Mistake Upon Mistake
/ Author: Andre van Heerden
/ Categories: Blogs, Newsletters /
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Mistake Upon Mistake

You can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice

By André van Heerden, Communications Director

I hate making mistakes. I hate it so much that when I make a mistake, I want to correct it as soon as possible and move on quickly with whatever I’m doing.

However, in my haste to correct that mistake, I’ve often made, or missed, other mistakes.

Recently, I was replacing my electric air filter in my furnace with a different type of filter. I took the two metal filters out and measured them. I went to the local hardware store and searched for something that would be the same size.

There were lots of filters to choose from with a wide range of lengths, depths, and heights. I picked something that I thought would work.

Unfortunately, when I returned home, I discovered it was just slightly too tall. It wouldn’t go in. Somehow, I had either measured incorrectly, or written the measurement down wrong.

Frustrated with my mistake, I immediately drove back to the store, returned the filter, and searched for one that was a little less tall. They were all sold out of what I thought I needed and not expecting new stock until the next week.

Rather than waiting, I went home and searched online for furnace filters. I found what I was looking for and ordered it.

When it arrived, I quickly unpacked it and rushed downstairs to try it out. It went in nicely but . . . oh no! Somehow, I had made another mistake.

The new filter was the correct height and width, but just a centimetre too long. Returning it by mail was a bigger and more expensive process than the earlier return, and having to find and order yet another filter was truly humbling.

How could I have been so incompetent?

A few common expressions came to mind: Measure twice; cut once. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

I would now revise the latter one to if at first you don’t succeed, don’t rush your next attempt.

You can often see this in sports. Someone gives a pass away and, in struggling to make up for it, commits a foul. Or in poker, someone loses a big hand and then takes extra risks to try to win their money back right away.

When I think back about some of the worst mistakes I’ve made, they’ve often happened when trying to deal with a first mistake. If I said something wrong, I may have been quick to defend or rationalize it rather than admitting I made a mistake. If I broke something, I may have been thinking more about how to cover-it-up, rather than making it right.

Stories about multiple trips back and forth to a hardware store for home maintenance projects are legion. But I hope that with every new trip, I’m learning a lesson for the next time: take your time to do it right.

I’ve heard it said that you can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice.

I’m going to work at taking extra care after a mistake to avoid making another. Being careless in choosing the right air filter is embarrassing, but hopefully it teaches me not to make other more serious errors.

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