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"They Fumbled at the One-Yard Line"

When you were in school, did you ever do something off-the-charts foolish? Not on purpose?

My freshman year of college toward the end of fall term, in the one course in which I was earning a solid A, I slept through the final exam.

Admit it: You're glad this happened to me and not to you! The Latin II test, which counted for a big chunk of our course grade, took place at 8 am. But when I woke up, my room was filled with daylight and the clock showed something like 10:43. Bummer.

I don't recall the panicked discussion that followed, but I still remember the professor's response. He wasn't pleased, obviously. But in his infinite mercy, he let me take a harder version of the original exam. He might have also knocked my test grade down a peg, but who cared? I got off easy, and I knew it.

The entire Latin II incident came flooding back when I read in a recent news article, "They fumbled at the one-yard line." And I started thinking of all the ways this phenomenon—blowing something crucial right on the edge of victory—shows up in the business world. A few examples:

  • The job candidate who makes a good impression on paper, but shows up to the interview late, unprepared, or both (or sleeps through it)
  • The job candidate who interviews well, but loses out to the candidate who also interviews well—and who sent a thoughtful, well-timed thank-you note after the interview was over
  • The leader who spends a lifetime earning the role, then casually and repeatedly breaks the trust of those around her
  • The sales rep who spends hours, weeks or months earning your business, but drops the ball when you're ready to buy—or talks your ear off until you're no longer interested
How do you respond when someone does one of the above or some variation? I've learned with people in general and students in particular to be merciful when possible, just as my Latin II professor was merciful with me.

But when fumbling is a pattern, that's a different story. I once heard someone say, "We will forgive, but we will not rehire." Sometimes we have to 'not rehire' in order to forgive.

What about in your life?

Think of something crucial you're aiming to achieve, personally or professionally—something you truly care about. Why not identify specific steps you can take to carry your goal through to completion, rather than letting your dream disappear on the one-yard line? Those steps could be as simple as writing yourself a reminder to follow up, shining your shoes before an important meeting, or setting an extra alarm.

P.S. Do you have any students in your social circle? I invite you to gift them with a copy of Ultimate Reminders for College Students. The dean of student life from Johns Hopkins University called it "A fun read, full of advice, wisdom, and humor."

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Gina DeLapa is America's Ultimate Reminders® Coach, a sought-after speaker, and the proud creator of the Ultimate Reminders® book series. Her wise and witty reminders ("Beware the organization whose response to a burning building is to form a committee") will make you laugh, stir your soul, and inspire your best. If you're not already getting her free Monday-Morning Pep Talk, be sure to sign up now at