Keeping it Clean

An early lesson in accountability

Photo by Ingo Joseph

Momentum’s two main pillars, collaboration and ownership-accountability, are at the heart of practicing recovery. Some mistakes are unavoidable, but recovery isn’t about being perfect. It’s about how we deal with those unintended results.

That response is what builds integrity, trust, and high performance.

When I was about 9 years old, I was at my friend Michael’s house playing ping pong. Mike was called away for some reason and I was left to play alone for a while. It was a Texas summer in the 1970’s, and the playroom was his renovated garage with no air conditioning.

As I practiced my serve over and over, I didn’t notice the perspiration on my hand that was holding the paddle. On the very next serve, I took a mighty swing, and the paddle left my hand and headed straight for the glass window. Even today, I can still see that paddle flying in slow motion toward disaster as I stood helplessly sweating behind the table. Sure enough, its aim was true, and it demolished the glass.

I stood there for about 2 seconds before I made my escape. I ran home and arrived at a safe environment that was quietly unaware of my misdeed. Mike’s mom hadn’t called to report anything. My mom didn’t know. Mike probably didn’t know yet. Maybe I could get away with it. Maybe I could just never go to Mike’s house again … or maybe it hadn’t really happened. I tried to fit those ideas into reality, but my heart was guiltily beating like never before.

My heart knew the truth and would not let me get away with it.

Then, I quickly had another thought. This was an accident. I didn’t mean to break the window. Maybe, if I just told the truth, I could get on with my day and my life. I told my mom what happened, and she helped me call Mike’s house so I could tell them. I must have used the word, “accident” 20 times, and even though our house was comfortably cool, I was really sweating during that conversation. They were forgiving, and in the end, they responded like it was no big deal.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a, “Who am I going to be?” moment and still has an impact on me today.

I honestly don’t know if I was being a good kid, or if I knew I didn’t have what it took to conjure and sustain a lie. Either way, Mike and I were friends for many years afterwards, and I was able to sleep with a clean conscience that night.

The idea of “keeping it clean” is the greatest reward I see in practicing recovery. Yes, we try to get it right the first time and avoid mistakes. But, knowing we have the ability to clean something up provides freedom, adventure and innovation in moments of business, relationships and life.

What have you gained by cleaning up some impact you had on someone else?

Where did practicing recovery strengthen a relationship in your life?

We love to hear your stories.

Stay safe and keep it clean!


Fundamental of the Week #23: PRACTICE RECOVERY  When mistakes or errors in judgement happen, “own it.” Take the necessary steps to communicate to the appropriate parties, acknowledge your accountability, and set corrective steps in motion. “Get back in the game” quickly.

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