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

MY WHOLE BODY RELAXED

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.

Can I get a HALLELUJIAH

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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