Happy Mistakes: A message of gratitude for grace

This week I made a massive error.  The kind you make and immediately recognize your mistake but it’s already too late.

Let me set the stage. Email GIF

I’m in the middle of doing a pilot study with a small sample size of people and needed to send out a message to them with further instructions. But rather than select the correct audience, in a hasty move before my coffee had fully activated I pressed the send button on an email to my full audience. 1000’s of emails got sent to the wrong people.

Immediately I felt the hot rush of stress flood my face. I went with it. I started to practice what I preach for others to do in these moments. Go with the stress, don’t fight against it. Let’s see where this goes.

Typically when I’m coaching people through acute stress moments like this I ask them to engage in my T- 3 technique.

Briefly that’s:

1)  Download the stress in three minutes of screaming terror (i.e. go into the stress and allow yourself to feel it. Catastrophize. Do jumping jacks or move your body. Just don’t try to calm yourself down in the first 3 minutes of the stressor).

2) Reset. Take 2 physiological sighs and get yourself back online.

3) Upload a new story, a new curiosity. What will I learn from this? How can this be an adventure? How will I grow?

But friends I never made it fully into my 3 mins before my system started to reset. Within 60 seconds of pressing send someone had emailed me this:

Hi Rebecca!

Hope you are doing well…. Just a heads up for you, I did not sign up to be part of this study. Maybe a glitch in your system?


What a kind response! A glitch in the system – ha! My system for sure, but she was giving me the benefit of the doubt.  By the time I’d sent out another message admitting my error and apologizing to the 1000’s of people who wrongly received my original email, 3 more messages had come in.

Each shared a similar message:

Hey, I don’t remember signing up for this study but it sounds interesting. Can you send me more information?


After I’d responded to these messages a steady stream of others began to hit my inbox.  I’ll share just a small sample of some of the messages below. They ranged from a simple, “no problem” (which in the moment, felt so generous to receive), to extensive emails about how my keynote to them years ago was still impacting their daily lives.

  • Ha! Funny because I meant to sign up yesterday and forgot so your mistake became a reminder! You should just make that mistake every time.
  • No problem. I remember you well and think of you occasionally
  • Thanks Rebecca for letting me know of your error. I truly enjoyed hearing you speak and hope to again one day.
  • *Today I am dodging ping pong balls with you and reminding myself that it is not a tiger and will not kill me LOL!!!
  • *a reference to an activity I do in my keynotes
  • It is ok, we all do that from time to time! thanks for letting me know, I was wondering for a minute there!  Have a great week,
  • No problem!  Always good to hear from you.  
  • No worries at all! I’m glad you made that mistake…
  • We still need to have that lunch together :)) 
  • No problem Rebecca. Cold brews are back in season FYI, more caffeine than regular coffee to get your fix 
  • It happens to all of us.
  • I actually love it when people make mistakes, Rebecca! It’s easier to forgive myself for one, then 
  • Thanks, Rebecca for the correction  We’ve all been there – too much to do, too little coffee 🙂
  • Best of luck with your T-3 study!

By the time I’d responded to every message that came in my whole morning was gone and I was in tears. But not the ones I expected given how my morning started.

Rather, tears of appreciation for the kindness and grace that people can show one another. It was exactly the lesson I needed in that moment, and I hope you’ll carry it forward into your day today as I’m trying to do. You never know how much that “no problem” can mean to someone. A smidge of kindness, and giving someone the benefit of the doubt goes a long way. Be gentle with yourself and others out there – kindness is one thing we all need more of !