What To Do When you F*ck Up

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Yesterday….yesterday was a lesson in humility.

A couple of days ago, my former students’ mother had called me to ask if I could have a chat with said student just to see how she was doing—she is a high level student and likes to be the best at everything she does, which is awesome but also leads to quite a bit of stress.  Based on her request, I made plans to pick my former student up for dinner before her big homecoming game where she was part of the homecoming court.  She had a narrow window of time, but we decided to make it work.

As fate would have it, my memory failed me and I ended up going to the wrong high school to pick her up.  This would have been fine, except it was 4:15 on a Friday in the middle of an overpopulated city, and her ACTUAL high school was allllllllllllll the way across town.

Cue me cursing other drivers, alternating slamming on the brakes and the gas, and finally breaking down in tears in the car as traffic sloooooooowlyyy crawled along the nine impossible miles.

I almost reached her high school when she called and asked if I’d like to meet at Subway down the road instead as her mom had come to pick her up and it would save time.

Burning with humiliation, I agreed.  And, in the manner that usually happens when things are going wrong, my GPS showed some unclear directions which added at least five minutes onto my commute in the opposite direction of my original trajectory.  Eventually, it was decided that we would meet on the following Wednesday as she was already late to her next commitment.

I died inside.

I had fucked up. Royally.  And even though my friends told me things like “it was an honest mistake” and “oh well, those things happen”, I couldn’t help but internally scream that these things don’t happen to ME.

Two glasses of wine later, I was feeling a bit better about the situation (helped in no small part by a generous pour from the sympathetic bartender), but still burning inside from the knowledge that my mistake didn’t affect just me, but had screwed up her day, and her mother (who had entrusted me to be there for her daughter) was a witness to my screw-up.

So, burning humiliation aside, how could this have been prevented?  How can we minimize those moments in our lives where we (hopefully only figuratively) screw the pooch?

Always double check the details, even when you think you know.  My mistake happened simply because I got the wrong high school in my head, and never once confirmed where I was supposed to meet her, specifically.  Making 100% sure of whatever critical details are pertinent to the situation at hand goes a long way in preventing those major collisions that result from not confirming the seemingly inconsequential details.

Conform to a standard of excellence.  The reason why this incident had me so shaken up yesterday is because this sort of thing is a very, very rare occurrence in my life.  I am very rarely late, much less completely at the wrong location.  I make it a point to deliver on any promise that I set forth, and I always make up for it when I fail to do so.  If you hold yourself to a high level of commitment no matter what task is set before you, you can almost ensure the complete or nearly complete lack of “ahhhhh FUCK” moments in your life.

Allow the moments of failure to spur you towards higher levels.  I could react to this incident by telling myself that it’s no use, I’m going to keep screwing up, so I might as well embrace it and not give it a second thought.  Or, I could realize that I am going to keep screwing up if I don’t take action, so I need to double down on my efforts to make those mistakes fewer and further between.  Whenever you use the fallout from your weaknesses as teaching moments, those weaknesses slowly start turning into strengths.  Recognizing that you are human does not have to be synonymous with constantly letting yourself off the hook.  Life is meant to be a growth process, not a continuous recline into our comfort zone.

Ultimately, make up for your mistakes that do happen.  I apologized profusely to my student.  I sent an “I’m SO SORRY” text to her mother.  I made sure that I texted my student this morning to see how the homecoming election turned out.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that I won’t be taking her to Subway for dinner on Wednesday.  You cannot erase mistakes, but no matter how small they are, you can show that you care enough to make them right, or as right as possible.

Each and every time you fuck up should be a time where you learn.  If you’re applying the knowledge gained from when you screw up, it will be very rare that you make the same mistake twice.  A flaw-free live is completely impossible, as much as the A-type personalities of the world wish it were so.  However, a life lived with integrity and purpose is as close as we can get.  Don’t allow your missteps to prevent you from finishing your path, and don’t allow your dirty shins and skinned knees to give you permission to sit down and throw up your hands.

Every. Single. Person. makes mistakes.  As with everything in life, it’s what you do AFTER those mistakes that truly makes the different between moving forward or sliding deeper into the mire of false contentment.  Pick yourself up, dust off your jacket with dignity, and step forward with a keener eye and sharper sense of purpose than before.

 

Mistakes=Knowledge

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Last night, my friend and I were discussing the disease of perfection that permeates how women feel they need to be perceived.  As a gender, especially with social media, we are made to feel that we should have the perfect ass, perfect hair, perfect face; be able to have an amazing career while being amazing mothers/partners; be sexy but not slutty; be feminine but not too girly; the list goes on.

As a man, the pressure is no less intense.  You need to be a perfectly suave career man, steadily climbing the ladder; casually show off the abs that come from a little light sweat in the gym; be tough but not too tough; embrace sports; simultaneously be able to kill a spider and fix a faucet while tearing through a giant steak.  Anything a woman could want all in one chiseled package.

This portrayal of superiority  in every way possible is completely unrealistic and completely unhealthy.

Yet so many people have bought into this representation completely and live lives fraught with miserable comparison after miserable comparison.  There is no room for widely deviating personalities.  There is seemingly no forgiveness for error.  In short, there is no relaxation into or even celebration of the fact that we are freakin’ human.

I cannot tell you how many times I have beaten myself up for making a mistake.  I slipped up and ate something while dieting?  I restrict even more out of frustration.  I said something wrong to a friend?  I flush with shame at every remembrance.  I handled a situation wrong at work?  I replay the scene over and over again.  If I want to become the person that I hold up in my mind as the gold standard, there is simply no room for error.

I put a lot of pressure on myself as it is, and with the added vision of becoming a woman that has it all, I find myself shying away from things that might lead to error.  Yet I have come to realize that this is the complete opposite of what I should be doing.  If I really want to strive towards greatness, I need to embrace mistakes.

Love your mistakes.

How cringy does that sound?  Love my mistakes?  Hell no!  Mistakes are what keep me from awesomeness!

Yet what we need to realize is, mistakes are what make UP our awesomeness.

I made a mistake when I was 19 years old and got married.  This wasn’t a little “oops, I spilled a little Pinot Noir on the couch” mistake.  No, this was a “shit, I just murdered 5 years of my life and I can never get them back” mistake.  Talk about something you don’t want to blast all over social media.

And yet, that mistake has shaped me to be a better person.  I am more empathetic.  I can relate to people in their poisonous comfort zone.  I have extremely high standards for who I even allow to take me on a second date.  That fuck-up has given me invaluable knowledge.

Overall, the problem does not come when we make the mistake.  The problem comes when we refuse to acknowledge that mistake and therefore deny ourselves the opportunity to ruminate on it, examine it, dissect it for the valuable information that it holds.

If you analyze the big, juicy, terrible mistakes that you have made over the years, you will undoubtedly find that you are now the proud possessor of subsequent clumps of education directly stemming from your deepest pools of shame IF you have taken the time to work through everything.  If you have simply ignored the error and moved on, you are highly likely to make that same blunder again.

Sweeping the mistake under the rug will not cause the snafu to be unsnaffed.  Everyone wants to be smarter, to have a broader base of knowledge, to know what to do in every situation.  The irony of it is, you almost always have to do the wrong things before you figure out the right things.

Of course, one of the greatest tools we have as human beings is to learn from other people’s examples (and we don’t even have to actually know the person to do so!).  Books, podcasts, articles—they all offer valuable information that will cut our learning time down in droves if we actually take advantage of them.

There is no escaping making miscalculations of our own, sometimes with catastrophic results (yet with a silver lining of incomparable knowledge if we choose to take advantage of it).  But if we can glean the knowledge that other people have gained and graciously decided to share with us, we will be so much further ahead.

Holding back from living your life in order to minimize your mistakes is the shittiest way to live that I can think of.  Our one life that we get to live deserves to be fiercely embraced, relentlessly experienced, and openly analyzed.

And lets be honest, mistakes are where the good stories come from.  If nothing else, that moment that sends you sobbing into your pillow every night for a year will end up being the time that you eagerly share the most often IF you take the time to glean the wisdom that such an event presents.

Go out and be gloriously flawed.  Strive for perfection whenever you can, but take advantage of the times that you fall.  Seize every opportunity life sees fit to offer you, and continuously utilize every opportunity to improve in one way or another.

No one, and I mean no one, is perfect.  We all have fuck ups.  If you really want to be be a cut above, though, actually glean the knowledge from yours.