I make more mistakes than I care to admit, though I am not afraid to admit them. In fact, last weekend I made a huge mistake when I rear-ended the car in front of me on the freeway. The seatbelts worked well and the airbags deployed as advertised…no one was hurt. My vehicle? Well that’s a different story and a story not worth focusing on. My mistake was following too close to the vehicle in front of me. Though a traumatic experience for my son and me, and a result of the biggest mistake of the week, it was far from my only one. There was nothing unmistakeable about my mistake.

A mistake is an error in action, judgment, or opinion. It is not something that is done intentionally or on purpose, but the result may be no less damaging. Many people have lost their lives as a result of mistakes. Make no mistake about it, I put myself in a mistakable situation. I could have done many things differently that could have prevented my car from making contact with another. I don’t know that I could have created an unmistakable scenario, but I most certainly could have minimized the potential for such a mistake to occur.

I won’t dwell on this particular mistake any longer, but all of this reflection on mistakes has given me reason to think about what it means to be unmistakable. Something that is unmistakable is obvious and clear to all. Something that all can agree on. Something that enjoys consensus and is often grounded in fact. Upon return from a long trip, I enjoy the unmistakable smell of my home, the unmistakable embrace of my wife, and the unmistakable smile of my son. Each is unmistakable because they are familiar to me and unique to them. If you think about it, there are many things in our lives that are unmistakable to each and, in some cases, all of us. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the things we value most in our lives are the things that are unmistakable to us. We value them most because they are difficult or even impossible to replace.

We go to our favorite restaurant because their signature dish is unmistakably theirs. We are loyal to our favorite manufacturers because their design is unmistakably theirs. We lean on the same teammates on a regular basis because the unique value they deliver is unmistakably theirs. When just anything is ‘good enough’ we are less discriminate about where we go to satisfy that need or want. Sometimes the lowest bidder is ‘good enough’. Sometimes quality isn’t important. And sometimes we are fine with indiscriminately assigning a task to just anyone. In essence, we are willing to accept risk and experience mistakes with a “Get ‘er done” philosophy.

True professionals strive to be unmistakable in the eyes of teammates, customers, and loved ones. Too many are OK with being mistaken for another nameless face in the crowd. We will make mistakes and we will fall short, but we should all strive to create a body of work that is unmistakably ours.

  • How are you differentiating yourself from the masses?
  • Have you created anything that has been described as unmistakably yours?
  • Who plays an unmistakable role in your life?