Nautie Musings / Making Mistakes

I was on the plane listening to one of my favorite podcasts, reply all and, they were talking about election forecasters.  They talked about forecasters in general including an octopus who correctly forecasted the entire world cup.  They talked about a forecasting duo that is doing really well and basically forecasting based on racist tendencies.  Then they talked about super forecasters.  The author of the book talked about how one consistent trait among super forecasters is humility.  He referenced a specific forecaster and said if you asked him the question, ‘how are you so good at investing?  how have you made these billions of dollars?’  He’d answer, ‘I know that I’m bound to make mistakes and therefore, I’m more likely to catch and correct my mistakes than other people are.’. The Reply All host says, ’okay so humility’  ‘it’s an intellectual humility’.  (this is majorly paraphrased don’t quote me here.)

They go on to say that in general if you stand in front of a group of people and you make a statement your much more likely to dig in.  To change your position is to admit error.  We hate to acknowledge error.  There’s an inverse correlation between fame and inaccuracy.  Pundits on television give clear concise answers.  They’re dynamic personalities.  They do great on television and they’re often times inaccurate.  A good forecaster doesn’t care if they look dumb.  It’s what makes them good.  They’re not afraid to admit when they’re wrong.

This whole snippet really reminded me of a conversation I had the other day with a friend. She asked me if I had ever been fired.  Here’s the story she got to hear:

I haven’t been fired but, one time I got this absolutely terrible evaluation.  The Captain cited the fact that I made a lot of mistakes.  That I shouldn’t be promoted because I had made these errors.

Here were the mistakes written about on my evaluation:

I had incorrectly totaled up the quantity of garbage.  I made the garbage receipt and, had the agent sign it for the garbage record book.  I had reversed some numbers on the receipt so, when I was putting it in the garbage record book I noticed they didn’t match.  It’s actually kind of a big deal.  So I told the Captain because we hadn’t left port yet and I knew the agent was coming back.  I made a new correct receipt and asked the Captain if he could have the agent re-sign it.

I had incorrectly calculated our ETA.  I admit.  This is a really big deal.  In my defense there were a lot of time zone changes, there were slow downs and speed ups, we had a timed arrival at the Bosphorus, we were stopping at the Bosphorus anchorage for bunkers, we had a pilot pick up time.  It was complicated.  I went to bed at the end of my watch and I tossed and turned feeling like my time was inaccurate.  So, I went back up to the bridge in the middle of the night and re-did all my numbers.  I was 12 hours off - we were going to be getting in one day earlier.  I felt really bad….and really dumb….but, I called the Captain in the middle of the night so that he’d still have 48 hours to notify the agent, terminals, etc.  He was pissed.  I would have been pissed too but, at least I told him!

I hadn’t made a call out.  I got a phone call in the middle of the night.  Went up to the bridge for the gear test.  The AB called me and said, ‘I just wanted you to know it’s the call out’.  I said okay and hung up.  I didn’t know he meant, ‘can you please make the call outs’.  Needless to say, the crew didn’t get called out.  We had a last minute call out - the guys wrote in penalty time.  I stand firmly by this:  not my fault.  *hahahah*  

He left this scathing evaluation on my stateroom door.  I read it and was freaking furious.  I took some time to calm down and then I went and knocked on his office door.

He let me come in and I said I’d like to discuss my evaluation and sat down.

Here’s what I said, ‘Captain, the only reason you know about any of those mistakes is because I told you about them!’.  I of course elaborated to say, ‘that’s called professional courtesy!’ of course, it didn’t end there, I kept on saying, ‘the fact that it’s being held against me now as an indication of a weak skill set makes no sense at all!’.  I also said, ‘I’m a good shipmate.  I correct other peoples mistakes all the time and you don’t even know about them.’  (He always compared me to this one kid - which I hated - so I threw him straight under the bus) ‘I correct so and so’s mistakes ALL the time.’  Then I said, ‘you better be careful about criticizing mistakes or you’ll miss hearing about the one that’s going to be a game changer for your own career.’.  (in retrospect I probably shouldn’t have said that….)

He didn’t say one thing.

For the record:  I hated that ship so much.  I couldn’t stand the people I worked with.  I felt like I was constantly on the chopping block and, to be honest I really felt like they just didn’t care for me.  I never went back.  For the record, if I had gone back, I probably would have been fired. 

Back to the Reply All episode.

I couldn’t agree more. 

Admitting I was wrong has saved my butt over and over again.  I make mistakes and, I know it, which makes me more likely to catch and correct them.  

Intellectual Humility!  In my opinion it's one of the building blocks of success.  It's what makes people easier to work with.  It's what makes you trust them.