Letter #689: The Oscars & Mistakes

Dear mistakes,

You are inevitable. Whether it’s an unknowing error, a malicious intent or an honest mishap, you are going to happen. Regardless of the method, the truth is you are inescapable. Nobody is excused.

Mistakes will happen, but I would argue that life’s not as much about the actual mistake as it is how we respond to it.

I don’t watch vast amounts of TV, but I was able to catch the opening and ending of the Oscars last night. Truly, it’s the longest show ever! Seriously, Hollywood would give a Baptist preacher a run for his money on what it looks like to push a time limit, but I got sucked into seeing it through. After what I watched play out, I’m glad I did! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it live!

The last award, Hollywood’s elite on the edge of their seats awaiting the winner of Best Picture. The nominees were listed, then Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway opened the envelope to announce Hollywood’s highest mark of achievement. After a confused and slow exchange, Beatty handed the envelope to Dunaway who excitedly announced “La La Land.” Minutes into their acceptance speech, chaos ensued. One of “La La Land’s” producers came to the mic informing everyone a mistake had been made and “Moonlight” was actually the winner. WHAT?!?!?! I’m not going to give anymore play-by-play details on what happened, but if you haven’t seen the exchange it’s worth a few minutes. Honestly, you won’t believe it until you see it for yourself!

Beatty stepped up to the mic to explain. He alluded to the fact he had been given the wrong envelope, the one declaring Emma Stone as best actress from “La La Land.” He explained that was why he took so long to read anything from the card. I felt so bad for him. I’m guessing at 89-years-old many watching could have assumed he simply got confused and read the card incorrectly. However, his explanation has been confirmed, and he was in fact handed the wrong card.

An honest mistake, one that just happened to be incredibly visible! Mistakes are inevitable…even for an organization with millions of dollars invested to pull off an event. But remember, it’s not the mistake that has to define us. How we respond once it’s been made is what matters most.

The damage had already been done, but the quick response to correct their mistake is noteworthy. Taking responsibility for our mistakes is not a fun moment, but it’s always right. Of course life is easier when things happen without error, but that’s not reality. And so we focus on our responses to those errors. We grow in our willingness to admit we were wrong. We walk in humility and make things right even when it makes us look unprepared and honestly like an idiot.

I have zero skin in the game on who actually won the Oscar. I’ve literally only seen three total movies that were even up for awards last night. What I do know is that every human can learn from watching a very public mistake be made. The cast and crew of “La La Land” had to have been disappointed, but they responded with grace. The “Moonlight” team received their Oscar with humility. A mistake was made and was corrected as quickly as possible. Both parties were filled with class, at least in the immediate, on that stage last night. Like any mistake, this can be an opportunity to positively remind people how to appropriately react when mistakes are made. Sure, we can laugh about it, but I also think individuals, our nation and even our world could use this reminder of humility, class and grace.

Today I can guarantee one thing. You won’t make as big of a mistake as the Oscars did last night when they announced the wrong winner for Best Picture. So when you do make a mistake, just remember, you didn’t make it in front of millions of people on live TV. You’re going to be OK. Own your mistake and move on. Operate with humility, class and grace. A new day is coming along with more opportunities! And you will be better the next time because you learned from a mistake you already made.


P.S. If you haven’t seen Justin Timberlake’s opening of “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” you need to!