Updated: Mar 29, 2021
During an office social gathering around 20 or 25 years ago, my colleague told me a story about one of her friends. She said that this friend was a writer for a magazine and that she reviewed luxury hotels in the United States. However, on one occasion, when my colleague travelled with this friend, her friend was thrilled to find out that the hotel provided toiletries in the bathroom, when this was actually part of the usual hotel practices.
My former colleague told us that she was surprised, as she thought her friend had visited the hotels that she wrote about. My colleague then realised that her friend probably put together those articles from magazines or internet sources, without going to the hotels herself.
This reminds me of my own story. When I was in university, about 34 years ago, the internet was not a thing. Therefore, I had limited knowledge about some things and my world was relatively small, revolving around my university and home.
At my university, I had a friend who came from a wealthy family. She was friendly and had a lot to talk about as she travelled. She had more life experience than I did. One day, I became bored with being her constant listener — just because I had nothing to share. Therefore, when she said that her mom had a 1-carat diamond, I decided to jump into the conversation. I told her that my mom had a 24-carat diamond when I knew nothing about diamonds. I just thought that if gold came in 24 karats, and my mom had such jewellery, why would she not have a 24-carat diamond as well? My friend did not say anything more and we moved on to different topics and with our lives.
When I listened to my former boss’s story, I could not help but think about how many times my friend might have told the story of my 24-carat diamond to her family and friends. I was horrified.
I then decided to own my mistake. I shared my diamond story with my colleagues and then-boss. To my surprise, it did not create as much of a sensation as the hotel story. This made me think, as no one can possibly do everything in this world and no one is perfect, that admitting to not knowing something or admitting our imperfections is not a story worth telling. Because of this, every time I made a mistake at work, I was not afraid to admit it. Instead, I learnt from it and moved on. My experience taught me that people who admit their mistakes, or that they do not know something, are not story-telling material.
So, my note to my younger self: Never pretend to be someone you are not.