Photo by Kenny Eliason 

I’m sitting at a local coffee house here in Timaru. Across the table from me sits my friend. He’s ordered a bucketful sized coffee brimming with three shots, a powdering of chocolate and a jaffa on the side.

It’s going to be one of those conversations I guess, so I close my eyes. He only ever orders three shots when it’s going to be one of those ones.

He lets me outline my day, patiently asking questions and passing quips, but I sense he’s not here to listen to me. That’s ok, he obviously needs to vent.

I’ve made three mistakes in the last couple of weeks, he tells me. I whisper back to him; since when have we been keeping the score and if we are, who is keeping it?

Basically everyone, he says.

That’s a lot of people I tell him. That must be a lot of weight on your shoulders.

He agrees.

How many things have you done right in the last couple of weeks, I ask. He looks at me. I can see him attempting to count things up, but then he gives up.


Who is keeping score of those, I ask?

People make mistakes all the time, it’s what makes us human I tell him. It’s beyond that though; as all animals, insects, and living things make mistakes. Fish take a wrong turn and end in a net; bumble bees fly into a puddle for a drink, but then can’t lift off; cats jump from one point to another, and never quite make it. Mistakes therefore aren’t just what make us human, it’s what makes us a living being.

So I say to him, you’ve never stuffed up before have you?

And he looks back at me with open eyes and says, sure I have, all the time.

Same, I tell him. All the time. And just so he gets it, I say it again; ALL THE TIME.

Now with my eyes closed I tell him to follow these four simple steps.

  1. Name the mistake, and name the feeling it’s giving you. Own it. Take special time to name the emotion and how it makes you feel.
  2. Humanize it – let yourself know that these things happen all the time, to everyone, and they too get the same feelings and emotions. Some handle them better than you for sure, but equally some also handle them worse. It doesn’t matter, it’s a human condition to feel. That is fine.
  3. Now come up with a friendly sentence – if you were sitting in a coffee shop with a mate and they were unloading all this on you, what would be the friendly advice you would give? Write it down if you want. Say it out loud if you want. Make it sound like it’s come from a friend. What would you say?
  4. Now give yourself a timeframe. How long are you going to allow this mistake to make you feel like crap? Is it worth an hour of feeling shit? Is it worth a day? Will it even matter in a week’s time? 

Finally I talk to him about a Japanese concept called Wabi-Sabi. It’s all about finding peace in imperfection, and recognising that nothing in life is perfect. Beauty is found in the flaws, and so too the mistakes, even though it might hurt.

Now I open my eyes and I look across the table. And I see that no one is there. I finish my 3 shot bucket of coffee and get up and walk away.


3 thoughts on “Who’s Keeping The Score?

  1. Sandi Abel says:

    Where do you come up with these pearls of wisdom – you amazing man – as always apprciate putting things in perspective – cheers Sandi

  2. Cheryl Davies-Crook says:

    very clever….
    Self Compassion ( try Dr Kristin Neff) is highly underarted and yet should be a ‘go to’ for everyone…

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