How to admit your mistakes and do it better than Lance Armstrong

Image of man keeping fingers crossed | ViditrainerWant to know how to admit your mistakes? Use Lance Armstrong as a guideline. Well, sort of. Just do the opposite of everything he did.

Lance Armstrong admitted to Oprah yesterday that he had used performance-enhancing drugs for years. I was gutted, but we saw this one coming for a while now, didn’t we?

Lance is a personal hero. I mean, what a story! It takes a very strong person – physically and emotionally – to overcome a terminal disease like cancer. But to follow that up with a superhuman feat of endurance and dedication and win one of the toughest road cycling races no fewer than 7 times! That just happens in fairy tales.

I guess it was a fairy tale that I and many other people wanted to believe in. It reminded us that anything is indeed possible and to be down doesn’t mean you’re out.

So what can we learn from Lance’s mistakes?

1) Honesty is the best policy

Anyone can lie and cheat to get ahead. It’s easy. It might even work for a little while. Hell, it might work forever.

Is that really how you want to achieve your successes? Could you actually enjoy anything based on a foundation of lies? Lance had it all, and he looks pretty dissatisfied and downright sad to me now.

It’s harder to build your business on solid principles and a transparent culture. Harder, yes. More satisfying? Definitely.

2) Winning is important, but it means nothing if you lose everything else in the process

I’ll admit it. I hate losing.

Everybody hates losing a round of golf, the business, an argument, a deal, a client. You name it, we don’t like losing.

You know what I hate more? Losing everything because I lost focus on what’s really important.

What if you just did something you’ll truly be proud of. Wouldn’t that be a huge win in itself?

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3) Don’t compromise your principles for other people and their expectations

We live in a society where we’re expected to win. Parents take their children for music lessons from the age of 3 in the hope that their offspring will be the next musical prodigy. Some get into fights with other parents on spectator stands next to rugby fields when their boys play.

Nobody remembers the girl who came second, right? In sales environments, sales managers tell their agents to remember the ABC. Always Be Closing.

The pressure is on and it’s always on.

Bugger it!

Do your own thing. You will get people who support you if you take your own path. Just ask businesses like Capitec Bank, Google, Dropbox, Zappos and many more. They all went against expectations and established wisdom and made it huge. They all stood for something, though.

  • Capitec believed that South African banks fleece their customers with exorbitant fees and complicated products. One of their founding principles was to make banking simple and affordable.
  • Google believed in ordering the world’s information and making it available freely (if you ignore the ads).
  • Dropbox believed that all your information should be available on all your devices; backed up safely and synced when you made changes.
  • Zappos believed that selling something as simple as shoes could be turned into a fantastic experience if you wowed the customer.

4) People make mistakes. If you make them, own up

For 13 years, Lance Armstrong strongly denied all doping allegations brought against him. In fact, he even starred in adverts proclaiming his supposed strong stance against doping. Awkward!

Most of your clients will give you a second chance if you own up to your mistakes. Some of them won’t. That’s ok. However, if you do not admit your mistakes, be prepared to lose most of your clients.

5) If you have to apologise, do it early on

The number of people who will forgive you for a mistake drops sharply the longer it takes you to admit that mistake. Just ask Lance.

In your business you’re going to have to say sorry at some stage. Do it as soon as possible. Then move on to wow your customer again.

So what about Lance?

I’m going to forgive Lance. I also forgave Hansie Cronje many years ago. What they did was wrong, and we can never condone the action. We can be lenient on the person, though.

Lance and Hansie are in famous company. Here are some other famous people who made terrible mistakes:

To err is human; to forgive, divine

– Alexander Pope

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What do you think?

Will you forgive Lance or not? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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4 Responses to “How to admit your mistakes and do it better than Lance Armstrong”

  1. Annemarie January 21, 2013 at 12:16 #

    Very true. it is better to own up to your mistakes, no matter how hard it might be.

  2. John Bradfield January 21, 2013 at 22:21 #

    Great article!

    LA’s revelations are so disappointing, but a reminder that humans are fallible. I especially like your point #5,

    “If you have to apologise, do it early on.”

    The sooner you make the apology, the better. The longer you wait, the less heart-felt and genuine it may seem to the person on the receiving end!

    • Deon Terblanche January 21, 2013 at 22:35 #


      If you have to do it, do it asap. Lance had been offered an immunity a year or so ago if he testified. Obviously he didn’t. He is going to regret that in the coming weeks and months.

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