In the fourth grade, in Mr. Hauser’s class, he tested us on the multiplication tables. We numbered our pages from 1–100 before the test. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8…down the left hand side, then over a bit and down the page again. Once everyone had their papers numbered, he would start. It was like the lighting round on some game show— “4 times 6!”, then no more than 5 seconds later, “8 times 6!”. Not only did you have to deal with knowing the math, you had to think quickly. It doens’t seem like a lot of pressure, but to a fourth grader…it was nerve racking.
That was until I realized that all the while Mr. Hauser was giving us the same test each Friday. So after a while when I numbered my paper, if I remembered the question he asked, I would just right the answer down. Then I could cruise during that question and be ready for one I didn’t memorize. Pretty cool huh? When Mr. Hauser caught me numbering my paper and putting in answers to questions he hadn’t yet yelled out he asked me, “What are you doing young man?”. That’s when I simply replied with a blank stare…busted.
Needless to say, the following Friday’s test was completely different as were all the others that followed. But that wasn’t the only consquence. During recess the whole next week, I had to write this sentence, and it has stuck with me ever since:
If I was doing what I should have been doing, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.
And by “stuck with me”, I mean haunted me. Anytime I find myself in a difficult position, especially one where I am making the same mistake again, that phrase begins to form in my mind, “If I was doing…”
I have a family and a business and I know this for sure — there will be a time when I will be asked to make a decision or a set of decisions that will require me to draw upon experience. Will I be wise enough not to retrace my steps only to set foot upon the same landmine? I hope so. Because writing those sentences sucked, but it only cost me recess. There is nothing more costly in personal relationships and in business than make the same mistakes over and over again.
Have you ever made the same mistake twice? If you can avoid that pitfall, you will be well ahead of most. If you don’t avoid this, you may be doomed to living the same year over and over again, never moving forward. Pretty scary huh? Now go write that sentence above until your hand hurts.