Confidence is great—but certainty is for suckers

© Spauln |

© Spauln |

Bill Eastman was never one for self-doubt. Truth be told, he considered it a weakness. Doubt yourself and others will quickly follow. Same with his politics, his religion, his sports teams and his business decisions. Once he made a decision, once he took an action, he was done with uncertainty. He didn’t “think.” He didn’t “believe.” He KNEW.

That’s why when his phone rang in L.A. at 5:30 a.m., he picked up the phone with the certain knowledge that someone else had screwed up.

“This better be good.”

It was an administrative assistant in the New York office. “Sorry about the early call. I’m about to send out the bid you prepared, and I just wanted to be sure you meant to…”

“Meant to what? I wouldn’t have sealed the envelope if I wasn’t sure. Send it in!” He slammed the phone down.

Two minutes later, the phone rang again. He cursed and picked it up.

Did I stutter?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Eastman, it’s just…it’s the estimate on the bid. It doesn’t seem right.”

“Doesn’t seem…who in blazes do you think you are? Do you have an MBA?”

“No sir, I…”

“I didn’t think so! I did the figures myself! Send it in, and don’t you dare call back or your next call will be looking for a job!”

It took all her courage, but she redialed. She waited patiently as he thundered into the phone on the other end, then said: “Nine hundred twenty dollars.”


“The comma is a decimal. We are committing the team to a three-month job for nine hundred twenty dollars. That seemed…well, it seemed low to me.” She paused. “Granted, I don’t have an MBA.”

It was a lesson Bill Eastman wouldn’t soon forget. As he hit SEND on the corrected $920,000 bid, he clicked over and ordered two dozen roses for the woman who had saved his company nearly a million dollars—and surely saved his job.

EVERYONE makes mistakes. It’s not just a cliché. It’s an iron-clad fact. When our inflated egos get us thinking we’ve become impervious to error, it’s our toe catching the rug at the tippy top of a very long staircase. And it’s a long, hard tumble from there.

So the next time you find yourself feeling a little too certain that you’ve beaten the human condition, take just a moment to find your cautious humility. It could save you a very nasty fall.

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