My Embarrassing Mistake and Mental Blind Spot

Last week I was in Indianapolis to speak at an advisor conference. The day before the event, I swung by the hosting office to provide my presentation and discuss particulars. As we were talking, I asked how things were going with all the advisors coming in town for the conference. It was then that the bombshell was dropped.  The conference was next week. The host said to me, “I was wondering why you wanted to come in today to review the presentation.”

blameTrue to form, my initial reaction was not to own my mistake. I got prepared to be in full blame mode. Surely, they told me the conference was to be on the 11th because that is what I had on my calendar. I quickly pulled out my phone, pulled up prior emails and there it was…repeated in email after email.  February 18th. Ughhh.  Thankfully I did have February 18th open and just needed to change some flights around to make it happen. (And thank goodness I didn’t have it scheduled a week late).

As I walked out cheerfully saying “see you next week”, I was embarrassed and quite upset with myself. I don’t mind spending money, but I hate to waste it. And this trip was now framed as a $1,000 mistake. My initial instinct was to loathe in self pity, but that was quickly overcome by the aversion I have to wasting money. I had contacts in the Indianapolis area. I immediately got on the phone calling a few. I was very lucky, one advisor team was available and welcomed me stopping by. Then I got another meeting. Then another. Those meetings were extremely productive and would have justified a trip out just to have those meetings.

Lessons Learned

1)  Sometimes our mental blind spot is big. There was never a single communication that said this conference was on February 11th. Yet, I mistakenly put it on the 11th and never paid attention.  There were at least 5 more very clear emails/agendas etc… that prominently displayed February 18th as the event.  I saw it over and over again but it never registered. When we think we have something right, sometimes the biggest evidence or fact can be completely ignored.

Luck2) No matter what mistake was made previously, or how unfortunate the current circumstances, we have a choice to do something about it going forward. Now I got very lucky. But what if I hadn’t gotten any meetings? It would have been a wasted trip. I would still be disappointed, but I would have told myself that at least I did everything I could to change it around. Had I admitted defeat immediately, I wouldn’t have allowed good fortune to turn this situation around. Luck does happen in life – and we can’t do much about that. But we can do something about putting ourselves in a position to have luck help us as much as possible.

3) Because of my mistake, I needed to make flight changes. Not only was I looking at change in fare prices, but the dreaded $200 change fee. My dad taught me early on that if you want something, you better ask for it or the answer will be no. So I called Delta and asked them to waive the change fee. The representative said I better have a good excuse for the supervisor. I didn’t. No illness, no death, just a mistake that I made. I told her, “I fly Delta all the time. I made a mistake. I just took a trip I shouldn’t have. I am a sole proprietor and every dollar I spend is out of my own pocket. I don’t have a good excuse, I am just asking for mercy.” She wasn’t convinced but put me on hold to ask her supervisor. 30 seconds later she said “OK, no change fee.” I didn’t think I would get it, but it never hurts to ask and make an honest request. That five minute call saved me $200. Thank you Delta!

A previous blog I wrote, Remembering Our Mistakes, comes to mind. We all make mistakes. Oftentimes mistakes are costly and/or embarrassing. But they are part of life…at least they are a part of my life. While we all want to bury our heads, that is seldom an effective response. Trying to undo or lessen the mistake is productive, but may not be possible. But, no matter the outcome, we can always choose to learn from the mistake. I hope this is the only time I make this mistake. Because I know I will make plenty of others in the future.