Pool & Spa News doesn’t generally make big mistakes.

Sometimes errors appear in the magazine, but overall, we have a pretty solid track record when it comes to journalistic blunders. 

In order to maintain that level of accuracy, I approached this year’s Top 50 issue with special care. We have a smaller staff than in the past, which means fewer eyes are checking every page. In addition, the Top 50 contains a daunting amount of names, titles and numbers, each of which are easy to get wrong. 

It was a very busy week full of stress and tight deadlines, but we got the issue out on time. It turns out my feeling of a job well done was horribly misplaced.

The list of top builders contains an error so embarrassing, so downright stupid, that when I saw it in our advance copy of the magazine the air literally left my lungs. Anthony & Sylvan’s new pool construction has a typo which lowered the number by more than $100 million. (Note: The corrected version of the Top 50 article is posted online.)

Luckily, the grand totals for A&S were correct, and so was the firm’s ranking on our spreadsheet. But this was a very serious error, and the second I saw it I ran over to our page proofs thinking, “I’m going to find who is responsible for this, bring them in my office and…no wait, better calm down first or you’ll make them cry.”

Turns out it was me.

So, after making a very difficult call to Anthony & Sylvan, I went home and obsessed all weekend about my mistake. I Googled “Making Mistakes” to see what experts had to say, and realized that everyone has the same two pieces of wisdom concerning errors. 1) Let it go and 2) Learn from what happened.

But I had my doubts. First of all, how can you let something go if there are long-term consequences? I’m a big believer in personal responsibility, and “Let it go” feels a bit cavalier to me.

As far as learning from what happened, I spent a lot of time thinking about that. What is the lesson? There may have been problems with our in-house checking mechanisms, but on reflection, I believe that’s not where the error occurred. The mistake I made was a more spiritual one.

Anthony & Sylvan’s numbers had been written by me on the margin of the spreadsheet and then typed onto the page. But I don’t remember doing it. Why? Because I wasn’t in the moment. Instead, I was worrying about the next issue, or composing an email in my head, or stressing over how much work I have.

That lack of being here was compounded by the fact that I then spent Saturday and Sunday reliving a mistake that I could no longer change. I missed my own weekend, it’s gone forever, and that spreadsheet was still wrong Monday morning.

Fully inhabiting every moment is the best way to prevent mistakes.

Paying attention to the present now. And now.