I sent this blog post as an email to those in my community on Friday, and I have received some much encouragement from and I’ve had quite a few people ask me to post it as a blog.

I have been quite overwhelmed by the number of emails people have sent me sharing their own experiences of making a mistake and realizing that really a mistake is just a mistake – sure sometime the consequences aren’t nice, but its doesn’t equate to failure.

A few weeks ago I made a mistake. Yeah I know terrible. It was the kind of mistake that could have been avoided and it was the kind of mistake that sent a few people into a flurry of urgency and activity. (I’m pretty sure at least one person was earning overtime)

However it was a genuine mistake.

In fact I didn’t even know it had been made until I was summoned to a teleconference with an Insurer (my customer) a reinsurer (also my customer) and their in-house counsel. ( Yes I was kinda peeing my pants a little bit)

jo pic mistake

I didn’t know about the error until they brought it my attention. They refused to tell me what it was until I was on the call so I had no way of preparing (I hate that). I was gob smacked. Silence on the end of a phone call is quite deafening don’t you think. Once I could see it, I could see it – I had no idea it had been made before it was brought to my attention. And of course I was horrified.

This resulted in about 4 days of me

Feeling physically nauseas
Not sleeping
Hyper ventilating
Walking around in a daze
Terrified of email.

These are pretty strong reactions to a mistake don’t you think?

After all NO ONE died. And as I read in a Face Book thread this week NO one lost their place on a kidney transplant list.

Why did this simple and easily fixed mistake cause so much angst?

My customers are not used to me making a mistake. In fact they have come to trust that I won’t make them. So they felt cheated, betrayed and distrustful because I had made this mistake.

I am a perfectionist. And as you will know Perfectionists do ANYthing and EVERything they can to avoid mistakes.

I was terrified that this mistake would cost me business; would destroy my clinical practice and that I wouldn’t have the income, freedom and influence that I am enjoying. I turned this mistake into a catastrophe.

It wasn’t and it isn’t.

I apologized

I admitted the mistake

I offered to fix it free of charge

I apologized again

However this is where I chose to change my reaction:

  1.  I know that it takes about 90 days for people to forget. This is forget anything by the way . So while I might be under some extra scrutiny for a while I know that with the good work that I do and my team does if we just keep doing it, the mistake will become a shadow.
  2. I saw vividly how perfectionist thinking and behaviour does not serve me. It doesn’t matter how much I strive to be perfect and to meet the often unrealistic expectations of others, there comes a point where I will make a mistake – because I AM HUMAN.
  3. In the angst of worrying, I began to wonder if this would mean I would not receive any more of this specific type of work. I had a thought – maybe I won’t – guess what happened


Oh Oh, Houston we have a problem!

Why am I doing this type of work that obviously isn’t good for me? Well that’s a story for another day, but let’s say I am now so grateful for this mistake because I can let go of work I am good at; that I sometimes enjoy; but is not a great fit for me any more.


So my friends, my expectation is that you will make mistakes. Just be mindful of how you want to respond when you do make one. I am a BIG advocate for the instant apology, and how can I fix it approach.

Some mistakes have bigger consequences than others yes. But a mistake isn’t failure now is it.

What has been your experience of making a mistake? I would love to hear from you.

Here’s to your success –

Jo –

PS Do you know someone who would benefit from reading this today – then please by all means share this with them.

PPS – You are pretty darn awesome, yes you – even when I know that you will make a mistake. You are STILL awesome.

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