The agonies of mistakes, the possibilities of fixes


Who doesn’t hate mistakes? I’d like to meet that person for some lessons. Because I do. Big time. I’m the kind of person who puts every mistake on rewind. A masochist through and through.

Last April I committed the stupidest mistake in my latest book of dumbass-things-I-did. I went to an umpiring trip unprepared. I didn’t take the time to review the rulebook like I kept telling myself to. I wasn’t in a forgiving mood to myself since then. As if the process of agonizing over it would change the fact that I screwed up.

A friend told me that she thinks people tend to stress over mistakes if it’s important to them. I guess umpiring is that important to me. It mattered that I didn’t perform as well as I expected myself to.

But in some logical moments, I see some lessons from that experience.

  • Remember past mistakes – Before I passed my international umpiring exam, I had to go through the national screening first. I usually take pride in my exam-taking skills. Luck always seems to favor me when intelligence fails. At that time, I passed the national’s written exam. However, both luck and intelligence contrived against me when I took the practical test. I therefore earned the distinction of being the only national umpire who barely passed.
  • Suck it up – Some embarrassments can be crippling. I remember dwelling on it until it almost convinced me to give up. I realized later that it was the feeling of losing my confidence that triggered my resolve to do better. I became too confident in my abilities that I forgot to put in the effort needed to excel. If I wasn’t that serious about it the first time, I resolved to be the next chance I get.
  • Move on – Sucking it up and moving on are two entirely different things. The first one is a victory over pride while the latter is more of a determined effort. Soon after I lost the pride, I focused on working on my skills. I didn’t know where that would bring me. But it proved to be a wise decision in the end.
  • Grab every chance – I don’t believe in second chances. I think the universe opens its doors wide for infinite chances. It’s not wise to count opportunities lost or gained. The best thing is to act on them. Win or fail, there will always be more to come. That’s how I sense things work out. My chance arrived three months after I “barely passed” my national umpire exam. People from the international federation arrived to conduct a license exam. I heard stories of how tough the series of tests would be. I chose to take the more difficult road by signing up. I felt that there’s nothing to lose anyway. I almost failed before and survived to tell the tale.
  • Rise above fear – Doing something that’s important to us is a very scary thing. I almost had nightmares as exam days drew near. I learned from some of the other candidates that the tests were so hard that only a small percentage generally pass. And we can only take the exam twice. Failing twice meant being banned from taking it again in this lifetime. The great thing about being scared though was it allowed me to tap into whatever supply of lurking courage I had. The next thing I knew, I was at the exam venue earlier than the rest. I looked fear in the eye and boldly said, WTH! I can do this!
  • Do more, expect less – I imagine this as something like stepping into a rowing boat. The boat doesn’t get me anywhere unless I actually make use of the oars. Putting an effort to it brings me closer someplace else. And that place is for me to discover. Expecting to be in that place is different from going there. Expectations leave room for more unanswered questions. The simplest solution is to go directly to where I need to be. There I will find the answers. It was this belief that got me through the two days of hellish exams. I finished not feeling confident like I usually do but not fearful either. I knew I gave it my all. The results, whatever it will be, I could handle.
  • Be grateful, treasure the things that matter – I’ll never forget, ever, the moment when I learned that I’m one of the three (and the only girl) who passed. I teared up when they handed me my badge. I felt silly thinking about it. But after everything I invested to achieve it, the tears were worth it. I almost gave up on myself. It’s hard not to treasure something that came at such a price.
  • Be conscious of the lessons – Mistakes happen all the time. Some repeatedly because there are lessons lost along the way. I’m now treating my most recent embarrassing moment as a wake-up call. Never underestimate the universe’s quirks in teaching what needs to be learned.

I suddenly realized I’m slowly inching my way to the suck-it-up phase. Notes to self: 1) you survived worse than this before, you certainly can do it again, 2) nobody always gets it right the first time, 3) those who are great enough not to commit mistakes are either perfect specimens hiding in plain sight or just good at hiding them.

I can do this!


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