Today’s post is the featured article from the April 2010 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.
I was in my hotel room in New York and had just tuned into Anderson Cooper’s AC360. His guest was Michael Lewis (author of The Blind Side) and he was being interviewed on his newest book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. As a analysis of how this latest economic crisis evolved, his book sounded interesting. So I decided to log-on to Amazon.com to check it out. It already had a number of reviews posted, so I clicked on the link to check them out.
I was surprised. I had never seen reviews seem so far apart.
At the time, they were almost equally balanced between those who rated it as a 5-Star (Outstanding) and those who rated it as a 1-Star (Poor). The 5-Stars were praising his insights. I read some of both … but it was one of the 1-Stars that got me thinking. Frankly, it got me thinking about something that had nothing to do with Anderson Cooper, Michael Lewis or The Big Short.
One review hammered Michael by noting that those he was naming as “pointless skeptics” in 2007 were his “voice of reason” in 2010. It seemed to be accusing him of a flip-flop. I didn’t have the facts or background to know if the 5-Star ratings were most accurate or this 1-Star rating. But it was this 1-Star rating that sent me on a tangent. What if Michael did do a flip-flop because in 2007 he was just wrong. He had made a mistake in how he saw things.
My thoughts quickly moved from Michael … to all of us. To a culture that simply doesn’t like to admit … I was wrong. I made a mistake. Maybe it is one of the by-products of a society that has become so driven by lawsuits. Maybe it is the human-nature of individuals that don’t want to face the consequences of their mistakes. Maybe it is a little of both. I am not sure …
… but what I am sure of is that an avoidance, of admitting our mistakes, prevents us from learning and growing.
It also costs us enormous energy. Think of all the creative effort that goes into spinning the story … the diversion away from the truth of our mistake. It creates an illusion, void of truth, and results in a confusion that ultimately destroys trust. But we weave anyway … and what a tangled web we weave.
Let’s admit it. Smart people with incredible values make mistakes! We know that those most likely to make no mistakes are those who accomplish nothing. But often, smart people in the midst of mistakes, do some stupid things … like not admitting they simply made a mistake. Instead, they order the asphalt to cover their tracks … to make things look all smooth again.
And I am not talking about Wall Street here. I am talking about you and me. In everyday decisions … at work, at home and in our community. I challenge each of us to step back and think of the times where we have simply made a mistake … and have never admitted it. I don’t mean to stir the pot to bring-up old problems … but rather to reveal the lessons we have missed. It might do us some good to rethink some things.
Generally attributed to poet and philosopher, George Santayanna, it has been said … “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The same could be said when we do not learn from our mistakes. Sometimes our problem is not that we can’t remember the past … but rather we have rewritten it. And once rewritten, the powerful lessons to be learned lie sealed beneath the asphalt.
Which may be the worst consequence of all.
Before you accuse me of being naïve, I realize the wrong-doings of some leaders are no mistake at all. But if the truth were truly known … more problems than you can imagine are simply mistakes. And we would know just how many, if only they had the guts to admit it … instead of spinning it.
If, in fact, there are some flip-flops in Michael Lewis’ The Big Short … maybe they came from new insights that helped him see some prior mistakes he had made in his thinking. I have no idea. But let there be no mistake … I loved The Blind Side. And I will check-out The Big Short. As I read it, I will be reminded that within the book there are likely a few mistakes. For just like those who wrote those 5-Star and 1-Star reviews … I have made a few myself.