Living With Your Mistakes

Ok, readers. I have a confession: I made a big mistake.

Now, before I explain what happened, it’s better that I start from the very beginning:

Two weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mary Jaksch, the editor and co-founder of WritetoDone, contacted me to do a guest post for her blog.

I was ecstatic to receive the offer to guest post because this was the first time a “big name” blog had ever contacted me to do a guest post.

I was also excited because the co-founder of WritetoDone is none other than Leo Babauta, a.k.a. the founder of Zen Habits. If you didn’t know, Zen Habits is consistently ranked among the Top Blogs in the world by Time Magazine.

Now, Leo and Mary are huge not only because they are superbloggers, but because they have done blogging in a way that runs parallel with their personal values of simplicity, patience, mindfulness, and compassion–values that I strongly believe in. As a blogger, I look up to the both of them and hope that one day my blog can be as successful as theirs.

Okay. So now that I have been asked to guest post for two of my blogging role models, I make a decision to make this guest post the best post I have ever written. I pour my heart and soul into this post. I spend hours and hours on this post. I chisel this post down to its essence so that if Michelangelo were to awaken from his grave and read this post he would cry tears of joy.

Then, I begin to edit this post on my blog’s “HTML editor.” Now, for those of you who don’t have a blog, you should know that there are two different editors. One editor let’s you see the HTML code of your blog post (the HTML editor), while the other editor only let’s you see what your readers are going to see (the Visual editor.)

Mary had requested the HTML version of my blog post and so that’s why I was working on my blog’s HTML editor to finish up my post. When I finished editing my guest post on my blog’s HTML editor, I was going to copy the HTML Code and then send it over to Mary so that she could then publish my guest post on her blog.

So, after hours of editing my HTML code, I say to myself:

“Okay, Ollin. You’ve worked long enough on this. It’s done. Let it go.”

So, I let out a long sigh, press the “publish” button and then stand up to get–

Did you just do a double take?

I did too.

I thought:

“Wait a minute. I’m not publishing this on MY blog, that was supposed to go to—AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!”

I return to my laptop and look at the screen. I noticed the “publish” button has disappeared and it has been replaced by a spinning circle. The spinning circle is letting me know that the post I just wrote is about to be sent to EVERY ONE of my subscribers.

Not only that, but since my Twitter account is linked to my blog, ALL OF MY TWITTER FOLLOWERS will now receive the post.

As the little circle keeps spinning, I’m reminded that my Twitter account is linked to my Facebook account and that means that ALL OF MY FACEBOOK FRIENDS will now receive the post.

The spinning circle disappears and the word: “PUBLISHED!” flashes happily on the screen.

My heart drops to my stomach as I realize that a guest post that was supposed to only appear on WritetoDone has been sent to EVERY ONE of my readers!

For a moment, I PANIC.

But then, my blogger instinct kicks in and I immediately delete the post, instantly breaking any links attached to it. Then, I delete the updates that have been sent to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

I sigh with relief, for moment, but then my heart drops again.

I realize that there is still the matter of my e-mail subscribers.

So, I quickly write an e-mail telling my subscribers that the post they just received was sent to them by mistake, and that they should delete it. After a moment, many of my readers respond by telling me that they have deleted the post.

There is another sigh of relief, but it is also short-lived.

The panic returns. Suddenly a movie plays out in my head:

It’s Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. He appears standing in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. He bends over into a “downward dog” yoga pose.

Leo’s laptop is close by. It’s opened. On the laptop screen we can see Mary Jaksch of Goodlife Zen.

Both Mary and Leo are having a “Skype” video conference.

On the laptop screen, we can see Mary in the middle of a “sun salutation” yoga pose.

“Can you believe it?” Mary says, as she exhales.

“No,” Leo responds, inhaling, “I can’t believe he did that–what was his name again?”

“Ollin, I think. Ollin Morales. Too bad, he had so much potential.”

“What a loser,” Leo says as he relaxes his yoga pose, “He is SO not zen.”

“What should we do?”

“Eh. Just replace him with that OTHER openly gay Latino blogger. The one that explores the intersection between writing and underground street mime.”

Leo sits, crosses his legs and looks at his laptop screen.

“Hey Mary,” he says, “I’m sorry, but I got to go–“

“Where are you going?”

“Oh, I’m just gonna run barefoot across the Golden Gate Bridge, visit Fisherman’s Wharf, help the seals maximize their productivity, teach my kids how to put out fires with their mind, learn how to balance my wife on one toe, and then I’m gonna write a book about how to whip ‘the space-time continuum’ into shape and make it do your bidding.”

“Oh, wow. Sounds like you have really busy day ahead of you, Leo!”

“I know. And I haven’t even told you what I’m doing AFTER breakfast!”

At that moment, I shake my head. The movie disappears.

I stare at the wall for a moment.

Then–I laugh at myself.

Here I am, panicking over a mistake, an honest-to-goodness mistake that any human could have made.

Then I recall how we all make mistakes.

We write the crappy post, or the crappy book, or make the huge networking mistake, or forget the Powerpoint presentation, or choose the wrong career, or the wrong relationship, or we take the wrong exit on the freeway and then we have to bust a “U-ey,” go back on the 5 North so we can get back on the 605, so that then we can make our way back to the 91, and while we do this we’re wasting all this gas and time, and we’re late to an important work meeting, and we start to think–gosh, I am such a MORON! I SUCK AT LIFE!!!

But if you asked all the people you know, you would find that every one of them has taken the wrong exit more than one time in their life, and had to turn around and do it all over again. They had to turn around not because they were a bad person, or because they were stupid, or because they were poor, or because they were part of a minority group, or because their parents were not very nice to them, or because they had nobody to cuddle with at night–no. They took the wrong exit and had to turn around because they had made a MISTAKE, and they made a mistake because they were HUMAN.

After recalling my own, imperfect, humanity, I sent an e-mail to Mary. I told her what had happened and apologized for my mistake.

The next day, Mary responded. Instead of getting angry at me, she told me not to worry and that the whole thing was not a big deal.

I let go my last sigh of relief.

I overreacted.

But hey, I’m human. It happens.

The Happy Ending

The happy ending is that my first guest post on a big name blog didn’t bomb, it actually did very well (you can read it here).

Although I am grateful that I was able to share my story with a whole new group of readers, I think I am more grateful for my big mistake and what it taught me.

What it taught me was that I often expect perfection of myself even though I am well aware of my imperfect nature.

But that’s all of us isn’t it?

I guess we all just need to accept the fact that, for some strange reason, we will demand that we run on a treadmill for an hour, even though we are fully aware that we will fall off that treadmill after the first 15 minutes; and then when we do fall off, just as we expected, we will blame ourselves for not trying harder.

When it comes to living with our mistakes, I guess we just have to face the fact that we won’t ever get over our constant need for perfection. Maybe the best thing to do is just to laugh at all the unreasonable expectations we set up for ourselves.

Or maybe we could–you know–just use an Offline Blog Editor from now on.

much olve (oops!),

Ollin

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made and what did you learn from it? Share your story below.

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39 comments on “Living With Your Mistakes

  1. Cities of the Mind says:

    Looks like you’re moving up in the world Ollin! And don’t worry about mistakes; they’re one of a very short list of things everyone’s got in common.

  2. It is very good to learn from mistakes, and it is often the only way we CAN lear some things. I’ve made the same mistake–if not at so important an juncture–firing off a post meant for another day and wishing for the ability to call it back.

    I also learned a lesson. For me the lesson was that I have no control over something that has been released to the public. Yes, I could have asked them to delete without reading, but a certain number would not “get the memo”. What I learned was that once it’s out, it’s out, and even if I delete it from my own site, it wil always be out there somewhere, just waiting.

    Politicians have learned this lesson years ago. Now it’s the Blogger’s turn.

    Loved the post and the reminders of my own human errors. Thanks!

  3. joe says:

    Thanks for the mention of the offline blog editor..appreciate the info.

    • Ollin says:

      You’re welcome joe! Did you ever hear there were offline blog editors? I didn’t. New info for me, but then again that’s what making mistakes can lead you to–wisdom.

  4. Oh, Ollin, I’ve done the same thing, except when I hit “Publish,” the piece was nowhere near edited and ready to go.

    You’re right, we all make mistakes, but yours was small and ended happily. May they all be that way.

    • Ollin says:

      Well, it still had to go through some revisions so it wasn’t completely done. But it was close enough to it that you wouldn’t really notice. I was just scared because it’s supposed to be a brand new post… Well anyways, it doesn’t matter. The point is that I overacted. It was no biggie.🙂

  5. First of all, CONGRATULATIONS! I am so truly happy for you. I do know what a great big deal this is, and how hard you have worked to earn it!
    As for the error, I’m not sure if you are aware of this but I did the same thing a few months ago. Published a very personal entry that was never meant to be published. Damn! (You would have been one of the people who recieved it.)
    I so know how you feel and I still feel awful when I think about it but you are so right. We all make mistakes.
    This story reminds me of the time about 17 years ago when I accidentally rear-ended a woman because I wasn’t paying attention. It was a minor bump, no injuries or damage, but I was truly disgusted with myself for being a bad driver. I’m a good driver. I don’t do stupid things.
    I was telling the story to a co-worker at the time and berating myself. His response? “That’s why they call it an accident.” LOL
    It was one of those moments that stuck with me, but it’s still hard to wish you can’t go back in time and erase the second it took to make the mistake in the first place.
    I’m so happy that you learned from this and you’re able to laugh about it. I laughed hysterically at the dialog. But I thought of a way to make us feel a bit better about ourselves in the shadow of Leo Babuta.
    You can’t teach 6 kids how to put out fires with their minds if you don’t have 6 kids. So, you see, we shouldn’t try to compete.🙂

    • Ollin says:

      Oh, you know I might have read it, thinking that it was just supposed to be public, many of your posts are very intimate so I probably didn’t know the difference, lol!

      We’ll it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I guess all my blogger friends have come out of the woodwork to confess the times they accidentally published something.

      Yup, I learned that we are always going to demand that we be perfect, and there’s no use trying to stop ourselves from the vain pursuit. We just have to laugh.

      Haha, who’s trying to compete? I’m barely trying to meet up to MY OWN expectations much less Leo’s.🙂

  6. Aww. Ollin. I am SO happy that you have mastered this skill. You keep getting back to life, and how, after those little mishaps. Should I even call them mishaps? Aren’t they the only way making us climb the ladder consistently?

    I am glad to have you as a Friendspiration😉 (A friend who provides inspiration).

    Love,
    BrownEyed

  7. 83October says:

    Nice. I’ve been an old follower of Zen Habits. I think i got into blogging and running because of Leo Baubata. Congratulations on getting that guest post.

    I’m a control freak/perfectionist for most of my life. I panic when i commit mistakes. I pressure myself to achieve, but I too learned that there’s no point in that. It’s a useless exercise because we can’t control everything and we’re bound to make mistakes. So thanks for reminding me.

  8. souldipper says:

    What an experience. What a teachable, reachable, unimpeachable moment! Your attitude is so good. You are teaching me how I can handle the same sort of “oops”. Thanks for the editor link. However! You have just taught me that when I goofed, and deleted my post after publishing – my email subscribers still got the bad one. Good grief. Guess pulling a Mrs. Magoo doesn’t eliminate the old stuff, huh? Send a message to all of them? I’ll look…there must be provision for a group email. 😀

    Off to read your post now. Thanks, Ollin.

    • Ollin says:

      Yeah, I didn’t realize that happened until about a few months in. You know they really should warn you about that when you start. They should also inform you about offline blog editors, but hey, that’s how you learn, right, through your mistakes!

  9. M. Howalt says:

    Have I mentioned that I absolutely adore your writing? I like the balance between the serious and the hilarious that you achieve through the use of that “film” and the timing of the realisations in the midst of the tale.
    Also, congratulations on moving up the blogchain! Making mistakes is human, and for a writer like you, it can even be turned into a good story.🙂

  10. I’ve made so many blunders that choosing the worst is difficult, and absolutely out of the question, because I can’t bring myself to repeat any one of the contenders for that title.

    Here’s what happened once: My new husband and I were on our way home from our honeymoon. He had driven until he was too tired to drive any longer. I offered to drive while he slept. I got lost. He woke up after several hours at the perfect moment to read an exit sign, which revealed how far away from the right path I’d strayed. EEK!

    I felt your pain, Ollin, as I read of the moment you prematurely hit the publish button. I’ve done that a few times with far less ramification, yet, still I felt the panic of that moment. Great post. Blessings to you…

    • Ollin says:

      Hey Carol!

      Sounds like you DID take the wrong exit on the freeway, hehe. Isn’t that the worst feeling? I get lost all the time, I have no sense of direction! I have writer-brain so I’m always absentminded and thinking up some new idea for a story, etc. and so I miss exits like nobody’s business. But hey I’m just human!

  11. Victoria says:

    Ollin: This so hits home. I have only been following your site for a short time but you have been one of the people who have given me the courage to start my own blog. So I set up the blog and I put in a few entries and my dear husband sends it out on his Facebook site and I get a few positive contacts. I’m ready, I think, to send it out to a list of my friends. I e-mail many of them and then I get a few e-mails back saying when they go to my site it says there is no blog. I am so puzzled. I tell them to forget the www and just type in my blog name. They do so and still no blog. I go to the help site and try to figure out what is wrong. I spend most of the morning trying to figure this out instead of writing! Then finally I look at the site I sent my friends and it dawns on me, I spelled “visible” with an “a” (visable). I feel so blind and I think maybe it is my fear and nervousness in finally making visible my words. I once again e-mail all my friends with the correct site and the next day I have a stack of encouraging and positive responses. Thanks for your visible and nurturing words.

    • Ollin says:

      Ooof! I can imagine that feeling. Probably what I felt when I made my mistake. The first thing you want to do is blame yourself, right? You feel like the biggest loser in the whole wide world. But my hope is that you can see from my story that even the up and coming bloggers make big mistakes, and I bet you anything all the superduper bloggers have made tons of mistakes you have never heard about!

  12. Courtney says:

    I love, love, love this! I am so mistake prone–I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Recently my boss called me chicken because I wasn’t ready to turn something in! It’s a lesson every writer has to learn. At some point, hit send. Nicely written. ~Courtney

  13. Ollin says:

    I LOVED that summary! As always Nancy. Brilliant.

  14. Messina Studio says:

    I have made so many mistakes in life as I’m sure everyone has – but you do bring up a good point that everyone considers that we should be perfect even though the very thing that is beautiful about us all is our imperfection. But I think the most important thing about mistakes is to learn from them and move on and not to harp on them – thinking what we could have done, etc. Good job on your guest post and all the work you’ve done so far!

  15. clarbojahn says:

    Thanks as ever for a great post. I just started blogging a few months back and I am still very green and making all kinds of mistakes. I even published me gravatar as a post because I couldn’t get it in the sidebar. I picked up your blog as a subscription shortly after because of the great content. As a registered nurse in my old life I made tons of mistakes and they affected other peoples well being. And as usual I wasn’t the only one, But OH how bad one feels. If only I had learned back then that I was only human. The word should was big on my list back then. I should have known better. If only I’d known better etc. I am the biggest kicker of myself I know and I bet we all are.

    • Ollin says:

      Oh, my. I can’t imagine making mistakes in that atmosphere it must have been stressful, although maybe very rewarding when you DID get things write. Good luck to you, and don’t worry. I made tons of mistakes when I first started this blog–and as you can see, I’m still making them!🙂

  16. tahliaN says:

    Love the picy! My worst online mistake was sending linked in invitations to all the people in my email address book that I didn’t want to send them to. relatively harmless I guess. Your damage control seemed to work. I’m off to read the post now.

  17. Loved this post. Made me laugh. Especially the dream sequence. LoL And yeah – it’s so easy to get down on one’s self when making a mistake. I do exactly what you do – panic. PANIC. Great reminder that we are human.🙂

  18. Clarissapuntod says:

    well, that’s curious, actually, because I happened to be discovering your blog in the very moment you made your “mistake”, and that post was the first of yours I read, and persuaded me to follow you… So, I don’t know whether having me as a reader is a fortune, but it’ seems to me that even mistakes can bring good things🙂

  19. You forgot that your 300+ RSS readers got that post🙂

    By the way, I read that piece and loved it. But congratulations on the opportunity.

  20. Mandy Harris says:

    Selective amnesia – or photo finishes blurry from the sheer volume of mistakes – prevents me from recalling the all time worse snafo. But your post echoes a recent revelation I had. I’ve been running for a few years and have always been frustrated with my progress. Running, being the great metaphor it is, also mirrors the frustration I’ve had with writing. So, I realized how much I compare myself to others, how much I dis the progress I’ve made. I’m always put off just feeling good about what I’m doing until I reach the next milestone. As a result, I’m inconsistent. I run too hard and injure myself. I skip runs when I am tired of feeling bad, etc., etc. In other words, I prevent myself from making progress simply because I’m a perfectionist.

    So, in writing, running and life in general, I’m learning to not measure the distance from my goal. I’m learning to savor the moment. I’m learning to trust my journey. After all, living creatively means blazing our own path. We can’t do that if we compare and strive to do it like everyone else. Learning to just breathe and be patient.

    • Ollin says:

      What a beautiful comment Mandy! Thank you for all those thoughtful and meaningful posts. I completely agree with you. We need to enjoy the process and we should just ask that we try our best, and yes NOT compare our journey with others. Thanks for the reminder.

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