Make Your Mess Your Message

Smiling businessman and businesswoman in conference room
Smiling businessman and businesswoman in conference room

As human beings, we are bound to screw up every so often. No matter no much education you have, how old you are or how much business acumen you think you have, you're going to screw up. That's not exactly earth-shattering news, but how you react after you mess up has the potential to make or break you.

We all face difficult situations, but not everyone knows how to excel at solving these situations. Bouncing back from difficult situations seems daunting, but it's not insurmountable. In my book, Think Big, Act Bigger, I talk about steamrolling obstacles and being able to see the forest from the trees. I also think that making mistakes, unless you're a brain surgeon, is a part of life. No one will die. It's all about perspective.

So, how do you bounce back from a mistake? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

Unless you can see the future, no one knows what's around the next corner. However, if you have a solid plan in place, your obstacles will not seem so big. A solid plan gives you the foundation to deal with intangibles that will come along in your line of work -- whatever it is. Once you have a plan in place, come up with a plan B that is slightly different from your original plan. That way you are prepared for the curveballs that will inevitably come your way.

Once you've dealt with the tangible aspects, or the things you actually can control, it's time to look within. Let me clarify that -- when I say look within, I mean listen to what your gut is telling you. I know it's somewhat instinctual to be gun shy about listening (or following) your gut, but I'm a firm believer that it won't steer you wrong. If after weighing all your options, your gut raises the proverbial red flag, it's OK to hit 'pause.' Go back, re-examine your plans and reassess. If you've been making all of your decisions based on rational analysis and you're not 100% happy with your results, maybe next time, try going with your gut.

Get Out Of Your Own Way

Be a problem solver, not part of the problem! When you're faced with a problem, you need to stay calm, focused and find a solution. Easier said than done, right? Sure, but it can be done. When you stay calm you maintain your vision and are able to make rational decisions that will shorten the lifespan of the problem you're facing. Let the crisis be your 'moment of zen.' When you stay focused, you quickly assess the damage and act accordingly. Once you've assessed the situation, you find a solution about how to remedy the situation. Ask yourself, 'what's my end game?' and work backwards from there. Just be sure to stay out of your own way.

Own Up Your Screw-Up

As I said before, you WILL screw up, but no one will die. With that out of the way, own up and take responsibility for your actions. No one likes excuses, I certainly don't. Excuses are the easiest answers to find, create the shortest stories to live in, and carry an awful lot of weight in your fight against "because I can't." We've all heard the excuses (I list more than sixty, from the sublime to the ridiculous, in the book) and let's face it; we've all used them at some point. Excuses aren't lies, but are easy, addictive, and designed to shut things down.

So, put your cowboy boots on and pony up! Be authentic because people can tell whether you're feeding them a line or if you're genuinely owning up your screw-up. A little humble pie goes a long way in repairing a relationship -- whether with your employer or your co-worker and it'll set you apart from the bunch.

Clean Up Your Mess

When you screw up, act quickly. Don't sweep it under the rug or expect the fallout to disappear on its own. Fear is a powerful motivator, but you must fight it and deal with the situation right away. There's no such thing as out of sight, out of mind. Letting the mistake linger is as comfortable as a root canal, so why let it linger? As the man with the 'big stick' (that's Theodore Roosevelt) once said, "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."

Perspective Is Everything

When we make a mistake it's easy to feel like the eyes of the world are on us. Like everyone's staring, pointing and laughing. While it may seem that way, it's not quite true. Sure, everyone will stare & point for a total of 5 seconds. They'll move on soon after and so should you. There was this popular Disney movie that made the saying "let it go" famous. Queen Elsa was right about that (and don't ask me how I know that). Don't overanalyze the mistake and move on. The world won't stop spinning, and you'll always have the opportunity to redeem yourself. Everyone loves a comeback story and in most cases, the mistake will be fixed quickly enough. Others will move past it, so should you! Keep your eye on the ball. Swing for the fences, but always keep your eye on the ball.

Fail And Learn

With every failure comes a lesson. Find that lesson and learn from it. I guarantee you won't make that mistake ever again. Being in business as long as I have, I've made many mistakes. Take for example my story about my pheasant farm -- and at the time, I thought I'd hit the jackpot. I love pheasant, love hunting them so I thought, what could go wrong? I am passionate about this venture and I'm pretty good at business. Little did I know that a prairie storm would wipe away my newest venture. Pheasants, like the dumb birds they are, huddled together and drowned in the storm. I lost everything. Needless to say, I learned my lesson, but the true takeaway here is, never be afraid to fail, and if you do, learn your lesson.

Mistakes are unavoidable and you might be judged for that but what will stick in someone's mind is your ability to turn that trouble into triumph. How you overcome your latest mistake might be more memorable than the actual mistake. Something to ponder the next time you screw up -- because you WILL!