Quite often, I talk about credibility and how it is crucial to establishing trust in a relationship. It really is the core of what solid Relationship Architecture is all about. Whether you are making promises to your kids or statements to business colleagues, when the words flow off your tongue and out of your mouth, it’s imperative that the person on the receiving end believes the words are truthful and as solid as the ground they stand on – “money in the bank” is the expression I like.
Well, I want you to know that I practice what I preach, and that I, too, need to be credible so you know that my words are “money in the bank”. In order to do that, I can’t talk about all the great decisions I have made or all of the solid things that I have done without stating that I have messed up plenty of times. Some mistakes were small, some medium, and there were some I wished I owned a time machine and could travel back and fix because they were not so well thought out. Fortunately, I’ve been able to learn and grow from my mistakes. I’m not going to try to list them, but I do want to write about one so you’ll know that I am not just going to cop out and say, “Yeah I made mistakes, I learned from them and now I am better.” That’s like saying, “If I did anything to offend you, I apologize,” and anyone with any character knows that’s a cop out and not a true apology.
When I was in high school I had a few friends over to our apartment and we were all sitting at the table chatting, getting to know each other better. My mom was sitting at the table with us as well. The subject of siblings came up and my mom kind of hesitated. If you don’t know, I had a younger brother who died from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It was so long ago, I’m not even sure they called it that back then. Well, cued by my mother’s hesitation, and in an attempt to be a big shot, I very insensitively chimed in, “Mom you can just say it – I had a brother, but he’s a stat, you know dead.”
It was cold, heartless and over-the-top cavalier to a mother who had lost a child. I was an ass to say those words.
I knew instantly that it hurt my mother. It wasn’t my intention to do that, but for some ill-thought reason, I thought it would make me seem tough. It was a purely ego-driven statement. To make matters worse, I didn’t even apologize – what a moron I was. My mother handled it with all the strength and class that she has displayed her whole life. She was a rock. You would have to be to handle the loss of a child, although I am sure it’s something she has never fully recovered from. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I apologized to her about that incident. It weighed on me for decades, and I should have “manned up” sooner, but I let it linger much, much longer then I should have. I was a dummy.
In the past, my ego has gotten me in trouble on more then one occasion. I can’t lie; I definitely believe it has also propelled me to achieve a few things as well. So while I don’t want it to go away completely, I realize it has to be monitored so I do not make similar foolish mistakes. For each decade that has passed, I have achieved a greater command of containing my ego. My wife, Patricia, says that I am so much more refined now that I am in my forties, and with each year that goes by I get even better. She used to say I was 90% wonderful and 10% pain in the butt, but now I have graduated to a 95% / 5% mix – so I’ve got that going for me.
Regardless of how many great things you do, mistakes erode the achievement and make all of it less wonderful. We are all human and we are going to make mistakes. I guess the key is how we respond to them and use them to make us better, and what we do to minimize mistakes in the future. I am constantly looking to evolve and improve; hopefully, I will get to 99% (yeah, no chance that I will ever be 100%). I will continue to work at it, and hopefully, will always be confident enough to admit when I do make mistakes. This way I can learn, grow, and not let the same mistake happen again.
And to my mother, who never mentioned it or let it cloud her love for me: Mom, I was so wrong in my words and attitude and it’s still one of my biggest regrets ever. I hope that you know that I have realized the errors of my actions and use them to guide me to prevent future hurt to you or others. Please forgive me and know that I love you.
If you are truly going to learn from your mistakes, make sure you identify them immediately, know what you did wrong, and address them in a timely fashion to begin repairing the problem or relationship. Mistakes are essential for growth, but you can’t hide from them; you’ll only be fooling yourself. I so wish I had said those words to my mother 30 years ago – don’t make the mistake that I made.