From four rungs up on the ladder, the tangle of lights on the ground, some blinking, some out completely, resembled a confusing mess of electronic spaghetti. My hands were freezing, and football on TV, yet there I was trying to string up some holiday cheer.
Not long after, while making the step up to the fifth rung on the ladder, swearing I would never do this again the rest of my life, I gave some consideration to whether these lights were a mistake or a bad decision.
Mistakes and bad decisions are not one and the same. Mistakes are accidental, oops situations, if you will. Bad decisions are a choice.
A bad decision means that information was available to you, information that should have influenced your decision, but you ignored it. Common sense dictated that these were the same lights from last year, half of which didn’t work then, either. Yet they cost me almost an entire Saturday on a frozen ladder. I had all the facts, but decided to ignore them and climb the ladder once again. That was clearly a bad decision.
Telling my wife I really didn’t like her haircut shortly after we were married was a mistake. After sleeping on the couch for a few days, I learned that if given the chance, now that I knew the results, saying the same thing again would be a very, very bad decision.
In the ’70s, when George Lucas was negotiating with 20th Century Fox regarding “Star Wars,” the studio secured a lower salary by giving Mr. Lucas 100 percent of the licensing rights for movie merchandise and sequels. Before “Star Wars,” movie merchandise was not a popular trend, and blockbuster sequels were uncommon. That deal turned out to be a $20 billion mistake for the studio.
Due to its presumably unsinkable construction, but more likely as a cost-saving measure, the Titanic was equipped with half the necessary lifeboats required for the number of passengers that a greedy executive planned on carrying across the icy Atlantic. That was a bad decision that ended up costing some 1,517 people their lives. Yes, mistakes and bad decisions are clearly not the same thing.
Now that I am a parent, making sure my son knows the difference between a mistake and a bad decision will be something that gets plenty of attention. Drawing from my youth, I could keep him occupied for hours with a stunning array of examples.
Assuming the riding lawn mower was in reverse when it was, in fact, in third gear: a mistake that cost our insurance company a garage door, and put my right arm in a cast from my elbow to my fingertips.
As the No. 3 child, trying to sneak in the house well past curfew, after my parents spent years apprehending my two older brothers for the same crime: a bad decision that led to several days and nights of house arrest.
Jumping my old bike, hind end sliding off the seat and feet slipping off the pedals on the landing, ending up in a very painful position: a mistake that led to a guest spot singing tenor with the Vienna Boy’s Choir.
Waiting until the last minute to start my essay, after my lit teacher warned me not to: a bad decision that led to even more days and nights of house arrest.
I guess the lesson here is to learn from the mistakes, avoid bad decisions, and by all means, always stick the landing.
Bill Filer writes occasionally for 816. He lives in Harrisonville.