A few weeks ago, I tried to do a good thing for someone that I had admired from afar for a long time. We belong to a small, private community of authors and speakers. He reached out to the group with an emergency, and I, along with a few others, jumped at the chance to help. Helping wouldn’t mean meeting him – at long last in person, but merely covering for him at an event since our topics have enough overlap for me to satisfy the client as an understudy. I’d even offered to let him keep the client fee since I didn’t think his emergency should become my windfall; side note, good guy that he is, he didn’t agree.
But then a terrible thing happened. As soon as he called to tell me that he’d talked to the client and they were excited about me, I realized that my calendar was wrong. I had to be on camera in Las Vegas at precisely the moment I said I could swing up to Banff for him.
Now, I don’t take this lightly. Hell, I cut my teeth doing political advance and event planning for a national presidential campaign. Details are my jam, and I don’t get details wrong.
But I did. And I got them very wrong.
And I made his situation worse in the process.
Look, I could point fingers at others and come up with all sorts of excuses about why I got this wrong. I was onboarding a new assistant, I was finishing my book, I was on pain meds for a bruised tailbone. All of these excuses are factually correct, but none of them are really true. The reason I got it wrong was that I wasn’t paying enough attention and my reputation, along with his, got dragged in the wake of my ineptitude.
I texted him a few days later to apologize yet again and said, “I hope one of the other people worked out for you.”
Except I didn’t. My text had a typo. A very bad typo. The worst typo.
“I hope NONE of the other people worked out for you.”
Head: meet desk.
It just seems, sometimes, that once you have made one mistake with one friend, one family member, one client, one person you’ve respected from afar, you just can’t stop making mistakes. You chase your tail, and you never catch up. Bad became worse, and this becomes cemented as my reputation to this fellow I admire: she’s a flake.
If you know anything about me, the term “flake” would never come to mind. And yet… every single thing I did here belies that.
So, what’s the lesson from this? Do we punish ourselves endlessly for a mistake, letting it redefine us and become our story? Do we continue to spiral into the death valley of mistake after mistake? Or do we pick ourselves up, dust off our britches, and work like hell through our words and our deeds to know and show that we are better than that?
I apologized a half a dozen times, sent a gift, and then apologized some more. Et voila, clean(ish) britches. Or, at the very least, as clean as I could make them.
I can’t take back the mistake. I can’t take back the damage that I did to myself. Most importantly, I can’t take back the damage I might have done to him with his client. I can only hope that if I continue to be the person I am when I am at my best, that I can make up for the person I was when I was at my worst.
I can focus on the lesson, not the mistake.
So, too, can you.