Make No Mistake
By Bob Goldman

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Know your biggest business mistake?

Not making business mistakes.

Yes, being perfect has its advantages, but it has disadvantages, too. Because you never make mistakes, you have very little understanding of, or patience for, the people around you who do make mistakes. Which they do, constantly.

For many people, working alone in a beautiful bubble of perfection is a dream come true. Unfortunately, few of us can work alone. In the business world, people need people. And with apologies to Barbra, people who need people are (SET ITAL) not (END ITAL) the luckiest people in the world.

That's where Sara McCord comes in. McCord, a staff writer and editor at The Muse website, recently published a post titled, "4 Mistakes You're Still Allowed to Make (No Matter How Experienced You Are)."

In her article, McCord explores the everyday mistakes that your co-workers are most likely to commit. She doesn't focus on the truly horrendous errors for which there can be no forgiveness, like taking advantage of your late arrival at the Monday morning staff meeting to snatch the last zucchini-spelt muffin, which everyone knows is your favorite.

While these are mistakes you would never make, understanding the bungling blunderers with whom you have to work may help with the interpersonal problems that so unfairly plague you. For example, wouldn't it be nice if instead of sitting silently, resenting you, your co-workers stood up when the evildoer reached for your muffin and said, in unison, "Leave that zucchini-spelt muffin just where it is, or you'll never get out of this conference room alive!"

"Caring too much" is mistake No. 1. It's a rookie mistake that some people can never shake off, and some people, like thee and me, can never understand. As McCord writes, "you might hit a moment in your career when you can't leave at 5 PM or never really 'leave work at work.' Your time -- and thoughts -- are consumed by your job."

It's difficult to understand this kind of thinking, or lack thereof. You have built a successful career with your time -- and thoughts -- consumed by avoiding your work and ignoring your job. To do this, you have had to leave way before 5 p.m., and arrive way after 9 a.m. In fact, the only days you don't leave at 5 p.m. are days when you don't come in.

But the idea here is to care about the caring co-worker, about whom, McCord writes, "For whatever reason, you've consciously chosen to make work the No. 1 priority in your life."

"Whatever reason?" You know exactly the reason people feel they have to stay until 5. They're nuts.

"Trying Something Bold (and Failing)" is the No. 2 mistake it's OK to make. You'll "never know just what you achieve unless you push yourself," McCord opines. So "encourage yourself to take a risk."

Feeling sympathy for someone with this twisted mindset isn't easy, but it can be done. Perhaps these bold future failures don't know the basic rule of business survival -- when you think you have a great new idea or a better way to make the company more productive and competitive, just don't do it. No manager wants to deal with change. They're even lazier and more set in their ways than you. It's always best to do nothing at all.

Mistake No. 3 is "Blowing Off Your Five-Year Plan." It is difficult to understand making this mistake, since you've never had a five-year plan. Or any plan that has stretched out later than your lunch hour.

Apparently, people with five-year plans need to be told that "while it may seem like a mistake to change course (or, careers) mid-stream, sometimes, it's the very best thing for you."

Though even contemplating a long-term plan may puzzle you, don't be quick too quick to scold. Instead, encourage your co-workers to change their five-year plans and find new careers in new companies in new cities, as far away from you as possible. You'll stay just where you are and gobble up their salaries.

Perhaps the closest you've come to making a mistake is McCord's No. 4, "Putting Your Faith in Others." You've certainly never trusted your managers, or your co-workers, or the fellow at the coffee kiosk in the mall who gives you the fish-eye when you order a persimmon mochaccino with whipped cream and sprinkles.

No, your mistake is far more serious, and frankly, there may be no hope for you now. You've put your faith in me.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.