Ok, be honest - it's open right now on your computer in another tab. We all check it, even if we know evil geniuses are swimming in a pile of our data like Scrooge McDuck.
I don't use Facebook nearly as much as I used to, though I find it hard to completely abandon due to its business applications (insert request for you to "like" my page here). But if there's one thing Facebook has taught me over the years, it's this:
Everyone is having more fun than I am.
Ha, ha! Of course, I am kidding. But maybe not completely. Even though I logically understand that my friends all have their struggles, I don't tend to ever get any hint of those problems on Facebook. There, it's almost all rainbows, flowers, and puppies... literally. I'm not suggesting people post every time they get a cold or a traffic ticket - just pointing out the nature of the site.
Other than nefarious companies hoovering up our personal information like black holes, maybe that's part of the reason why some of us are soured on Facebook and sites like it. We only see the good - rarely, the bad. As a result, we know the picture we get is a bit hollow, a bit of a facade - because we only see the surface.
(typical Facebook post)
Don't most companies do the same thing? Most make it seem like they've hit a home run with every single customer from day one and now they're pitching no-hitters every game (ok, enough with the baseball metaphors).
When's the last time you saw a plumber mention the time he brought the wrong part and flooded the client's bathroom (happened to me last month)? Or a therapist admit they spent a year with a client who made little progress? Or an accountant divulge he missed a crucial deduction for months before realizing it?
I get it - admitting mistakes in business is counterintuitive. Wouldn't that just scare away prospective clients?
I don't think so. That's why we've decided to talk about a few of our regrets from working with past students:
Vince: A student was consistently scoring in the 34 to 35 range on official practice ACTs. In particular, he almost never made any mistakes on the Science section. "Great!" I thought. "We clearly don't need to spend much - if any - time on Science." So we didn't. On the real test, he got a 25 on Science. I felt terrible, but it was an important lesson - high scores do not necessarily reflect mastery.
Matt: One past student had so much trouble on his SAT homework that we would often spend the whole session going over it. Addressing the immediate need (homework) compromised our time to fully cover other areas of the test. On the first real SAT, he did not do well, and I realized that if a student is having more trouble than usual with the material, it's better to extend the prep time frame rather than attempt the test prematurely.
Bridget: I once found myself working with a student for just a few weeks as she rushed to prepare for the SAT at the last minute. I got caught up in the cramming mentality, over-assigning homework and practice sections that inevitably couldn't be completed in time. I learned it is almost always more beneficial to the student to postpone the test for additional, reasonably paced preparation.
Blake: I was working with a student on the SAT who always had a reason for not doing assignments between tutoring sessions. I realized that she came in to our tutoring with the impression that just showing up would be all that was required for her to make significant improvements. She improved a bit, but nothing close to her potential. I learned that it is important to set expectations ahead of time and work with parents to ensure homework is done.
Bronte: As an instructor who meets with each student only once (maybe twice) a week, it is my goal to make every minute count in our lessons. Several years ago, I was working with an ACT student who had a hard time staying focused. After a few lessons, it became apparent we had made little progress. After I realized I was one of the last events on this kiddo's calendar for the day, I decided to start providing him with a few “breakaway” moments throughout the lesson. Giving him an opportunity to laugh or tell me about himself throughout the tutoring went a long way in keeping him focused.
The Bottom Line
The willingness to acknowledge and share regrets helps us avoid making the same mistake twice, helps us learn from each other, and increases how much the right kind of clients trust us (hopefully).
We're still learning!
P.S. Quick update: We now have a summer SAT class in San Marcos.
Questions For Discussion
1. Have you ever tried to quit Facebook? Did it work?
2. Can you picture Mark Zuckerberg diving into a pile of your data and giggling? (I can.)
3. What's a mistake you've made in your professional life that taught you an important lesson?