I really like blunders at work. Of the seventeen (!) publishers who rejected Harry Potter. From the long line of personnel chiefs who Japke-d. Bouma fired because she wouldn’t be good enough, but my hero of the month is of course the Facebook employee who on October 4 – or so I imagine – tripped over a plug that prevented two billion users from using their social media for six hours. could – a blunder at work can’t be spectacular enough for me.
Because blunders are always more interesting than successes, show that success and failure are insidiously close, and teach us humility – no career is without blunders and the bigger the blunder, the bigger the career.
Yet you don’t hear much about it. Check out a standard resume and you’ll get a super boring hero story where one masterstroke led to the next. How wonderful it would be, tweeted questeditor Mark Traa last week, if there would be a ‘LinkedOut’ with all our failures, instead of all the sleep-inducing success souffles on LinkedIn.
That same week, Radboud University released tinkering , an online magazine with stories about blunders “to break the taboo on failure and make mistakes and imperfections open for discussion.”
Nice initiative, but when I read the stories – did the wrong study, stayed too long in the wrong job, gave a bad lecture due to lack of sleep – I found the failures, with all due respect, a bit boring and I thought: we have more spectacular blunders needed.
And so I came up with a crash course on ‘making spectacular blunders’. Then it becomes easier to blunder and the more spectacular they are, the more fun they are to share. Yes right? Here it comes.
1 If you make a blunder, do it right. For example, a failure that affects two billion users is better than one that affects a billion users; is it better to accidentally cut a pipe that paralyzes the entire city instead of just your own street and if you, as an intern with a sailing pile driver, do damage a cable in the Oude Maas, make sure that it must be completely replaced immediately , as happened to one reader. Half work is not work, that also applies to blunders.
2 The greater the damage, the better. Think Nick Leeson who wiped out not only his own department with risky investments, but the entire Baringsbank, or the credit crisis that flattened the entire world.
Otherwise, start with your boss’s car if you think that’s a bit too ambitious – drive it to a complete loss and preferably without first asking if you could borrow it as happened to a reader.
Or start with your own savings! Put everything on red in the casino or put all your money in a website that no one is waiting for. Of course it is even better if you have also persuaded all your friends to invest in a hopeless project and then everyone goes bankrupt.
Also read: You don’t want to believe what people sometimes hear after a job interview
3 Start blundering as young as possible. Like the reader who, at the age of fifteen, behind the cash register of a hardware store, estimated all amounts just about. That went well until a customer checked the receipt.
But of course you overslept in your first week for a business trip to Paris that all colleagues envied. Or if you accidentally declare Connie Palmen dead when you are learning how the system works at the NOS.
4 The dumber the better anyway. So quit your job before you’re sure the next one will go ahead, accept the assignment to give a presentation at a prestigious conference on a subject that you don’t master at all or send a cake to de Volkskrant who turned one hundred with the text ‘ANP congratulations de Volkskrant’ as the ANP did this month. Wonderful.
5 Humor is definitely recommended for blunders, so they stick even better. So accidentally write ‘fucked’ on the congratulation to your boss, take a powerful sleeping pill instead of a painkiller just before a crucial presentation, or select the wrong dance on YouTube so that at the right time “thirty toddlers are simultaneously making sex movements in rather than a round dance” – as readers shared with me on Twitter.
6 The higher the blunder explodes in the hierarchy, the better. For example, it is more spectacular to completely burn down a company at a network drink against someone who later turns out to have been the boss of the tent than if he is a sales manager, and it is more worthwhile to accidentally call in the entire management of the school. to lock up a room than just the headmaster, as happened to a teacher.
7 If you don’t think it’s a blunder yourself, finally, it’s not a blunder. Like the reader who wrote that he is now a parcel deliverer “after various unfinished college and university studies” but is “having a better time than ever”. That doesn’t count, sorry.
Let me know how it went!
How was your week? Tips for Japke-d. Bouma through @Japked on Twitter.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of October 13, 2021