Most errors fall into one of two camps:
- Errors of omission – a mistake involving not doing something I should have done. Example, I did not call my grandmother on her birthday.
- Errors of commission – a mistake involving doing something I should not have done. Example, driving 82mph when the limit is 70mph.
For me, the errors of omission sting and haunt me much more that the errors of commission. To paraphrase Seth Godin, the biggest mistakes in your career are the risks that you didn’t take. The job opportunity that you turned down, the times you failed to speak up in the meeting, the tough conversations you didn’t have.
Living life will involve mistakes of commission. If you spend a lot of time with people, you will say things you wish you wouldn’t have said. If you create a lot of presentations, you will have some that don’t have page numbers. If you generate and analyze a lot of reports, some of those reports will have errors or you will miss something in the analysis. Errors of commission are the cost of doing business and living life.
If you spend all of your time focused on avoiding errors of commission, you will increase your errors of omission – and this is a tragedy.
Who wants to live squarely in between the margins? Who on their death bed thinks, “I am so thankful that I played this life safe.” Or “I am so glad that I made 75% of the people in my life sort of happy.”
Take action. Making an error of commission involves action. Missing a work function to go to your kid’s ballet recital involves taking a risk. It may look “bad”, you may get passed over for a promotion, a fire may start at work – but there are some things that you cannot hedge. If you put every chip you have on every number on the roulette wheel, the house will win every time.
The next time you think, “I should have called her” or “I should have spoken up” or “I should ask how he is doing”, write this down. Actually recognizing that you are “omitting” is a huge first step into making fewer errors of omission.
I came up with big error of omission in my life just this weekend. I do not reach out enough to the people in my life who matter the most to me. They matter deeply to me and I think about them often, but they don’t know it. It would be so easy to make a phone call or send a text, but I fail to do this, time and time again. So today, I took a first step. I wrote down my error and came up with a plan to take action.
Life is too short to have your money on both red and black. Take a stand, have a point of view and make some mistakes along the way.