ABCs of Handling Mistakes

by | Jun 10, 1998 | Confession, Persistence

An grizzled old sea captain was often spotted by his crew opening a small, locked box on the bridge, peeking inside at its contents, and shutting the lid before anyone might glimpse inside. The crew’s curiosity grew and, on the day he retired, they rushed to the bridge, cut the lock and looked inside the box. There they found a sheet of paper that read, “Left — port. Right — starboard.”

Are you afraid to make a mistake? Some people feel as if no one is listening until they make a mistake! If you goofed in a big way recently, maybe you need to hear about Roy Riegels.

The story is told about Roy and the 1929 Rose Bowl championship football game between Georgia Tech and the University of California. Shortly before half-time, a man named Roy Riegels made a huge mistake. He got the ball for California and somehow became confused and started running in the wrong direction! One of his team mates outdistanced him and tackled him after he had run 65 yards just before he would have scored for the opposing team. Of course, Georgia Tech gained a distinct advantage through the error.

The men filed off the field and went into the dressing room. All but Riegels sat down on the benches and on the floor. He wrapped his blanket around his shoulders, sat in a corner, put his face in his hands and wept.

Coach Nibbs Price struggled with what to do with Roy. He finally looked at the team and said simply, “Men, the same team that played the first half, will start the second.”

All the players except Roy trotted out to the field. He didn’t budge. Though the coach looked back and called to him again, he remained huddled in the corner. Coach Price went to him and said,

“Roy, didn’t you hear me?”

“Coach,” he said, “I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you; I’ve ruined UCLA; I’ve ruined myself. I couldn’t face that crowd in the stadium to save my life.”

But Coach Price put his hand on Riegels’ shoulder and said, “Roy, get up and go on back; the game is only half over.”

Roy Riegels went back and those Tech men will tell you that they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half.

The next time you make a mistake, it might be good to remember the A-B-C method of handling mistakes.

A – Acknowledge your error and accept responsibility for it. Don’t try to fix the blame on other people or circumstances. When you fix the blame, you never fix the problem.

B – Be gentle with yourself. The game is only half over. This is not the first mistake you ever made, nor will it be the last. You are still a good and caring person. Besides, later you may laugh at the blunder, so try to lighten up a bit now.

C – Correct it and move on. “Those who are wise don’t consider it a blessing to make no mistakes,” says Wang Yang-Ming. “They believe instead that the great virtue is the ability to correct mistakes and to continually reinvent oneself.”

Now, go make your mistakes. And though some may be no less than spectacular, if you practice the A-B-C method, you’ll live to tell about all of them and laugh about most of them.

Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.

Thanks to Life Support System


ABCs of Handling Mistakes