All of us, at one time or another, screw up somewhere. There is no way around it. In fact, I’ve noticed that the more you try to avoid screwing up, the more you will inevitably screw up, and each screw-up will be more severe. When Greg broke the vase on the BRADY BUNCH, he initially allowed each of the other children and Alice take the blame for his mistake. Of course, at the end, he took the blame, which is actually the point here.
A few months ago, I got a new phone. As part of the deal, AT&T gave me a debit card preloaded with some amount of money. Not hating the idea of free money, my wife and I had a plan for what to do with it. So we put the card in a drawer and forgot about it until it was time to go buy whatever it was that we were planning…, the card expired! Okay, I screwed up.
Again, screwing up isn’t nearly as important as how you react. When you are at work, and you make a mistake, or even royally screw up, you can try and cover it up, hoping nobody catches on, or you can face up to the mistake and move forward. One way will almost certainly backfire on you, and you will quite possibly lose your job. The other way, you may get in a lot of trouble, but you most likely will be given the opportunity to fix the mistake and your reputation. I’ve told many people before about times when I have tried both methods, and the results. I can’t tell you what to do, or how to act, but I can reliably predict your chances of success depending on which method you choose.
When you are budgeting, sometimes you underestimate your expenses or overestimate your income. It happens to everybody at least once, and you kind of learn to not let it happen again. Or, you compound one minor mistake with a series of ever-increasing mistakes.
So, what should you do when you screw up? First, own up to the mistake. Admit to whomever you need to that you made a mistake so that they hear about it from you and not from someone else. Second, learn from the mistake. Write down what happened, what the result was, and what you could have done differently. Try to keep this in a place where you can get to it if you ever are faced with the same situation in the future. Third, and possibly most important, resolve to never, ever, EVER make that mistake again, and stick to this resolution. Not sticking it out makes the rest of the process meaningless. Don’t forget to do whatever you can to minimize the consequences by trying to fix the mistake. It is nice to know that you learned something, but if you don’t at least try to remedy the situation, what good have you done?
What shouldn’t you do? First, don’t beat yourself up unnecessarily about it. Remember, everybody makes mistakes. Many mistakes aren’t terribly big deals. They only become big deals when we compound them or ignore them to make more. Second, don’t try to hide the mistake. This is suspicious behavior. People who see you make a mistake and try to hide it will start to wonder what else you might be trying to hide; and don’t give me the argument that they may never find out. Do you really want to take that chance? Third, if you can help it, don’t repeat the mistake—ever. Also, don’t try to pass your mistake off onto someone else. When you do this, you are cheating yourself and screwing someone else. Accept your mistake and move on. You never know what the final result may be.
Back to the debit card thing. I called AT&T, told them straight up that I had made a mistake, and asked if there was something they could do to help me out. They told me that policy was policy. They asked me to hold, and told me that my new card would be sent out within three weeks. I’m grateful for their awesome service, and I’ll make sure I don’t make that mistake again. The moral of this story: Own up to your own mistakes and do what you can to make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over again.