If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake. — F. Wikzek
It occurred to me recently, while reading yet another meaningless apology from a celebrity who “Tweeted” something inappropriate, that we’ve become a nation of people who apologize too quickly for the most insignificant things, but who find it difficult to admit when we’re wrong about something that really matters.
Like any new technology, Twitter and other social media have arrived with both advantages and disadvantages, the primary problem being that some people feel the need to make their every thought and deed a public pronouncement.
As humans, we’re designed, ideally, to think before we act or before we speak. Social media, however, has made it possible for our thoughts to instantaneously become public, even when they shouldn’t.
As a result, not a week goes by when we don’t see an apology from a celebrity or a politician who has Tweeted something that would have been better kept to themselves. This practice is so pervasive that the apologies have pretty much become meaningless.
Many times, we see the apology before we’re even aware that someone has said something stupid.
But on the larger issues — and I’m talking mainly about politicians here — it has become incredibly unacceptable to admit a mistake, or even to admit that you’re rethinking an earlier position on an issue.
This has been especially true with the immigration issue at the state level. In the lower Southeast, Georgia was one of the first states to enforce new immigration rules and regulations, followed quickly by Alabama. These laws, whatever their original intent might have been, caused havoc for many farmers, especially fruit and vegetable producers who couldn’t find experienced labor at harvest time.
Nationally, the South was taken to task again for passing and enforcing discriminatory laws, and fair or not, we were reminded of our dark past of civil rights abuses.
So, after seeing what they had wrought, you might expect state legislators and other officials to back up, maybe admit to over-reaching a bit with their immigration “reform.”
If anyone did, I missed it.
At the very least, an apology might have been made to the farmers who lost revenue because they couldn’t find qualified and willing labor, but none was forthcoming, at least none that I was aware of.
Instead, legislators stood their ground. They denied the laws amounted to an unfunded mandate because they required more work of local and state law enforcement professionals who already were stretched to the breaking point due to budget cuts. And as for agriculture, a few surveys were conducted that confirmed losses to farmers because of the new laws, but no real solutions to growers’ labor problems were offered.
In the final analysis, state leaders shirked their responsibility by saying that immigration reform was a federal issue, and that a remedy needed to come from Congress and the Administration. Which begs the question, why did the states become involved in the first place, if making such laws is the province of the federal government?
The politicians had an answer for that. Some of them said that if nothing else, the new immigration laws “made a statement” and helped to jumpstart the conversation on immigration in Washington, D.C.
To that, taxpayers might respectively request that in the future, politicians and others of a similar ilk “make statements” on their own dime.
In Alabama and Georgia, legislators currently are in the process of “tweaking” their immigration laws, but it doesn’t appear these proposed changes will have any impact on agriculture, which brings us back to the wisdom in admitting a mistake.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review makes a good point about the importance of admitting failure or mistakes in a business setting.
Dealing with failure, states the article, is part of being a leader, and the strength of a leader is based not on how perfect he or she is, but on how resiliently they deal with inevitable failures.
None of this is news to farmers, who deal with failure every season, in some form or fashion, whether it be a production method that didn’t work quite as planned or a chemical application that didn’t meet expectations. The really successful ones recognize the problems almost immediately, and they avoid making the same mistakes next year.
Politicians should take a cue.