How to Recover When You Totally Mess Up




Have you ever made a mistake that you are afraid or ashamed to talk about?

After clicking send, do you ever wish you could reach out into cyberspace to retrieve an email?


Have you ever uttered a word in the middle of an argument and immediately wished the word never came out of your mouth?


Do you have secrets so deep that you would rather die than share it with somebody else?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to know that you are not alone.

The good news is mistakes can be avoided; however, you are still bound to make them no matter how hard you try.


But always remember you can recover from any mistake no matter how egregious it is.


You can recover from any mistake because you have the option to focus on one of two outcomes. You have the option to waste the experience by wallowing in self-pity or learn from your mistake and share the lesson with others.


I am not writing about messing up because I am immune from mistakes. Last month I totally messed up! 


I was invited to be the keynote speaker at high school graduation for a charter school in Dallas. As an inspirational speaker, each opportunity to speak is not taken lightly. During the three weeks leading up to the event, I crafted my message and visualized myself standing in front of the students and their parents and inspiring them to rise up and face the next phase of their lives with courage and confidence.


I told my wife and our children that on Saturday I would be giving an important speech and would like them to accompany me. We were all excited about the speaking engagement. One day prior to the event, I picked up the doctoral robe I was instructed to wear while delivering my speech. On the way, I decided to check my voice messages, and what I heard shocked me to my core.


The first message: “Eric, it is 7 O’clock. We are starting. Are you OK? Are you lost? We are waiting on you. I think I see you coming in the corner!”


The second message: “Eric, we are still hoping you will show up. Anyway, the time is now.”

With trembling hands, I checked the date of the messages. Oh no! The messages were delivered the previous day. I was listening to them on Friday. All this while I thought the graduation was on Saturday evening. How I got that registered in my mind is an enigma.


The graduation was on Thursday evening, and I missed it. I am still in shock as I write. I still cannot wrap my mind around the fact that I failed to show up.


I am not treating this lightly, but I will not let it crush me either. That is why no matter what you have done or how much you have messed up, you can bounce back.


I am going to tell you three things you can do to recover:


1)      Admit your mistake. Say you are sorry, and do not justify it; just own up. “I blew it and I am sorry.”


2)      Laugh at it. Laughter is the best medicine. It is a silly moment and it is OK to laugh.


3)      Learn from it. The worst tragedy is not that you make a mistake, it is that you let the

mistake define who you are.


My challenge for you is to sit down and evaluate those dark secrets you have carried throughout your life, learn from them, share them with others, and bring them hope and inspiration.



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