How a Bogus Email Led Me to Clean Up My Stuff

by | Apr 16, 2009

Last week I blogged about mistakes. You can can read “Why I Don’t (Seem to) Care About Mistakes” here. The bottom line: mistakes are survivable; inaction is not.
Here, to balance that point of view, is an article I wrote some time back about acknowledging mistakes and setting things right.
It’s not a matter of which point of view is true. Like so much about self employment, this is an “all of the above” situation.
A Bogus Email
It all began with an email from claiming that someone had requested information about my company. I was invited to visit and find out what people were saying.
When I went to the site, I discovered that I would have to register in order to access any data and that, if I wanted to read posts about a company (including my own), I would need to pay a fee.
That Smell is a Rat
The email was a scam, designed strictly to separate you from your hard-earned money. I made a mental note to let readers know about it because I know many of you have business Web sites or email addresses.
But the Point Is…
That might have been the end of the story, but for one thing.
The email had sparked a flicker of fear, an uneasy wondering about who might have something negative to say about me and why. I knew that I had a former client or two who would have something negative to say and with good reason.
In fact, in the days before receiving the scam-mail, I had been taking stock and preparing to make amends.
I’m not talking about having done anything unethical, and I don’t expect myself to be perfect. I do expect myself to acknowledge my mistakes and to give anyone I have harmed an opportunity to tell me what I might do to set it right. This is an easier policy to hold than to implement, and I had been waffling, avoiding the conversations because I didn’t know how they would turn out. Would they cost me money? Would someone be unkind?
How to Clean House
When the bogus email arrived, I realized that not having these conversations was feeding anxiety that would gnaw at my self-regard until I cleaned house.
Cleaning house in terms of errors and ommissions is just as important as organizing your desk, perhaps more so. Here’s one way to do it.

  1. List people with whom you have unfinished business.
  2. Look for your part, any contributionyou made to the situation.
  3. Look at what you werre protecting or seeking in this situation.
  4. Ask yourself if you are willing to clean up your side of the street (to mix a metaphor).
  5. If you aren’t willing to clean up your part, are you willing to become willing at some time in the future?
  6. Share your findings with a trusted confidante so you can hear what you’ve written. This can show you where you are being too hard on yourself or others.
  7. Arrange to set things right without being attached to the outcome.

What It Takes
Cleaning house requires courage, discernment, and honesty. It is virtually impossible to do well alone. We are likely to be either too hard or too easy on ourselves because we cannot see ourselves with sufficient perspective to make accurate assessments when pride or fear are involved.

How It Helps

The business benefits of regular housecleaning include improved relationships, clearer standards, and a reputation for honesty and integrity. In time we lose our fear of making mistakes because we know we can count on ourselves to put them right. That frees us to pursue audacious goals with humility and ambition, and that is good for just about everyone.