4 Steps to Take When You Mess Up Big Time



Schooling has never been my thing.

I always had trouble

  • adding
  • subtracting
  • spelling
  • remembering what classes to go to on which days.

When graduation time came, I was ready to leave the hallowed halls of learning far behind.

There was one complication.

The ACT test – a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions.

Torture designed specifically for the academically challenged.

I had no choice.

I took my #2 pencils and went to take the test. 

Sitting in the designated classroom, I heard the words that sealed my doom.

“Write down your Social Security number on the front page”. 

The facilitator on the day of the test. She then mumbled something about fraud or jail time. I don’t recall her exact words.

I was too busy trying to remember my number.

Finally, I made one up and wrote it down.

The next few weeks I waited for the

  • phone call.
  • police visit.
  • official notice of my incarceration.

Nothing happened.

But, it scared me so much I came up with four steps to help me next time I mess up big time.

  1. Don’t panic – Tell yourself “This is just part of life. I’ll get through. It’s not like I’m going to be stuck in this moment forever.”
  2. Speak up – Take a deep breath. Look whomever you are dealing with in the eye. Tell the truth.
  3. Refuse to embrace the shame – Even if you get emotional, don’t agonize about it. Just explain or negotiate through your tears. You deserved to be respected because you are a valid member of society, not because you are perfect.
  4. Move on – Acknowledge mistakes, oversights, moments of bad judgment just long enough to learn what you can from them.

After the mess is cleaned up, I focus on the future, relationships and my faith.

Life is too short to keep looking back.