Our Greatest Mistake Is Not Making Mistakes

Perhaps in all things, we should strive for improvement with an eye towards excellence. Court reporters have a pretty unique job in that, like it or not, we pretty much spend our days typing hundreds of pages, and our evenings transcribing those same pages from the original stenographic notes to perfect English. We are highly trained, motivated, and generally conditioned to do well in an environment that is, on average, pretty high stress, with words flying at us variable speeds for a random number of hours. Today we have some breaking news: Mistakes happen.

It’s notable that there are many personalities in the field. When it comes to mistakes and how we handle them, I find there are many that emerge, but only three that are very harmful. We must be sure we are not among the three, or at least give some consideration to these words and ideas before you carrying on doing what we’re doing.

1. “Every mistake we make is the end of the world.” We start with this personality because it is the most relatable. Nearly every newbie can have a moment of insecurity, or a time of insecurity. For some, this insecurity carries on well into the career and creates anxiety. Every single mistake makes us feel less and less like a reporter and more and more like this isn’t for us. Stop now. We all make mistakes. Every single one of us makes mistakes. Only by making a mistake, acknowledging that we have made a mistake, and correcting it can we learn and be better reporters. It is all very natural, and we should never stop learning. If you cannot forgive yourself for mistakes, you will not move on, and it may slow your career growth and willingness to take on new and different types of work.

2. “We all make mistakes so it doesn’t matter.” This comes out usually after a short time in the field. We feel that mistakes are so common and so unimportant that we stop caring about them. We stop acknowledging we are making mistakes. We cannot allow this, as it leads to a total stoppage of our professional development and can even cause us to make mistakes the cost us, such as a mistake so egregious it triggers an errors and omissions suit and/or a contract lawsuit.  Who will continue to hire reporters if reporters stop caring about the people hiring them?

3. “We make no mistakes.” Saved the best for last, literally, figuratively, and mockingly. Anyone that has seriously embraced this belief has made a willful choice to stop learning. We believe in experienced reporters, and we believe in their .001% untranslate rate. The problem is not with the lower number of mistakes made. The problem here is 3 has a real bad habit of castigating 1, and acting like 1’s mistake has never ever occurred in the history of reporting. For the safety and security of this profession, we must not allow this mindset. We must embrace making mistakes, and help others through mistakes, because that is the only way people can grow to be good reporters. 

As someone who, just tonight, spilled water on his stenotype and possibly a judge, I will tell you we all make mistakes. At the end of the day, the best we can do is band together and help each other survive the mistake. The least we can do is encourage those we cannot help. With some luck, some guidance, and a whole lot of encouragement, we have seen people bounce back from even the most awkward on-the-job blunders, and so I play my part, and hopefully inspire each reader to not only escape a potentially career-ending mindset, but also to pull others out from under the boulder that is failing to acknowledge and learn from mistakes. Perhaps the simplest way this can be said: Strive to be great at all you do, but do not let great be the enemy of good.

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