We are all human and we all make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes are big and sometimes they are small. Calling the deceased the wrong name at a graveside eulogy leans more toward the “big” end of the scale.
I witnessed this awkward event at the service for my best friend’s mother.
The Priest stood at the head of the casket and started…..
“We are all here to celebrate the life of Mary Ann Anderson. Mrs. Anderson was a lovely woman who cared deeply about her family, her friends, and her faith. Often I would see Mrs. Anderson working long hours at one of our church functions……”
As he continued to speak I watched the priest begin a transformation. He was slowly morphing into a gazelle, like the ones you see on a Mutual of Omaha special, just peacefully standing in the high grass of some majestic African plain. Like that gazelle he had no idea that lions were about to jump up and rip his larynx out.
“….and I would always joke with her when I saw her at the Sunday service. Mrs. Anderson always had the best sense of humor….”
Suddenly all four of her grown daughters leapt up out of their seats and screamed almost in unison;
“HER NAME WAS SANDERS, NOT ANDERSON….MARY….ANN…..SANDERS….SAN-DERS…!!!!!”
The Priest was stunned and went into a moment of shocked silence that seemed to last a lifetime. I studied his face and watched his eyes and I am pretty sure his first thought was “is there room for me to jump in under that coffin”.
Then I saw it. I knew where he was going to go next. And I knew it was going to be bad. Real bad. Vanilla Ice bad.
A sense of empathetic panic gripped me and like a catcher attempting to brush off a bad signal from his pitcher, I tried to telepathically send him the message “don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it…you’re going to get taken downtown…!!!” But he did it.
He started to backtrack and explain how of course he knew her name was Sanders, and that he had just mentioned to someone before the service how he liked “Mrs. Sanders” so much, and that it had been a long week for him, etc., etc.
Not unlike the gazelle, having been mortally wounded and flailing about in its death throes, his reaction just brought more attacks.
Her sons and then grandsons got into the mix, loudly shouting their justified outrage. I think the only reason things did not get completely out of hand is the fact that beating up a priest pretty much takes you right to front of the line for admission to Hell.
The priest made a mistake to be sure in using the wrong name, but the fatal mistake was how he reacted when he realized his misstep. A deft and perhaps humorous comment acknowledging his mistake, while reaffirming his intimate relationship with Mrs. Sanders, could have saved the day and negated any ill effects his gaffe produced.
Hi, we’re gazelles. We like grass. We have no idea what’s about to hit us!
Sometimes our reaction to a mistake can’t negate it’s bad effects, but can at least contain them.
High up on the list of “cliché’ things to do when you turn 30″ is going to Europe for one last attempt at being a free spirit. I took that trip with my best friend (the same from above), and being the vandals that we were, we decided to spend fourteen carefree days backpacking through various countries, staying at whatever hotel or B&B’s were available.
Our first night on the continent was in Paris, where we found a charming chateau-like hotel to use as our home base. As we settled in and begun to unpack our stuff, I pulled out a bottle of red wind that the Delta attendant gave us on our flight over. What a perfect way to celebrate the beginning of our Eurotrip I reasoned.
There was one hitch though, no corkscrew. Begin intro clip for “Ideas Gone Bad” right about here.
My brilliant idea was to take the all-purpose tool I had in my pack, unfold the 3-inch blade, hold the bottle by the neck with one hand, thrust the blade into the cork with the other, and in one quick twisting motion, pull it out.
I did mention we were in Paris right? Where infants have wine in their baby bottles. I could have gone down to the front desk for a corkscrew right? I probably could have just yelled out the window “I need help opening a bottle of wine” and a shower of corkscrews, bread, cheese, and “Best of Jerry Lewis” DVD’s would have come my way. But alas, I was the gazelle.
A split second before the blade drew up from the cork I realized this was a bad idea, but it was too late, and it sliced through the flesh of my palm. I dropped the bottle and immediately clasped my hands together. ”Maybe it wasn’t too deep” I thought. I slowly uncovered my palm and was greeted with a gusher of blood which ran all over the floor.
I instinctively grabbed a wash towel from the bathroom and padded the wound. Then my mind began to race….
This was the first of fourteen days that I had been looking forward to for over a year; had I ruined the trip? In a country where I knew nobody and didn’t understand the language how could I find medical care? Would this mean I would have to stay in France for the whole trip til the wound healed? Was medical care in my trip budget?
I contemplated just padding it up, finding a pharmacy, and doing some makeshift bandaging, but finally I realized;
Don’t make your first mistake worse by reacting to it with an even bigger mistake.
I went down to the front desk and managed to convey to them my problem. Ten minutes later a cab had deposited me at the emergency room of a local hospital.
Two absolutely gorgeous French interns put fourteen stitches in my hand and bandaged me up. They were so sweet and beautiful, and I would have asked one of them out except for the fact that I was already with my future wife, and that I think I heard them use the term “Le Dork” when referring to me.
On the train after the incident and close up of my hair which I decided to dye blond for the trip. It was supposed to look like Billy Idol. It didn’t. Don’t ask.
Just like in life, mistakes in trading are an inevitability. I don’t know anyone who has been trading for any significant amount of time that hasn’t “fat fingered” a trade, perhaps adding an extra zero in position size to an order they submitted. Or maybe they analyzed and stalked a trade, waiting for just the right entry point to get long…..only to realize after the fact that they put an order in to go “short”. I myself have even accidentally put in an order to buy the wrong security like $AAPL when I meant to buy $GOOG.
These mistakes happen and “yes” they hurt when you realize what you have done, but it is at this crucial moment that your true skill as a trader will be tested. Do you hold on and hope that the trade goes your way or do you instinctively act and cut the trade immediately?
You have to cut the trade immediately. In the case of the fat-finger trade, this may be a survival issue since an outsized order going against you may not have to move very much in order to inflict severe damage or even blow out your account.
Messing up on a trade’s direction or using the wrong instrument might be more manageable, but if you have done the analysis correctly and followed you methodology properly, you would be carrying a position that goes exactly against what your anticipated outcome is.
There are very few mistakes in life or in the markets you can’t survive (and learn) from, but the key is to react swiftly, decisively, and in a way that contains the damage, not that makes it worse.
(Note: If you are new to my blog, I post about all sorts of things. Sometimes it involves something extremely personal, like creating a 30K baby or a trading blow up. Other times it deals with hot ex-porn stars who trade stocks. And sometimes it’s about how to avoid “suicide”. But a good place to start is The Best of bclund. If you like what you read, please tell a friend. If you don’t, please tell two friends.)