Appreciate Your Happy Accidents!

Have you ever had a “happy accident?” My wife Jean introduced me to the term. She picked it up from watching painting instructor Bob Ross perform his magic on instructional television. He encouraged viewers and students to follow his example in responding to what some people might consider a mistake. I watched him a few times and saw that he did a great job in turning the proverbial lemon into lemonade.
Bob Ross talked about taking mistakes and making something good out of them by yourself. I write about this now because I recently experienced a “happy accident” as a result of someone else reacting positively to a mistake I didn’t even know I made.
Jeff, an officer with a company in the Southwest to whom I have spoken, contacted me via email to ask if he could reprint one of my columns in his corporation’s newsletter. The column deals with building and maintaining trust, and I gladly granted him permission to use it. At the same time, I told him about a presentation, “Individuals Make The Plays – Teams Win The Championships,” which I thought would be good for his group. He wrote back to say it sounded very interesting and asked if I could send him some content material regarding the presentation.
I was out of town when his request arrived, and “my plate was running over” upon my return. But I did eventually send the information to Jeff, or so I thought. I attached it to a brief note that read, “Jeff – here is material regarding ‘Individuals Make The Plays – Teams Win The Championships.’ Clients are enjoying and benefiting from it.”
Now, if the address book in your computer is set up like mine, then you know that when you begin keying in a name the program completes the name after you have keyed in only two or three letters. For example, when I key in “Car,” my program completes the name by filling in “Carol Phillips.” But if I go one letter further and type in “Carl,” the name becomes “Carl Mays.” Even those of you without a computer or without such an address book program can see what I mean.
Well, anyway, to make a long story short, I have more than one Jeff in my computer address book. And, as you have already picked up on by now, I accidentally sent the material to the wrong Jeff.
Time passed and I did not hear from Jeff in the Southwest. But I was busy and I knew that as Director of Public Relations and Advertising he was extremely busy. So I let it pass.
Then, lo and behold, I received an email message from Jeff in the Northeast. He said the material I sent him looked good, he had discussed it with his planning committee, and wanted to know if some certain dates were available. Now, folks, this is what you call a “happy accident!”
Of course, I immediately contacted Jeff in the Southwest, explained the situation to him, and attached the description of the presentation material. And, I double-checked to make sure it was on its way to the correct Jeff. I’m now waiting on his response.
Even though this “happy accident” resulted in booking a speaking engagement, I plan never to be as careless in my communication with email messages. Sending something to the wrong person could result in dire consequences rather than dividends!
I’ll be speaking about effective and ineffective communication at a “Lunch and Learn” meeting on Thursday, May 5, in Sevierville (TN). Sponsored by Mountain National Bank, lunch will be served from 11:30-12:00; I will speak from about 12:00-12:45; and there will be time to talk informally and mingle until 1:30. There is no charge for the event and you can make reservations and get location directions by phoning MNB at (865) 428-7990 before May 2.

Carl Mays, author of 13 books and speaker at over 3,000 events, can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. His books, including A Strategy For Winning, People of Passion, Anatomy Of A Leader, Are We Communicating Yet? and Winning Thoughts, are available in stores, on and


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