People know that no one is perfect. But hiding the situation from your family, friends, clients or partners is not the answer.

I got three traffic tickets in ONE DAY, all at the same time! I was 16 years old with a brand new driver’s license. This was the most tragic day of my life. I was cited for (1) riding a motorcycle with no helmet in a speed zone that was 40 miles per hour or higher (the law in Logan, Utah at the time), (2) I had run a stop sign in a hurry to get home for another commitment, and (3) I did not have my license on me, earning me three separate tickets. Everything in my life was going totally wrong it seemed. I knew that when my father learned of this disaster I would be the recipient of not only a crushing verbal tongue lashing, but every privilege I enjoyed in the world would be taken from me. Life as I knew it was about to end.

Wait! What if I just didn’t tell him?

Wait! What if I just didn’t tell him? What if I just hid the tickets, or burned them? How would he  know? I could watch the mail and make sure any notices received from the authorities would be filtered out and tossed. I could earn money and pay the fines. Yes, this could work, right? But then I remembered the insurance bill. I learned in driver’s education classes that the authorities would eventually report any traffic incidents to some central database and my insurance company would learn of it and adjust my father’s bill upward. He would of course call them and inquire as to why the increase, and they would dutifully inform him of his felonious son and his crimes against humanity.

To my credit, I decided to “go ugly early” and tell him immediately. Yes, it was tough for a time and I did pay for my crimes, but my father also congratulated me for “coming clean” and owning my mistakes. He added that had I waited, it would have been far worse for me. He said, “These kinds of things are not like fine wine; they do not get better with age.” My interpretation of that statement was, “Go ugly early!”

Go Ugly Early!

Like most folks I have continued to make errors throughout my life — some of them real whoppers — and I have always remembered this lesson on coming clean sooner than later. This principle has served me well throughout my career where the stakes have been much larger in scope and scale, impacting many more lives beyond my own. Each time, whether it was a mistake with a client, or more critically with my wife or family, by “going ugly early” problems have been more easily resolved and relationships maintained, sometimes even strengthened.

People know that no one is perfect. Human error is a part of life. But what people don’t tolerate is hiding the truth, cover ups, and deceit. They prefer to deal with an honest person, company or firm even if imperfect, and will respect you more after you’ve committed the error if you handle it properly. But not being responsible or accountable will usually cost you dearly, to say nothing of the damage to your own self-respect.

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Author Wayland Coker

My goal is to help entrepreneurs learn as much as they can about themselves and their businesses, and the vital connection between the two. I don’t intend this to be a monologue, but a dialogue. Please give me your feedback in the comment sections located at the bottom of each article. I will read every comment and respond as I am able. I am looking forward to connecting with you!

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