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Good Gaffe!

October 6, 2010

Since I can totally relate to each oops on this list, I really liked this article from Real Simple (to read their stories under each mistake – search "mistake" as their direct link doesn’t work) and thought it was worth repeating and pointing out to you.  These examples are from successful people in many walks of life. 

My own list shamelessly follows:

5 Mistakes Everyone Should Make

1. Totally embarrass yourself.

2. Ruffle people’s feathers.

3. Follow trends blindly.

4. Be willing to fail—doing something you love.

5. Carelessly put yourself at risk.

My List

1. Totally embarrass yourself.
My most humiliating OMG’s can’t be put out here.  But there is the time when I was dating my now-Mr.  I was in the  Romanian dance ensemble,
Izvorasul and we were performing at an Oktoberfest celebration in Minneapolis.  I’d invited David knowing there would be hearty German beer, brats, and… ME.  Dancing, costumed, being fabulous and entertaining.  I had no idea.

Romanian DancePart way through the dance, during an invertita, (which is a very fast turn performed by putting your arm up stiffly at an angle and your partner spins you using it for leverage), my over-zealous partner spun me off my feet and up into the band.  I was the crashing exclamation point to the performance.  I had to get up, pull my skirts down from around my waist, go back and finish the performance.  Truly, I could’ve died I was so embarrassed.  He married me anyway. 

2. Ruffle people’s feathers.
To me this translates to “don’t settle for simply knowing your place and keeping to it”.  IMHO doing so wastes a valuable resource (YOU), a fresh perspective, and that all important factor in brainstorming, input.  Your thoughts ARE worthwhile.  Be a rebel, speak out!

I, as in the example given in the article, would sit in meetings quietly, not afraid I would say the wrong thing, but knowing I wasn’t supposed to say anything. As I aged and gained insight, wisdom, experience, and the brains to realize I knew as much as they did about a lot of things, and had some great ideas, too, I naturally evolved.  After being an administrative assistant for 20 odd years, when the opportunity arose I would confidently offer my thoughts during board meetings, team meetings, or whatever gathering I was in (remember, I was the scribe, not an “invited” member entitled to speak). 

On the plus side was witnessing the dawning realization in the faces of the VPs, GMs, and other mangers, that I had more to offer than simply my succinctly (and very well) written minutes.  But when some of my ideas were implemented or suggestions were taken, it was immeasurably affirming, empowering, and proved speaking out was worth the risk.  Seeing Ms. Condescending with her thin, tight lips white with anger because I wasn’t slapped down?  Priceless!

Now I can’t tie this into that specific behavior, but it is worth mentioning that neither I, nor my mouth, are EOTH (employed outside the home) any longer.  Down side?  You decide.

3. Follow trends blindly.
Yep.  As time marched on I lemming-ly followed the waves of interior design fads (remember those balloon valances?), electronic must-haves (8-tracks to microwaves!), and popular literature, movies, or television (Nancy Drew, The Hobbit, Disney, Star Trek, Shogun, Star Wars, Chicken Soup For The Soul, The Shack, The Secret… I could go on). 

The most frequently returned-to thing is in what I wear, I guess.  I wasn’t quite old enough to be a true flower child, although I did paint flowers on my cheek and preferred bare feet to shoes.  Today I am right back to donning the “granny” dresses of the late ‘60s, that are nothing more than dresses with ankle-length skirts.  This style has accompanied me through the decades, reappearing in varying hues and patterns.  Gypsy-tree-hugger at heart, I always knew it.

4. Be willing to fail—doing something you love.
MaidenShade.  Enough said.

5. Carelessly put yourself at risk.
This is one of my favorites.  Cliff diving off the 35, 50, or 75 foot bluffs of the St. Croix river was #1 for a long time.  But I was a kid, like 12 when I did that.  Kids are fearless, brainless, and not fully-cognizant so it doesn’t really count.  This next one does though, I was 30.

CA Dpt. of Forestry mapWhile living in California I worked for the Department of Forestry.  I was hired to do basic secretarial work, but when I saw what the others were doing, I knew I had to switch jobs.  FYI – I am terrified of heights, very short, and love trees.  This might not sound related to risk.  But there were very specific requirements for this job.  I was not qualified, just determined.

Did you know I detest, tests?  I faced a comprehensive exam for the position within the Dutch Elm Disease Division (DED) of the Department of Forestry.  Comprised of basic entomology, plant and tree identification, reading and creating a map, operating (including taking apart and reassembling) a chain saw, first aid and safety – I was terrified and so relieved when I passed.  This embodies #4, but it was the first step in this whole risky business of #5 so here it is, included.

Now we
are getting to the risk.

One also had to pass a drivers test for operating a dump truck.  They do NOT make dump trucks for someone who is 4’ 11”.  I managed by sitting on the very edge of the huge seat, then sliding down onto my back so I could reach the petals to shift while my tester told me it was all clear in front of me and advised I steer “a little to the left” or right.  (As a side note, dump trucks have A LOT of gears, not like a standard transmission on a car – that in itself was daunting.)  I had to drive on the freeway like this; alternately sliding upright where I could see to navigate, and then sliding down to shift; where I was looking up at the roof of the cab, my feet searching frantically for the pedals I knew were there somewhere and my arms trying to keep very straight.  I drove via the freeway to the dump, dumped out the elm-wood contents, and then drove a route of mainly city roads back to the DOF lot and parked – I had to prove I could fully operate a dump truck so I had to back in.  As my employers knew how badly I wanted this job, after passing the test, they saw to it I never had to drive the dump truck again:  )

They could not, however, keep making concessions for me.  There was a job to do, and I had to do it.

ditch witch 6' manDo you know what a ditch witch is?  It is this roaring, enormous, bucking beast that looks like a chain saw with wheels and wheelbarrow handles.  It digs ditches and cuts through roots and I (reference my size and note that I weighed all of 103 pounds at the time) had to operate this.  I managed to control the machine-from-hell most of the time.  Until that day when it hit submerged barbed wire, bucked once and effortlessly tossed me into the air and deposited me some 40 feet away onto the very hard pavement.  That hurt me, a lot.  But, I finished the job.  By the way?  After the ditch witch threw me, it traveled on its merry way to chew up a citizen’s fence before my partner could turn it off.  He didn’t know if he should go after it or see if I was still alive. 

Finally, and probably the hardest most dangerous of all, is that I had to also drive and operate a cherry picker.  Driving and parking on the mini-mountains of downtown San Francisco is no mean feat.  If that isn’t enough, elm trees are very, very tall.  I had to go UP 75 feet (or maybe more, who knows?) in a swaying, bouncing bucket, and using a loooong tree trimmer, take sterile samples of elm trees.  AHHHH!  It makes my palms sweat and my feet hurt to think of it now.  I can’t tell you what balls that took, but I did it, daily while on that detail.

cherry picker extended cherry picker failure
Up, up, up! Ooops!  Thank God this never happened to me!

So there is my list.  What’s yours got in it?

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