To Hell With Murphy and His “Law”

John Whitaker HR (& Life!) Advice, Innovation

Ouch, babe. You just dropped the ball big time—screwed the pooch, took the gas, spit the bit… basically made the kind of mistake you absolutely cannot afford to make.

To make matters worse, this didn’t occur in a vacuum. Your client group(s) and peers are all aware of your mistake. You feel terrible about it, disappointed in yourself, and would prefer to crawl under your desk for a few days and let it fly by, but that option is not extended to you. It feels horrible… but is it really all that bad?

If this doesn’t speak to you at all, you’re not trying hard enough.

But, make a few mistakes, and you begin to figure out a few things:

  1. This too shall pass.
  2. This won’t be the last.
  3. The Sun will still come up in the morning.

Because of these two certainties, it behooves us all to have a few guidelines in place for the inevitable return of the dog days. Here, my friends, is my personal checklist:

  • Don’t over-empower the “temporary.” This is a tough one for me. Are you your own worst critic? Have you ever physically smacked your own head and called yourself an idiot? Then you, too, may be prone to this; it’s a mistakenot a definition of your abilities. It’s like a ball player in an extended slump—the moment he doubts his own abilities, he’s done. You have to believe in yourself to pull out of a potential funk. When you get to the point where you become hesitant or fearful of making another mistake, you’re giving Murphy too much credit.
  • Humility is a blessing. Nothing will pull your big head out of the clouds quicker than an embarrassing mistake. That’s a good thing. Not only is it a nice level-set for our personal development, it reminds you of the power of empathy for others. That includes superiors, peers, subordinates, spouses, kids, etc. Bottle that feeling for the time they need your support, and recall the time you needed the same.
  • You’re being squeezed. Still one of my favorite idioms from my old man: “No one knows what’s inside the tube until it’s squeezed.” Your reaction, response, and attitude will expose your character. Own the mistake if it’s yours (don’t pull a Hillary), feel bad about it, then get over it and move on. Have you ever worked in a culture of “blame?” This is usually when you find out—and if you discover that you do exist in this kind of culture, you know why you need to find another gig.
  • Innovators make mistakes. Where would we be without those who are willing to make mistakes? The entire pharmaceutical industry is failing as quickly as possible in the pursuit of the next rainmaker product. We’ve all the heard the story of “Post-it Notes” and the like—this is not to say you’re the next Louis Pasteur, but it could be an indicator that a change is needed in the way you are currently operating.

Granted, some mistakes will be due to carelessness, oversight, or similarly mindless actions… welcome to the joy of humanity. The lesson is still important. Learn to be accountable, be human, and to show mettle—put some starch in your drawers and stand tall, Bub. Allow yourself to be human, occasionally fail, and be better for it.

Just don’t do it again.