Isn’t keeping the promises we rather avoid a major part of Easter?

If you are visiting my blog for the first time, Welcome. I blog mostly about parenthood, entrepreneurship, my inspiration, and writing, and I blog Mondays and Thursdays.

 

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)

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Be accountable. Be a champion.

Demotivator : Fired

Demotivator : Fired (Photo credit: muffytyrone)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve recently had to become re-acquainted with housekeeping. Luckily, my eldest son is at a magical age. He is just old enough to be trusted with chores, and just young enough to feel a sense of reward based on mom and dad’s praise alone rather than requiring the monetary variety.

One night, not too long ago, he offered to wipe down all our kitchen surfaces. We have a glass table and it shows ever smear and ketchup stained fingerprint, so we eagerly took him up on his offer while we put away other things. Except we neglected to remove the entire dinner setting from the table before he got started.

Smash.

Pity

Pity (Photo credit: Arthurvd)

Both my husband and I looked up from our respective areas in the connecting rooms to see that our son had learned a lesson in gravity. One of our glassware had magically transformed the floor into a barefoot nightmare. Our son must have become too enthusiastic with his wiping and swiped it right off the table top.

He looked at the glass. He looked at us. He looked back at the glass.

I expected waterworks. I expected him to blame his toddler brother for distracting him. I expected him to blame his father for leaving the glass on the table. I expected him to blame me for not magically being there to catch the glass before it fell.

I did not expect him to calmly say. “I am sorry mommy. I broke the glass. Are you disappointed in me?”

I shook my head and told him “No. Accidents happen, but I need you to go to another room while we clean this up.”

He said okay, but then he surprised me again. He wasn’t able to finish his chore in the kitchen, but instead of running off to play, he walked around picking up his toys so that it would be easier for me to vacuum.

Am I bragging a little here about my wonderful, mature, preschooler? You’d better believe it, but this story illustrates a under-recognized virtue – accountability.

Accountability is so under-recognized that it does not fall on any of the various lists of virtues. It is true. I looked it up.

Honesty is on the virtue list. I could have prompted my son with a question, “Did you break the glass?” knowing full well he did. Had he answered affirmatively, he would have been truthful, but that wouldn’t be a boast-worthy story.

No, I bring this story up because he not only showed honesty, but also respect, courage, and responsibility by the simple act of admitting to his mistake on his own and finding a way to make amends without burdening the offended party with unnecessary investigation or pursuit of restitution. In other words he made it right without getting Law & Order: MOM involved.

Accountability is another one of those virtues that appears to be harder to retain as we age. Perhaps it is because accountability requires that you provide a report to someone, and public speaking can be scary.

Perhaps it is because no one wants to get stuck in the infinite loop found within the problem solving flow chart.

problem_solving_flow_chart

problem_solving_flow_chart (Photo credit: slark)

Jokes aside, it is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. If you follow scandals in general, the damage caused by the reveal of the cover-up is worse than the damage from the original transgression (excluding violent crimes), and yet people keep forgetting that lesson. They choose not to admit to the crime up front, and hope that no one will ever notice. These people place a higher value on other things than personal accountability.

Personal accountability is simple on paper. You accepted a task. You are responsible for ensuring it is completed as agreed. There will always be factors that are out of your control. It is your responsibility to minimize the risk of those factors. If you still fail to complete the task, it is your responsibility to notify others promptly and make amends.

Unfortunately personal accountability is also tough. Unless we are gifted with great genes, looking in the mirror isn’t always pleasant, especially when reporting bad news. We can’t all be Dorian Grey. Many of us would prefer to imagine ourselves looking the way we did during some prior event. Dressed to the nines, weight – eh good enough, and skin stunningly perfect. Rather than a mirror, we prefer to look at a doctored photograph.

So if accountability becomes rarer, the laws of supply and demand would suggest that it should grow more valuable over time. Therefore people should value personal accountability over other lesser things. Right?

Accidents happen. Admit them to yourself and to others. Make them right. And move on. In the words of Freddie Mercury:

I’ve paid my dues
Time after time.
I’ve done my sentence
But committed no crime.
And bad mistakes ‒
I’ve made a few.
I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I’ve come through.

…’Cause we are the champions.

We can only be the champions of change if we own up to what’s gone wrong.

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You have to dance like nobody’s watching

Dance like nobody's watching

Dance like nobody’s watching (Photo credit: fmgbain)

Have you had the pleasure of watching the Lego Movie, or heard the What Does The Fox Say song yet? No? Well if you ever found yourself near my house on a Friday night you would hear song, Everything is Awesome and the aforementioned song blasting on our speakers over and over again as my boys engaged in what has become our “beginning of the weekend dance party!”

Dance Floor

Dance Floor (Photo credit: enric archivell)

My eldest son’s dancing consists of jumping, running in a circle, spinning on the floor, and imitating a robot. My youngest is still mastering walking and mostly performs a series of squats and sways while pointing his fingers in the air. I am not even going to attempt to describe the series of movements my husband and I consider our own dancing style, but needless to say we likely won’t be contestants on dancing with the stars anytime soon.

We may be somewhat rhythmically impaired, but it doesn’t stop us from letting loose every weekend. I am going to miss these moments when my boys age into the tween years and are too embarrassed to be seen walking with either my husband or I, let alone be seen dancing with us. The party is going to be over way too soon.

 

Susanna Clark and Robert Leigh penned the following lyrics for their song, “Come from the Heart”

You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money,
You’ve got to love like you’ll never get hurt,
You’ve got to dance like there’s nobody watching,
You’ve got to come from the heart if you want it to work.

These words are proven true over and over again.

Nicolas Cage was recently interviewed about his Oscar-winning performance for Leaving Las Vegas. He said, and I paraphrase, that he was so sure that the film would never been seen that he didn’t worry about what the critics or academy would say, he just committed himself to the role. By not worrying about being watched, he was freed to do something remarkable.

I struggled severely with my first several attempts at writing, not for lack of imagination, but because I was too concerned about forcing my words be best-seller caliber, or at least be quote-worthy. Then I saw a rebroadcasted interview with the late Elmore Leonard, author of dozens of novels.  He repeated his longstanding advice, “If it sounds like writing. Rewrite it.” I realized I just had to start typing, and stop worrying about who was reading. As long as I gave it my all, it would work out in the end like it was supposed to.

If you are reading this, then the process worked, and if you aren’t, well… I’ll still be dancing on Friday.

 

Rhythm, a sequence in time repeated, featured ...

Rhythm, a sequence in time repeated, featured in dance: an early moving picture demonstrates the waltz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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