“I F**ked Up”

March 29, 2013

rsz_kohei_asohLet’s face it, if you’re trying to do anything complex or difficult (which we all are), you’re going to screw up.  You’re going to leave out a basic step in a simple process and look like an idiot.  You’re going to send a “benign” email that pisses people off.  You’re going to waste time on the “wrong thing”, and as a result not focus on the “right thing,” and have your judgment questioned.  It sucks, but it happens to all of us.  Just writing this I can feel that embarrassment that accompanies any of these.

Caught up in admonishing ourselves, we often miss a simple fact.  Just admitting the mistake and quickly trying to fix it is the best way out.  Too many people waste time and energy trying to defend their mistakes.  If you look at the facts and realize you screwed up, don’t bother trying to defend it—that just makes you look worse.  Own up to it.  Get your power back.

One of my favorite examples of the power of owning up to mistakes is Captain Kohei Asoh.  In 1968, Asoh, a veteren pilot with 10,000 hours of flight experience, mistakenly landed his DC-9 two miles short of the SFO runway ending up in the San Francisco Bay.  Luckily all were safe, but it was obviously a big screw up.  After the incident, The National Transportation Safety Board held a hearing to question Asoh. All were prepared for the Captain to blame weather or instrumentation issues.  But he did neither.  When asked what went wrong he merely said, “I f**ked up.” That was the end of the questioning.