When Good Decisions Go Bad

We've all been there: You thought you were making a wise choice; it turned into a disaster. Now you've got some moving on to do.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the September 2001 issue of . Subscribe »

No matter how young you are, you're never too young to learn how to put your foot in your mouth, speak out of turn, act before you think, and just generally embarrass the hell out of yourself to the point where your face matches the color of your shockingly red Christmas stocking. Although I am generally the type to keep my mouth shut until I know exactly what I want to say and remain still until I know exactly what I want to do, I nonetheless learned these lessons when I was barely old enough to zip up my own jacket.

It seemed innocent enough; my class (I don't recall what grade I was in, but think "Ew, boys have cooties" time) was in an assembly hall, watching some sort of educational flick. The subject matter of the movie, oddly enough, escapes me at this time. However, the haunting memory of me placing gum in someone's hair does not. And not just "someone," but a friend. At least, she was my friend up until that point. I don't know what came over me-it truly wasn't a malicious act; I must have thought that it would be interesting to see if gum actually does stick to hair and, if so, how long it would stick for. I always was somewhat of a mad scientist; if I hadn't gone into publishing, I'd be out collecting plankton and putting them under a microscope.

The gum, of course, stuck. Quite well, actually. And looking back on that situation, I don't need to tell myself twice that I deserved every bit of the talking-to that I got afterwards-as well as the looks of disdain that my friend thrust upon me. Even at the time, I was quick to recognize what an asinine thing I had done and own up to it. Not that I could have gotten out of it; after all, I was sitting directly behind my friend, and it's hard to miss it when someone places something sticky in your hair-but still, I took what I had coming to me. And in the end, that was the right thing to do-my friend forgave me, my teacher forgave me, and all was well again in the land of hopscotch and school buses.

And that's something we've all got to do, throughout life. How many times have you done something foolish, owned up to it and suffered the consequences? Probably countless times, particularly as an entrepreneur. Maybe it was an unethical business deal; maybe you took advantage of an employee's good graces; maybe you made such a bad business decision that your business took a major blow or even failed completely. However, the most important thing here is whether you've moved on from that experience. If you haven't, you'll continue to suffer the consequences of whatever happened, never forgiving yourself and never allowing your business to get back on track. And it's not just a matter of letting things go, but rather learning from your mistake.

So if you've got a bad decision or a failure hanging over your head, yank it down to ground level and get a grip, just as the entrepreneurs did in "Can Failure Be Good?" Figure out what you need to do to get past that nasty bump in the road. And for Pete's sake, keep your gum in your mouth.

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