Before the days of danger represented by the "send" button there existed these things called letters. They involved paper and envelopes and stamps. And, believe it or not, you used this contrapation called a typewriter that required you to use this stuff called whiteout to correct your errors.
And if you were just dumb enough to go through all the effort to type, corrrect and often re-type and re-correct a letter that you should have damn well known not to send, I suspect that is a pretty low bar for stupidity.
Unfortunately, I qualified for just such a grade.
First job out of college. Selling business forms, driving a new car and killing my quota. Enjoying the personal freedom that comes with making the numbers. A little golf and signed out for "cold calls" on Friday afternoon. And yes, the translation is a couple cold beers.
So I'm feeling pretty good.
As the Master of the Business Forms Universe, I submitted a proposal we would refer to as a "quote and hope" to a school system to provide them a boatload of custom forms they required. I was only interested in doing so because the sale if completed would be a "bluebird" that would deliver revenue equal to two month's quota. Little effort, big reward.
And I made the sale.
The terms of the sale stipulated a required date by which the forms were to be received. Before submitting my proposal, I confirmed with our plant that we'd be able to meet that deadline. That phone call and five minutes with a thing we used to call a calculator probably represented the entirety of the effort I undertook in this sales process.
So we're all good, right.
The date the forms were to be received came and went. And, of course I didn't check with the plant to confirm the shipment. That was their job, not mine. And on a day I checked out a bit early (golf I think) my office began receiving a number of angry phone calls for me. (Sorry, meant to remind you all that at one point in time we didn't all have an appendage known as a cell phone.) By the time I strolled in the next morning, the anger level was at a fever pitch - both with the customer and the office staff who had to deal with them and couldn't find me.
Because I was astute enough to recognize this was a real problem, I called the plant even before I poured a cup of coffee.
I got the Plant Manager on the phone. In truth, he was a pro. He'd been at this job for a long time and I'm sure had suffered through dealing with a number of sales types like me. He was very matter of fact. He pulled the order. He said he'd made a mistake. When he first reviewed the order he saw it was for a school system. And, in his experience, orders for school systems were typically small. And he didn't notice how large this order was and messed up the scheduling because of this error.
Of course I was outraged. Mostly because it meant I had to deal with an angry customer. And that wasn't fun.
So I got busy. Found a typewriter. And hammered away at the keys.
The memo as I recall, was at least two pages in length. I probably started it over at least three time. I latched onto a key phrase that I was eminently proud of - that the Plant Manager's excuse represented "lame rationale."
And I carbon copied (you may have to look this up) at least six people at various levels of the company just to make my point.
I signed each copy, put each copy in a separate envelope, put stamps on each one and put them in the mail.
Boy had I showed them.
Then the phones started to ring.
To everyone's credit (even the Plant Manager) the responses I received had a whole lot more education than anger in them.
But I felt the sting.
The memo was foolish. It had no business purpose. It reflected my lack of ownership and my inability to function constructively as a member of a team. It was about ego.
In the years since this episode I've tried to maintain the discipline of not sending anything that reflects anger or similar emotion without waiting 24 hours first.
It doesn't mean I haven't sent letters or emails that make people angry. I've sent plenty. But each time I do, I wait 24 hours, make sure I know why I'm sending it and that I'm willing to stand behind what I'm writing.
I want to be sure to avoid any lame rationale.