Learning the Hard Way


They say the best thing about making a mistake once is that you never make it again.

And, I’m not just talking about drinking the Lithium water in Ashland, Oregon. Here are five lessons I learned the hard way:

  1. Getting someone’s name right: While I high school, I was told a person’s name is his or her favorite word. Based on that logic, getting someone’s name wrong is like the worst thing you can do. And I have to say, this situation made me believe that. While working for Target, I had a coworker with a short pixie haircut and a name like Mary. There was another girl at Target who had long hair and a name like Taylor. They were both light skinned with brown hair and of similar heights, and I always confused the two. Well, sure that I had her name correct, I referred to Mary as Taylor, and Mary didn’t like it one bit. She laid into me, and four years later I still feel awful. The reason Mary became so enraged that I called her Taylor was because Taylor was gay. Mary thought I was confusing the two women because she had the “stereotypical lesbian look” that matched Taylor’s sexuality. I was horrified that I offended someone so deeply and so accidentally. Try as I might, she refused to accept that it was an honest mix up of names. Wanting to never accidentally insult someone to that level again, I pay extra close attention to names now.
  2. Watch the judgement: I can be quick to judge, and I’m sure you would agree with that statement based on some of my posts you’ve read. Well, in 10th grade a wrote a paper for my English class that cast a negative light on my city’s local college. I honestly had no right to speak negatively about this University, but in my young eyes, it wasn’t Harvard so I could say whatever I wanted. Thankfully, my English teacher didn’t let it fly. I can still remember the angry red scribbles on the left margin that listed all of the attributes of the University. Now, if I am going to give my opinion on something in writing, I make sure I have either lived the experience once or have done my research.
  3. The truth always comes out: In fourth grade my teacher recommended I read a book. I started it, but didn’t enjoy it and quickly gave it up, mentioning all of this to my friend Lauren. When I returned the book to my teacher, she asked how I liked it. Not wanting to hate on her recommendation, I told her it was good. Later, the teacher passed the book along to Lauren, citing that I had enjoyed it and she might too. Lauren promptly corrected my teacher, telling her that I neither liked nor finished the book, effectively uncovering my lie. When the teacher asked me about it, I was mortified. Honestly, this was probably one of the best ways I could have learned this important lesson, but thinking about it still makes the color rise in my cheeks.
  4. Hitting someone where it hurts: In sixth grade I kicked a boy “where it counts.” I don’t remember why, but I remember that it made him cry. I felt horrible. I realized then that just because you know someone’s soft spot doesn’t mean you should play to it. This lesson has served me well in business and in relationships. It can be painfully easy to take advantage of another by pitting them against their weaknesses or insecurities, but there is nothing satisfying about getting what you want this way. Taking advantage of another’s vulnerabilities is manipulative.
  5. Don’t piss off your parents: After graduating high school, I spent time in Spain living with a host family, where I had a new-found freedom, especially compared to my parent’s household. Well, I came back home feeling pretty smug and tried to push the limits with my parents. I was a few blocks away at a friend’s house for movie night and decided that curfew was a few hours too early. Needless to say, my parents didn’t stand for me not being home at midnight as promised. I think that was the worst fight we have had in my 24 years and it taught me a very simple lesson: don’t piss off your parents (especially to watch Disney movies. Cue major eye roll and face palm).

Honestly, this post made me feel a few inches shorter. These are lessons that we all have likely learned at one time or another; and, despite that fact that these memories have haunted me for many years, each lessons has served me well over the course of my life. It never feels good to talk about our mistakes, but it is important to reflect on them.


Which lessons have you learned the hard way? Let us know below.


4 thoughts on “Learning the Hard Way

  1. Bill Ochalek

    Great post! Good examples too. We also have to play the other side of this and realize the other person just might be making one of their life learning mistakes, and after they’ve learned what they can from it, cut them some slack and move on. Somewhere in the last 30 years society has latched onto this “zero tolerance” gig and turned it into “zero forgiveness” we need to step back a few decades and remember – life is for learning!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jeanette

    Hey Tess. Thanks for sharing! We all have had (and will, no doubt, continue to have) deeply embarrassing moments. Maybe they help shape us into better people…but there is some damage caused along the way that is painful for all parties. But, in reading your post, I had one overriding thought — that boy probably deserved to be kicked in the pants! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Bill! I totally agree! A few of the reactions I got were pretty harsh, but at least I can say that I learned something from the situation. Thanks for reading and commenting!


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