5/13/21: One simple question to avoid (most) careless mistakes

Sent 5/13/21

I've published my April progress report. It's honestly a debacle of a performance. I had a very poor month of sales, and it seems largely due to one careless mistake. So...

This week's Think Better Newsletter looks at asking one simple question to avoid (most) careless mistakes.

The Idea

Two stories, same idea.

My senior year in college I was at a training camp in Mammoth Lakes and we decided to move a heavy oak table. A few of us lifted it up but I lost my grip and the table fell on its side, smashing my big toe. I was very fortunate not to break it. I lost the toe nail and spent a couple weeks cross-training, but it could have been a disaster.

Moving the table needed to happen. But it was a mistake to do it without shoes on, without enough people, and without first asking, "what if it slips?" I was careless and paid a pretty big price for it.

About a month ago, Lulu--the company I use to print my books--came out with an update to their Shopify app. It was supposed to streamline the shipping calculations so that I wouldn't have to create shipping prices by hand. I could seamlessly sell globally. Sounded nice!

I tried to install it but I didn't have as much time as I needed, the app couldn't connect, and I ended up cancelling the installation. And then my orders practically stopped.

I didn't connect the two because A) it's normal to not have orders some days, B) I still saw digital sales, and C) in my mind, I never installed it in the first place! 

I assumed sales slowed due to my marketing or maybe "the algorithm." It got more and more weird but after a few days I'd forgotten entirely about that installation.

Last week a friend tried to order the book and asked me why I couldn't ship to him. I looked into it and found that my site was telling customers I can't ship to their mailing addresses. It took hours but I finally saw that little uninstalled functionality and deleted it. Boom. Everything went back to normal. 

In an attempt to rush a low priority task, I did a half-ass job. I was careless and may have lost almost a month of sales.

Is that the worst thing in the world? No.

Is it a big price to pay for a careless mistake. Heck yes.

(Side note: if you tried to buy a book and couldn't...please try again!)

The System

As I write in my book, there are four types of mistakes: Laziness & Distraction, Fear & Stress, Ignorance, and Striving. 

The Four Types of Mistakes

Carelessness is the end result of Laziness and Distraction. When we don't put in sufficient effort or we don't prepare, we drop the ball (or the table, badumcha!)

The ideal solution to carelessness is building a better "lazy default" and removing distractions from being top-of-mind. But what about when we're in the moment? 

In that case, my best system is to slow down and ask a simple question: if this goes bad, what will be the most likely reason?

If I'd asked that question, I might have been more thoughtful about where my toes were positioned or who was helping me move that table.

If I'd asked that question, I might have waited to install that little bit of functionality...or at least deleted it when it didn't work.

Before you do something, take a moment to ask yourself. Often that's all you need to avoid the worst case scenario.

(And yes, if you've read the book, this is essentially a "one question pre-mortem"! Good catch!)

The Question

Was the reason for your most recent careless mistake obvious in hindsight?


Go Be More,

Bryan Green
Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast

"If you're not making mistakes, you're doing something wrong. Which means you're making a mistake. Which means you're fine. I don't know." - read on Pinterest


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