Motivation Monday: Mistakes

Art school taught me a lot more than art. It taught me perspective, open-mindedness, and constructive criticism. It also taught me to accept my mistakes, to really look at them and not turn away, and how to correct them.

I never expected that the knowledge I gained in art school would be applied so often to my everyday life.  As a graphic designer in corporate American, it was my job to correct mistakes – including my own! Let me share with you my first BIG mistake at my first job out of college. It was a Y2K publication for the city’s utility division. I typeset and designed a brochure at the city’s request, to let everyone know that all of their computer systems would run smoothly on January 1, 2000. What didn’t run so smoothly was my mistake, that wasn’t caught until after thousands of brochures were printed and distributed. I had left the L out of public, not once but a few times. How embarrassing! I know I ran spell check but since pubic is a word, it wasn’t recognized as a mistake.

I was fortunate to eventually work with a team of proofreaders, who could catch mistakes like that before they were even printed. I eventually went on to work for a publisher with editors, who did not hold back to point out every little problem from the improper use of a comma to an extra space after a period. With every red mark that came back to me, I examined my mistakes closely before correcting them.

Since leaving my art career and joining healthcare, I have somewhat become the editor. I work now as an auditor, reviewing provider documentation for errors. Finding mistakes isn’t a bad thing. Imagine if we, everyone, always did everything right. The world would be stagnant and there would be little room for learning and growth.

When I meet with providers to share the results of their audit, I approach it with the same thinking – here is an opportunity to grow. I share with them ways to correct their mistakes and better care for their patients, capture lost revenue, etc.

Not all providers are receptive. Many providers are perfectionists. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I personally want a provider who not only strives to do their best, but cares for me in the same manner. However, many providers have always excelled in life. I imagine they were valedictorians or deemed “Most Likely to Succeed” in their high schools; they probably graduated with high honors from college. It’s just who they are. So, the thought of me… an art school grad turned auditor… sharing with them that their documentation could use improvement, is probably like a black belt being told by a swimmer that their karate uniform isn’t as white as their peers. I have had some providers so upset that they shut me off completely, refusing to change.

So, I guess it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise to me when I recently asked a law firm to correct the spelling of my name on a legal document they had recorded for me, and they told me it was no big deal. No big deal to correct the mistake? No… they meant the misspelling was no big deal. I was floored. Was I being over-sensitive? Was I wrong to ask them to fix this? I started to question myself. Maybe I should just let this go? But the legal document was recorded under a name that wasn’t mine, or rather didn’t match in spelling, and that could cause more problems down the road.

The more I tried to justify who was right, the more I realized that – in general – humans do not like to admit that they could possibly be wrong, or that they have room for improvement. I include myself in this. Despite my education and experiences, and feeling like I do accept responsibility for my mistakes and make an effort to correct them, I am human and I’m not perfect. Everyone has room to grow in character… always.

Not everyone accepts responsibility for their mistakes, though. Not everyone wants to make an effort to do their part. If they did, would it solve a lot of problems? I truly believe it would be worth the effort to try. Take, for instance, the recent situations throughout the United States involving law enforcement and African-Americans. Instead of each party believing (and arguing) that what they have done is right, what if both saw their mistakes and worked to fix those. After all, it is easier to change ourselves than it is to change someone else. Instead of only seeing our perspective, maybe we should consider everyone’s perspective. It really isn’t that difficult to do, but we do have to make a conscious effort to retrain the way we think; to be less self-aware.

Today, I want to encourage you to rethink mistakes. If someone asks you to correct a mistake that you have made, own up to that mistake. Take control of it, analyze it, and correct it. Approach mistakes in a positive manner. Consider what you could have done better, and how you can avoid it in the future. If you find your own mistake, don’t discredit it. We learn from those too.  Change a misspelling, say you’re sorry, or simply agree to disagree and work on solution – these small acts can (and will) motivate many and provoke a wonderful ripple effect.

Why Me?

Mistakes. We all make them. And unfortunately, some tend to linger.

It’s very easy to ask “Why me?” if you’re stuck living with the reminder of a past mistake. You may even want to shout, “How much more suffering will I have to endure?”

The truth is, I’ve been there. A poor decision I made in the past has recently resurfaced, with more consequences to pay, and my initial reaction was to question God. “WHY?!” I found myself trying to reason with Him, explaining that I had already learned from this mistake and begged that it would just go away. “Is it really necessary to continue to punish me, Lord?” It didn’t take long before my heart reminded me that I am strengthened through Christ (Philippians 4:13). What a way to stop my self-pity in its tracks! So what if this mistake had re-emerged? God has seen me through it multiple times; He will do it again. Our Lord is faithful.

My attitude quickly started to change. Could this be my lesson this time around? Each time we are faced with a trial, it is an opportunity to condition our attitudes. It’s a way to learn to triumph through suffering. It is our chance to live Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

And in that, maybe it is also my time to allow God to show through me. Perhaps my reactions to the exposed mistake could benefit someone else. By me remaining steadfast (James 5:11) and showing that trusting in Him is sufficient, someone else in a similar situation may see His grace. We read in James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

God allows mistakes to linger so that our relationships with Him will continue to mature. If we approach every reference of our blemishes with “What am I going to do to learn from this?” or “How can I maintain my faith through this?” then we become more whole. The less we lack, the more we become a mirror-image of Christ.

So, do you have a mistake that feels like a thorn in your side? Remember Apostle Paul sought relief from his “thorn” and was given this from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Everyone faces adversity but the Lord is bigger than any of our problems. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28). Embrace the opportunities to learn from your trials. Instead of asking, “Why me?”, search God’s word for answers to “What can I take from this?” We don’t have to understand, we just have to trust Him. If we can keep focused on the Lord, we will find comfort and soon our past mistakes will stop hanging around.

Don’t Allow Social Media Contests to Throw Your Reputation to the Dogs.

I guess it is common for individuals to hastily jump on the social media wagon. I did it, and several years later, I still learn something new every day. For some reason, though, it surprises me when some businesses are quick to climb aboard and hire folks who say they’re Social Media Specialist without having any Marketing or Customer Service skills.

Social media is such a broad term. It’s fun to engage in it. Everyone wants a part of it. We may even benefit from it. Yes, it’s free… and literally just about anyone can do it. So why should businesses be any different, right? Why should they care if their Social Media Manager has no idea about Brand Identity, Creative Strategy, or Holding Power. Is it really necessary for them to practice Conflict Resolution or Stress Management skills? Would it matter if their Copy writing and Editing had errors? Some businesses are actually okay with their prospective employee simply having 500 followers, a blog in their own name, or a Facebook page history of 3 years.

I find that there is usually a noticeable difference between a business page run by a true social media professional versus a self-proclaimed guru.

I feel I should state here that I am neither. I have worked in Advertising & Marketing since 1999 and Customer Service for nearly 20 years. Even as an Art Director, I felt that I was never a guru in anything. However, daily I bring a new outlook from both Marketing and Customer Service that I try to convey in social media. I use social media in my line of work; social media is NOT my line of work.

The current fad on social media sites, like Facebook, are contests. I actually have one running right now through JennB.Creative. Contests generally are not a bad thing. It’s a great way to gain Likes or Followers, and create a buzz for your business. Where I feel businesses go wrong is selecting contests that are too far removed from the services that they offer, and failing to maintain the contest throughout its course.

I recently stumbled across a social media contest from a large car dealership. The dealership wants to give back to their community, so they created a 4-week Animal Rescue Contest. In researching their page, I was unable to obtain a written copy of the official rules. (Mistake #1 – Rules should always be clearly posted.) It appears organizations are allowed to post multiple photos of animals on the dealership’s wall as a means to campaign for votes. One participant even questioned if she was allowed to also post photos of animals that her rescue group had up for adoption. The dealership replied that it was okay to advertise the animals. (Mistake #2 – Limit the amount of wall posts from an organization to avoid a Spam-like appearance.) What I found most bothersome by this contest was the fact that – if I were a customer of the dealership who may frequent their page for oil & filter specials, recall information, or to preview their new car releases – all I see are photos of dogs. What do dogs have to do with this dealership? Is it really worth losing the Likes of loyal customers in order to gain 100 new Likes, who may Unlike you once the contest is over? I think the contest is truly a nice gesture. I am just not sure that it was well thought out from a Marketing and Customer Service standpoint. I literally had to scroll through weeks of photos and contest posts in order to find the last post made by the dealership. (Mistake #3 – Manage the contest and page as frequently as necessary in an effort to maintain the value of your page prior to the contest.) Contests should not inconvenience your customers or potentially damage your social media reputation.

Social media is a constantly evolving avenue that no one may fully master. However, the basics behind social media – Marketing and Customer Service – are fairly cut and dry. I encourage companies to not lose sight of these two important business factors. Remember to use social media as the tool that it is and not the lifeline that many want it to become.