Stuff Happens

Stuff happens. You can't always be perfect, and people don't expect you to be, but when something goes wrong you have a great opportunity to learn a number of interesting things about people in general and yourself in particular, as well as how to handle such situations. As an example, here's something that recently happened to me. I have a free newsletter that I send by email. When someone signs up for it at my website, I send them a "Welcome" message to thank them for subscribing and to send them the most recent issue. Last week I accidentally sent this "Welcome" message to my entire list of over 2500 existing subscribers in 20+ countries! I realized what had happened within 5 minutes, and immediately sent a message to the entire list (on purpose this time!) to apologize and not to worry; they were not on the list twice and would not be receiving duplicate newsletters in the future. The reaction was immediate and surprising, to say the least. One of the first to respond told me that he never subscribed (remember, this message was thanking people for subscribing), that I better not charge him for it or he will report me to the FBI (!), and that I was a "stinking con-artist". What made this especially interesting is that this particular individual has been receiving my newsletter every other week for over a year!!! Several others told me that they never subscribed and to remove them from the list. Again, all of them had, in fact, subscribed and had been receiving the newsletter for many months. (I have never nor would I ever send the newsletter to anyone who hadn't specifically requested it.) Then there were the "faithful"; the many nice people who sent a quick note such as "Don't worry about it", "You're spending too much time in your bathrobe", and "It's always nice to hear from you, even if by mistake". Here are some things that I learned: 1. You can't please everyone, no matter what you do. Some people are just cranky, so you have to just let them be cranky! Nothing you say or do will placate them. 2. Sometimes you just have to let go. At first I tried to tell those who complained that they had been on the list for months, but then realized that if these people don't even realize that there is no sense trying to hold on to them. They obviously don't need the newsletter or read it. "Buh- bye"! 3. I've got to lighten-up on myself. Even though the negative messages amounted to less than 1/2 of one percent, and they were outnumbered by positive messages by at least 4 to 1, I still found myself focusing on them and feeling bad about it. 4. When something goes wrong, it is important to try to identify ALL of the ramifications. It never occurred to me that people would see the "Welcome" message and think they were subscribed to something new. If I had thought of that, I would have mentioned it in my follow-up message and perhaps fended off a few of the requests to get off of the list. (Maybe not... see #1 above!) The next time something goes wrong, think it through calmly before you take action. Then let the chips fall where they may and look at the entire situation as a learning opportunity. If you don't, it just might happen again.