Is Your First Fact Flawed or False?
The door that wouldn’t close (0:10)
My perfect storm (2:05)
A much more effective approach (3:50)
That flawed first fact (5:20)
How about you? (8:35)
Is Your First Fact Flawed or False?
The Door that Wouldn’t Close
I was heading out to dinner with my partner and some friends last weekend when I accidentally hit a button on the dashboard of our new car. I meant to release the parking brake, and instead, I hit what I believed to be the rear door’s liftgate control.
I jumped out of the car, pushed the liftgate shut, and then jumped back in the car and reversed out of the garage.
Our friends were in the back seat, and my partner – who is on call for her clients 24/7 – was on the phone in regard to an unexpected hospitalization. We were part way down the street when I noticed a warning light on the dashboard. I assumed that the door had not closed all the way, so I pulled over and jumped out. This time, I opened it all the way using the car’s exterior button and then, again, closed it.
In between trying to comfort her client’s family and worrying about the new car, my partner kept muting her call and saying, “What’s wrong? What’s going on with the car?”
I didn’t know what was wrong with the car. I’d closed the rear door – twice! – but there was still a warning light showing that it was open.
I was starting to get anxious because:
We were bordering on being late for our reservation at a very busy restaurant.
Our patient friends didn’t join us thinking the evening would be intense.
I didn’t know what was wrong with the car.
I was worried about her client’s family.
My Perfect Storm
This is a kind of perfect storm for me. At times like that, I can start feeling really anxious, and that’s when I stop thinking and problem-solving clearly.
Our friends assured me they were fine, nothing to worry about, but the warning light still would not go off. My partner decided to do the jumping out and fixing the next time, and still, that warning light would not turn off.
We drove to the restaurant discussing all the things we’d have to do now, including taking the car back to the dealership for repair. Oh man, was that frustrating; neither of us has time for that.
When we got to the restaurant, my partner and one of our friends went in to hold our table while I tried again and again to fix the problem: Turn the car off. Open and close the rear door. Turn the car on, hoping the computer glitch had cleared out. Repeat.
Nothing. Nothing! Every time I turned the car on, the warning light was still there.
I brought the car’s giant manual into the restaurant so we could look through it during dinner, and none of us found anything about the rear door’s warning light, let alone how to get it to turn off. Finally, we all surmised that it was some kind of computer error, and the only way to get it fixed would be to return it to the dealer.
A Much More Effective Approach
Early the next morning, my partner ran off to the hospital, taking my car due to the malfunction in the new car, and I lay in bed with my coffee thinking, “Okay, I need to approach this one more time … but this time, I want to approach it with a quiet head and a balanced heart.”
I got up, took my coffee out to the garage, and I sat in the car asking for an answer. I pulled out the manual again, and as I looked through its index, it hit me: What if my first fact was wrong?
My first fact was that the warning light indicated a problem with the rear door. I looked through the list of warning lights, and I noticed the term “hood latch” – hmm!
I jumped out, pushed down on the car’s hood and, sure enough, it clicked shut. I got in the car, turned on the engine, and the warning light was gone.
That Flawed First Fact
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve taken off running in a direction based on a first fact that is flawed or false.
Sometimes I find out quickly, but sometimes the roadblocks, barriers, and failures aren’t quick to reveal themselves, and it takes a lot longer. Sometimes, I’ve invested a lot of time and energy before realizing that I was headed in the wrong direction from the start.
Many times, I can get back to double-checking the first fact right away, but the difference for me is—
If there is time pressure,
If there are many voices and opinions coming at me at the same time, and
If I am feeling really vulnerable…
…then it is highly unlikely that I am going to remember to pause and go backward in order to move forward.
It happened to me again just this morning.
It was on my calendar that the first in a series of online meetings (that I was very eager to attend) was to begin today at 9:30 a.m. I went to sign on, but I couldn’t find the link or the invitation – but there it was on my calendar.
I double-checked my calendar several times to make sure I had the correct date and time, and then I emailed and messaged everyone I could think of, nearly hysterical because I thought I was going to miss it.
Honestly, I was almost on the verge of tears because I couldn’t access the meeting. My heart was pounding, and I was panicking. If I missed this meeting, there wouldn’t be another one until next month, and I was really looking forward to it.
Then a friend emailed me back with a link to the published schedule that showed the first session is in February – weeks away, not today.
I know that my frantic emails and messages caused at least a little chaos and wasted time for those who read them and then questioned themselves – who else came to think that they were missing something?
I was the cause of others, as well as myself, wasting our most valuable resource – time. All because I did not go back to confirm my first fact; I just kept proceeding, trying to access a meeting that wasn’t even happening!
How About You?
I’m wondering: How many times in your life or your work has this happened to you?
Are there any situations you are struggling with right now that could benefit from a return to the first fact to check for flaws?
In horsemanship, we are frequently told that if the ride is sloppy:
Go back to the fundamentals.
Go slower to go faster.
Pause and restart rather than try to make a correction while moving at speed.
I don’t know why I have to learn this lesson again and again, but I intend for this to be the very last time.