Monday, July 22, 2013

I Made A Mistake

“Big mistake. Big. HUGE!” 

Do you see the pretty woman whose mouth those words spilled out from?

I’m not one to quote movies, but this is one of my favorites, from the scene laced with sweet revenge by the profiled and mistreated Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

While most people identify with Julia Roberts (no, I’m not talking about the fantasy of being a prostitute in Hollywood who gets rescued by the oh-so-dapper and extremely wealthy Richard Gere and gets to shop with wild abandon on Rodeo Drive) but rather most identify with her as the person who was afflicted with pain by someone else’s mistake.

How many times are you the sales person in that memorable movie scene? How many times are you the one who has made the “big mistake”?

Me? Numerous! Even recently I’ve made some hard-to-swallow mistakes that take time, energy, and reflection to move past.

Mistake. Error. Faux pas. Call it what you will, but mistakes happen. Mistakes happen in life and they also happen in business. Do you know what the big mistake, the huge mistake is? Not knowing how to recover once the mistake is made.

How to recover from a mistake:

1. Acknowledge. Just like any addiction, the first step is to acknowledge that you even made a mistake. Most people blame, point fingers, make excuses, do anything they can to avoid the simple acknowledgement that they were the culprit. It will take an honest moment of self-reflection to recognize the real reason why the mistake occurred. Once you are honest with yourself (the hardest part in my opinion), you can move on to being honest with others, and especially with the people who the mistake affected.

2. Apologize. It takes guts to admit when you have done something or been in the wrong. It takes balls to confront the people who were affected by your mistake, look them in the eye, and genuinely apologize. You don’t have to be sorry, but you do need to be sincere, genuine, and apologetic. This is not the time to drum up your excuses again; this is just a straightforward admittance that you messed up. It’s not easy to profess your mistakes, oh but it is rewarding when it’s accepted. Once you apologize, listen to what they have to say, and then work together to move forward and recover.

3. Accept. You don’t get to accept your own apology, that’s for the other person to determine. But what you do have to accept is that you messed up and then it’s time to move on. Don’t dwell on the mistake, instead recover from it. Don’t beat yourself up over the mistake, instead learn from it. Most importantly, have the self-awareness to not make the same mistake again.

4. Advance. So, you admitted you made a mistake, apologized, and have personally accepted it, now it’s time to advance. Put the mistake behind you and carry on. Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO, titled his book with one of my favorite, very underutilized words, Onward. That’s what you do. You pick up and you push onward, learning and living through the mistake experience.

I made a mistake and it did not make me a pretty woman. It was a big mistake, big, huge! So big that it allowed me to re-evaluate, self-evaluate, and mistake-evaluate. I’ve acknowledged it, apologized for it, accepted it, and now I’m moving onward. I hope the next time you make a mistake; you’ll do the same. Mistakes happen. If you face them with eyes, mind, and heart wide open, they will teach you exactly what you need to know.

I’m your Double-Tall, Non-Fat, No-Whip Sales Barista. How may I help you help yourself?

Stephanie Melish, one of the few, hand-selected, Gitomer-Certified Speakers is the ONLY Double-Tall, Non-Fat, No-Whip Sales Barista in the world! Stephanie trains, sells, and speaks to companies and associations all over the country. To book Stephanie for your next event, please visit or contact the Michelle at Buy Gitomer via email at or by calling 704-333-1112.


  1. Great advice. I would add Item #5 - LEARN. Yes, dont make the same mistake twice, but LEARN form the one you made. There's a difference.

    1. Michael - Fully agree! "Don’t beat yourself up over it, instead learn from it. Most importantly, have the self-awareness to not make the same mistake again."

  2. Make sure your customer, voter, consumer, adversary is aware of your capability to mess things up at the upstart. It's part of building your character from the get-go. Even though your chances of messing things up royally are infinitesimally small -- your confidence in your customer's ability to make the right choice puts you in sync with them and their universe. Their universe is the only universe that matters to them. Why open yourself up to their ability to lash out at everyone; including you...conserve their strength for lashing out at things they cannot control. That's a really good way to be of help...or value...or whatever you're supposed to be doing. What's that saying?: It's better to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission. Well, if you have permission to be forgiven...?

  3. My grandfather, when ever a mare foaled, would be out in the field watching the new born foal like a hawk. Back in the day, when horses were the motive power this was very important!
    Within the hour , the newborn foal was on its feet cantering around the field. Being an hour old, it could not perceive the strands of fence wire as a barrier, and would inevitably run into the fence. If it picked itself up, continued to canter around, without hitting the fence, my grandfather would say, remember boys, that will be a smart horse. If it got up cantered around until it ran into the fence a second time, and thereafter avoided the fence, my grandfather would say, boys that;s going to be a stupid horse.
    If it ran into the fence a third time, my grandfather would say, that's the horse we sell to the neighbor!

    It's not about making a mistake, it's about continuing to make the same mistake.

    1. Love this story! Thank you for sharing.

  4. We are our own worst critics, and many (most?) of us have trouble forgiving ourselves for our mistakes long after we have been forgiven by others and yes, even by God. But we must grasp fully the concept that, as long as we don't let go of our mistakes and admit our humanity, we are bound to those mistakes and unable to move forward. Sometimes mistakes occur for which we are not fully nor totally responsible, but I've found that being willing to take 100% ownership even if it's not 100% my fault garnishes me respect because it says, "I'm willing to find a solution no matter who caused the problem." Our customers simply want us to make it right for them, regardless of where the fault lies. Focusing on that has helped me get over the hump towards forgiveness when it IS my fault. The challenge of solving the problem helps bolster the ego, so I think a good inclusion to your steps might be finding/creating a way to solve the negative impact, when possible, on others that a mistake has created.

    1. Thank you for sharing your insights. Great addition!