This morning I was offered a sweet solution to getting over a memorable mistake I recently made.
Flash back to my first attempt at using the newly-installed, automatic Starbucks coffee machine in our therapy office suite.
A seemingly straightforward task of buying a much needed cup of strong morning coffee spilled into something messier.
While I dislike the way Starbucks coffee tastes, you can’t beat the caffeine boost, especially after a night of multiple, sudden awakenings by my 3-year-old daughter.
Wait a minute. That doesn’t feel right.
I won’t blame my need for Starbucks on my daughter. I just wanted strong coffee. Period.
I swiped my credit card, chose the biggest size possible, stood back and enjoyed the blissful sound of beans grinding.
Suddenly, the coffee shot out of the machine and started spraying everywhere. When the “cup” was finished, the floor was covered in Blonde roast, and my first patient was due to arrive at any moment.
Call me old school, but I wrongly made the assumption that a cup would drop out from the machine to catch the coffee.
The cup-dropping coffee machine was what I grew up with. I was always fascinated as a child by the way the hot chocolate machine spit out a cup before releasing the hot chocolate at my father’s racquetball club.
Why would the most modern coffee dispenser in the world not be equipped with the cup catching function?
Isn’t it backwards evolution to require the coffee drinker to place the cup under the machine?
Anyway, I didn’t place the cup there because of my childhood awe over the falling cup.
Standing over a messy floor I felt embarrassed and stupid.
In my uncomfortable mental state, I made the mistake of leaving the scene of the crime with one paper towel covering the coffee on the floor as my first patient arrived down the hall.
I felt awful about it…until today.
A Chance for Redemption
Rather than force myself to walk the path of shame like Cersei in Game of Thrones, I found a way to sort-of-partially forgive myself for leaving my mess for someone else. I confessed to the office manager and warned that other old schoolers might make the same mistake (I doubt it but somehow it made me feel better to say that.)
This brings us to this morning when a 20-something-year-old woman was staring at the Starbucks machine with absolutely no idea how to use it. She didn’t have a cup in hand so it was the perfect opportunity for redemption.
I ran over to her and looked confident, knowing what was to come next. (By the way, people often ask tall men who are strangers for advice. Every day tourists on the street ask me for directions.)
She said, “Do you have any idea how to use this thing?”
“Well actually…” and then I told her my story and showed her how to use the machine, including how to choose a cup to place under it to catch the coffee.
Her only response was, “Oh wow. They used to have cups already in the machines? That’s cool.”
Your Mistakes are Gifts to the World
That’s right. If you take the time to learn from your mistakes AND you choose to help newer generations avoid making the same errors that you’ve made, the angst and guilt and shame and self-loathing paperclipped onto your memory of the blunder becomes unclipped.
The memory remains as a lesson learned but without the pain. At worst it becomes a self-deprecating story to make others laugh (and maybe learn.)
If you’re not a teacher or a parent or a supervisor, you’ll have to make a conscious decision to teach people lessons that you’ve learned the hard way.
Put simply: When you make a mistake, vow to never let another person make the same mistake.
Don’t worry. They’ll still learn impossibly hard lessons from experience. You’ll just save them from one that you’ve overcome.