The Big Screw Up

Poor Molly Huddle.

Heading towards the finish of the 10,000 meter finals at the World Championships in Beijing last month, Huddle thought she had the Bronze medal in the bag.

This was turning out to be her best finish ever in an international race.

Huddle led the entire field as the bell rang to signal the last of the 25 laps.   With just twenty meters left and 9,980 meters behind her, Huddle could see two runners ahead of her: Gold and Silver.In her last four strides, she started to relax: the Bronze was hers.

Or so she thought.

As Huddle raised her hands in celebration, American runner Emily Infeld leaned in toward the finish.   After the 6.2 mile run and nearly 32 minutes of effort, Huddle lost the Bronze medal by nine hundredths of a second.

Huddle’s best finish ever turned out to be a painful embarrassment.

She screwed up.  She made a mistake.

Sound familiar?

Professional athletes have their mistakes put on display for the world to see.

They could spend days and weeks watching the replay and re-living their blunder over and over again.  “Moving on” is easier said than done.  The shame can be overwhelming.

Yet, the sensible option is to put the mistake in the past, and get back to doing the work. Start training for the next race.

We all make mistakes.  Maybe not as public as Huddle’s, but mistakes nonetheless.

Last Friday at 2:10 pm, I was preparing to leave my home office to have a 3:00 pm meeting with a client.  The client site is twenty minutes away.

My cellphone rang.  It was the client’s Executive Assistant.

Are you coming to the office?  We have you down for 2 pm.  I quickly retraced the email trail.  The meeting had been scheduled for 2 pm.  I screwed up.

What was the best way to handle it?It started with directness:  to own it.  No slipperiness needed.  No excuses, justifications, etc.   I swallowed hard, and said,

I made a mistake. I’m sorry.  What can I do to make it right?  Shall I come for 2:30? Shall we reschedule? What works best for you? I’m so sorry to inconvenience you.  My next job was to learn from my blunder.  How had I converted a 2 pm meeting into a 3 pm meeting?  How could I improve my systems to avoid doing this again in the future?

Then, it was time to move on and run my next race.

How do you handle your mistakes?  How much time do you spend reviewing/learning from it?  What does it take for you to move on to the “next race”?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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