Thursday, September 23, 2010

1.10 Mistakes to Avoid: This Has Saved My Life Often

Physician's Notebooks 1  - - See Homepage.                  
 Update 23 Jan. 2019
 ⑩Minimize Mistake  
To avoid a mistake, it needs more than just your own decision: it needs constant attention, it should be a joint-venture with family member(s) or close friends meeting for Seminar using this chapter as core and building on it from each individual experience. It also needs humility. No matter how brilliant you think you are; one day you may fall on your face.
   The following  column is in order of appearance in text; to read a heading use search & find or scroll: (New, very recent  additions are at top of the column)
Decisions or Ideas Made Under Fear, too Quickly 
Do Not Jump to Conclusion
Big Mistake – Signing Contract
Married You Can Always Get
For the Young Married, do not start joint project
Speaking When You Are Not Sure or Too Soon
Mistaken Lifelong Assumptions
Call-or-Check-Before-Going-or-Doing Mistake
Mistaken Calendar or Timepiece
Buying Mistakes
Keeping One’s Word
Misapprehension: Misreading, mishearing, misunderstanding
The Disconnect or "Wrong Door for My Key" Mistake
Mistakes of Telephoning, especially Overseas Calling
Dying/death Mistakes
Management of death and disposal of body 
Missed Appointments
The Not Asking Mistake
The “too quick” mistake
The "too slow" mistake (Delayed reaction time)
Mailing, Typing, Printing, Copying and Publishing
Furry or Other Large Animal Pet   
End notes

Decisions or Ideas Made Under Fear, too QuicklyExample is a person with too much money fearing the tax authority. In one case, a woman who had illegally earned the money and not reported it, put it into her underage daughter's name in a bank account. When the daughter came of age relations had reversed and the daughter realizing she owned the account refused to allow the mother access to the account while the mother helplessly, angrily stood by. From the French, it is having been hoisted by one's own petard, ie, acting to fool someone else but ending up fooling one's self. In another tax avoidance case a physician hoping to hide his unreported income decided to put it in a foreign bank and several years later the bank went kaput; in another case, a doctor did a similar thing and 10 years later the US passed the FATCA law that forced his foreign bank to reveal all foreign accounts and he lost loads of money on lawyer fees and IRS penalties. The lesson is: when you feel you must act under pressure of fear, especially a paranoia type fear, go very, very slow; seek the best, firstly free, advice and consider all the bad things that could go wrong if you carry out the decision. Also, do not hide from tax payments.

Do Not Jump to Conclusion is an advice that will prevent big mistake. Just because something seems at the moment obvious to you ought to be a red flasher to look for an alternative explanation, eg, "He's out to get me!" ought to suggest "I may be paranoid, right now!"

Big Mistake – Signing Contract: I cannot emphasize enough this mistake. When you are offered a contract you are almost always euphoric because being offered something grand: a book contract for best seller and all that goes with it, a business contract that will make you lots of money. But stop! An absolute rule before signing is Take it slow! Think of all that may go wrong. Nothing bad ever happens by not signing a contract at first sight. If the contract will truly benefit you, it will still benefit signing later than signing sooner.
   Married You Can Always Get is the most important contract. Realize that marriage puts big limitations on your possibilities. First, you could get stuck with a loser and lose a chance if a gem comes along. Second, the financial cost of marriage may block education or hinder advancement. Examples of other limitations abound. As with any contract, so much can go wrong. The problem is that singles, for differing reasons at all ages, feel pressure to marry. Married joys you can always get without getting married. Just say No. Especially is this so for homosexuals who wish to marry same sex. Presently there is a great propaganda pushing homosexuals into same-sex marriage. Nothing is gained but a sentimental short term feel-good. But, stop and think: you lose your freedom; and once you marry, a decision to go your own way is fraught with lawsuit risks.  Another situation, most common among old men is marrying in order to be allowed to have sex with a younger woman.
   For the Young Married, do not start joint project (having baby, buying home) without careful consideration. This is so often ignored I cannot overemphasize. When you start a new thing (move into a new home, buy a new car) that will call for new purchase, then wait a week (with a potential marriage partner bugging you to get married wait a year) and during that time carefully consider alternatives. 

Speaking When You Are Not Sure or Too Soon: CHECK FACT BEFORE OPINION! Or do as philosopher Wittgenstein suggests: Of what one does not know, one should not speak. This also extends to action or decision based on incomplete or erroneous data and is major cause of massive life error. Before acting or deciding on action, get the facts and make sure they are accurate! Be a bug about it and be patient.
   Speaking too soon! For example, say you receive important long awaited news you tell others about too quickly; then, minutes later, you get a phone call that it has been reversed. Also, do not inform or announce an important decision that will be carried out at later date.  Unless there are reasons against, delay speaking until the need to give the information arises.
Mistaken Lifelong Assumptions: “Factoid” or idée fixe (fixed wrong idea) believed to be a sure fact when it is actually a complete mistake can be trivial, like my fixed idea that Jewish temple is spelled “synogog”, which caused me to misspell it and look stupid, and, later, to waste time looking it up and not find it in dictionary because I refused to consider it might be spelled syna--. Or, more serious, my mistaken belief at age 20 that having sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstruation is the most probable time to get her pregnant (Actually the exact opposite of the truth!)
   It is shocking how many persons (You too!) cling to wrong fact. Solution is to be humble about what you believe or think you know and to develop compulsiveness to check fact or belief, no matter how trivial. Get in the habit of hitting Ctrl + tab keyboard shortcut and checking Internet Wikipedia to get your facts straight.

Call-or-Check-Before-Going-or-Doing Mistake: How many times have you carried out a plan to go some place only to find it closed or relocated or the person you wished to visit not available or the document you thought you would obtain not ready or been transferred to another location? For me, too many times. Always call ahead to be sure the person or place you wish to visit or the object you wish to obtain is still at the given address and still available. Be a bug. Do not leave anything to chance. Also be sure you check with the primary source. Recently I lost my bank money card. Happily, a day later I found out that my lost card was at the local police station where it had been brought after having been found on a subway car in which it had dropped to the floor from my overloaded pocket. The letter instructed me to go to the police station to pick up the lost-and-found card. It had the station's address and phone number. Without calling ahead to the primary source (the police station) I went to pick up my card as the letter instructed. But when I got to the police station I was told the card had been already transferred to the central Tokyo lost and found at the other end of Tokyo. I wasted several hours because I did not check with the primary source. 
   A related mistake is choosing a wrong direction. Recently I stayed overnight in New Jersey and early morning found myself waiting on a street for express bus into Manhattan.  A lady on the opposite side of street going into Manhattan noticed me standing there and shouted "Hey, you're on the wrong side for Manhattan". On an unfamiliar route never assume you are in the right direction. Ask! Ask! Ask!
   A related and even more serious mistake is not checking a plan or situation ahead of time and then being bitterly disappointed to the extent you must cancel or reverse an expensive, extensive plan. An example was a Japanese university student who enrolled in a 1-year foreign study course as part of her university's study abroad program. She paid good money and arranged for a 1-year apartment lease without visiting the location ahead of time. She arrived and was bitterly disappointed with accommodations and study environment and after a few weeks ended up canceling it all at a loss of money and dislocation of her study plans. In such situations, it is best to do an on-the-spot preliminary check visit, or at least check others' experiences on the Internet before enrolling in whatever overseas or far-away program.

Mistaken Calendar or Timepiece: Not infrequently I mistake a date because of not noticing that I had used a last year’s or last month's calendar still showing on wall or desk. Also to mistake the hour for making an overseas call because timepiece is set for wrong zone, or has 12-hr confusion of AM-PM. This is problem particular to jet-setter like I, who calls distant time zone and ends losing the international call because no one is at company desk at

Buying Mistakes: Neglecting to check what’s inside a product you buy, like a book or magazine that seems to have the title you want: For example, I recently decided to buy the 4th edition of a medical tome, Fundamental Neuroscience, whose 3rd edition, I admired. So I asked my medical books store to order me Fundamental Neuroscience 4th edition and even showed the clerk a copy of front cover. A few days later the book arrived, It had Fundamental Neuroscience, in big white title letters, and just under in smaller yellow script for Basic and Clinical Applications, 4th Edition. I understood the yellow script not to be part of the title but an explanatory subtitle and bought the book for $125 only to too late discover that it was a completely different publication with a similar front title. Here is a mistake that could have been avoided by more carefully checking the exactness of title, publisher and content before buying. Another example occurred in the days before DVD: I gave my friend a gift of what I thought to be classic movie on video cassette because that is what it said on cover. Imagine my embarrassment when he later informed me that it turned out a porno print. A variation of this mistake is buying expensive antique magazine without leafing through it ahead of time, which would have discovered pages defaced or missing or serial page number error. From book to Video Cassette to between magazine covers, always check the title and content of product you plan to buy to be sure there has been no switching or internal damage or misleading title. If a book, open it and see that the publisher, authors and material is what you expected to get. This extends to even checking doctor's prescription (Rx). Recently my doctor wrote an Rx that included unneeded medication and it wasted my money. Read carefully before paying money for any product! Even bagged products should have the bag opened to check that nothing has been left out.
Buying a large supply of an item you are not sure you will like or need. For example, I asked my doctor to prescribe a medicine I was not really sure of and mindlessly asked for 90-day supply only to discover at the pharmacy it was something I would never take. Or buying several models of an equipment that turns out to be a lemon (completely unusable). Think before you order something and if you are just experimenting around, only buy a small sample to check and see.
Buying Mindlessly as a Zombie Response: (In clinical neurology, a zombie response is a mindless action or behavior performed as a kind of programmed reflex to a particular experienced situation) Recently I was on vacation in NYC and stopped by a sporting goods store where several years ago I bought a fishing rod and reel. I was very tired from my day's activities and very hyped up to buy the said fishing gear for tomorrow's surf casting fishing expedition. When the salesman said "Sorry we no longer carry the model you are asking for" and offered an inexpensive but bulky and more complex rod and reel model I impatiently, because I was very weary but programmed to buy the product, bought it. But later at home I found it was too complex and too bulky to use and ended up throwing it in the garbage. Think before you buy! Do I really want and can I actually use what is being offered. Also be aware of the zombie response,  ie, especially if you are fatigued yet hot to go on buying a product, bend over backwards to go slow on a buy. Actually I could have got the product I wanted had I waited till the next day but my zombie response undid me.
Keeping One’s Word: “Her word was given, she was to be his wife though all her life she must regret it.” are words from a 1925 magazine story and epitomize a life mistake, ie, being lured into making an oral promise not in one’s best interest, and then, in making a fetish out of “keeping one’s word”, ending up ruining one’s life.
“To be willing to change one's mind and break a promise” ought to be the gold rule of preventing massive mistakes. Under normal circumstances, one tries to live up to one’s word as much as is consistent with survival. But never get carried away to the extent it becomes your Golden Rule. Basically it is part of the wisdom of keeping one's mind flexible and open to change even down to last minute decision-making. You may have promised to marry the guy; but misbegotten marriage is a life-sentence to misery, and if it gives you a bad intuition, break the promise. Do not give your word easily or quickly.
Any decision can always be delayed or changed and carried out in modified form on another day if re-analysis shows it is not the right course for the moment; but getting into long-lasting legal or social entanglement because one wants to “keep one’s word” can be the height of folly and prove more immoral in its ability to involve one in evil than intelligently going back on a promise that should never have been made.

Misapprehension: Misreading, mishearing, misunderstanding, and misinterpreting of an event may get one into trouble. Also mis-typing and mis-dialing/digiting. I once read a magazine story in which a character is referred to by the name ‘Scoland’. It took several pages to realize his name was not ‘Scotland’, a benign misreading, but it is one example of how a similar-sounded and -spelled word can fool one's brain. Then, there is overlooking key words. Just today at 2 PM I got a message to call a doctor in Bangkok and it read "She will be available until 6 PM" and I overlooked the "until" and assumed I should call 6 PM and missed important information. Also missing or overlooking a repeated, extra, same-number digit or mistaking a digit in a number. Mis-hearing or mis-interpretation can be a source of serious disagreement, especially if one is in a paranoid mind set and thinks it something bad about one's self when actually it’s an innocent same-sound word. And many other mistakes. Prevention starts with just being alert. And with important messages make it a habit to re-read or re check the source. If you are telephoning and digit a number and get a repeated busy sound, then you ought to start to think I must be repeating or mistaking a digit somewhere in the number. And whenever you read or hear or sense something you think has bad meaning against yourself, use the rote of over compensation that I call “anti-paranoia” and say to yourself, “I must be interpreting this wrongly; so let me carefully check it again to be sure what it really means.”
And if you are old with failing hearing, always be alert against your own mishearing. Recently I got instructions on my mobile phone for an important address I was headed for and I heard "3 John Street". I wasted hours trying to find the "John Street" only to discover the address was actually "3 Stone Street". If you have poor hearing, try to rely as much as possible on a younger companion for aural instructions, especially when the address you think you are looking for does not seem to be in the place you expected.

The Disconnect or "Wrong Door for My Key" Mistake  is an important variety Example: when you find yourself before a door you think is your own but your key doesn't fit, immediately think Wrong door because wrong floor or wrong section of building. Or, as just happened to me, I was asked to get a doctor's report on a patient and noted his date-of-birth year, 1990, for a coronary heart disease case but the "1990" was a disconnect from the diagnosis because a too-young age patient for coronary heart disease. Next day I discovered the patient name on the request was a wrong name for the case. Or yet just yesterday, my assistant, who I only need to come work for me on weekdays because the regular staff might object, told me she will come at a weekday time and I thought "Is she going crazy?" but then realized it must be a national holiday! And it was. There are many variations so use your imaginings and whenever you get a disconnect feeling, think Mistake!

Mistakes of Telephoning, especially Overseas Calling are important to me because my work involves making and receiving overseas calls every day by mobile or land phone. So I am a practical expert in mistakes.
First, if you are using a mobile, be sure it is not low battery as you start. Then check your reception signal that it is not blocked. "Elementary, my Dear Watson!" you say! But these mistakes happen and ruin a life-saving call.
  Calling overseas by direct digiting you start with your international access code (from North America 011-) then country code of your call (to Japan, -81-) then local area code (to Tokyo, 03). Here is where a very common mistake happens. Many local area codes in all countries start with 0 or 0's (like 03 for Tokyo). If you are calling the number there from outside the country, usually you must delete the initial 0 (If you do not, you won't get your call through). The one exception I know is to Italy where you do not delete it. What often happens is: you are given a number (like a call to Germany from USA) 011 49 0149 26000 and you digit it but all you get is a constant busy signal. Immediately you should suspect that the 0 of 0149 ought to be deleted.
  Also if you are calling overseas from a mobile and it seems blocked but borderline, often simply opening a window or going outside your door will unblock it.
   Then be sure your ring signal is maximally loud and your mobile is not set on "manner" (No ring or buzz at start). 
   Then, if you digit a number and get a persistent busy, and it is very important to get through, try the number in the next higher or lower 1 by 1 series, ie, if you are calling -234-5231 and get a repeated busy, try -234-5232 or -234-5230.
   Finally Persistence! It often happens that I need to make an important call overseas and when I digit the number, it gives a ring or busy signal many times. Sometimes that happens two or three times. But if it's important, I do not give up, and usually I succeed and eventually get the person I want who just happened to be away from his phone and did not turn it off. So like the famous Scotsman, Robert of Bruce; if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.
   If any reader has other advice, please comment.

Dying/death Mistakes. This involves money and lawsuit concerning an event (death) that persons do not like to consider beforehand, ie, disposals of property and money. I call this the head-off and the hand-off consideration: Heading off a dissension among heirs by dialog before the death; and if that is not possible, handing off the major part of the estate by the dying person. Obviously, each individual starts from a different situation and possibilities. If money is involved, a simple, informal dispensing of it by the dying person, before getting into hospital is best. It can avoid lawsuits and tax if done well. Obviously, there are situations where this is difficult but I warn against the following, which I have, too often seen, get the heirs into legal problems: Trusts (attract legal looters, usually trustees, see the case of Averell Harriman and the novels of Louis Auchincloss). A bank money card to empty the account give a person more freedom and flexibility of maneuver.
   I am purposely vague because there are too many individual variables to make a micromanaged advice but I think if my points are followed, then a good transition of materials and living situations can be effected. Leave nothing to chance or guesswork and do not wait until the dying/death is hours away.
Management of death and disposal of body. In many cases death will occur in hospital, nursing home or hospice. If the plan is to manage it in a way to avoid provoking a lawsuit, the dying person while still in undisturbed consciousness should make a letter of intent very specifically giving directions for action. It should be brief and direct. It should have bystander type witness and all signatures notarized at the same time. No lawyer or accountant need be contracted but, informally, those opinions may be obtained and, at times, a psychiatric consultation attesting to the dying person's state of mind may be obtained. I find living wills are worse than useless – they are usually ignored in controversial parts and tend to provoke contention, and they involve a lawyer and fee. The dying moments should be witnessed by the responsible person ideally in the presence of physician or nurse. Once the person has been declared dead, do not waste a moment. If you are entitled, request possession of the death certificate copy at once. It will be a key to getting the necessities done speedily. Do not compromise. Be insistent and even impatient. It is the right of the responsible party to get the death certificate and there should be no charge. Disposal of the body, ideally (least expensive, absence of meddlesome others) is best by cremation (burning to ashes & bones). Try to bypass the funeral home which introduces big expense and delay. Cemeteries will provide cremation and disposal of ashes for c. $500 (in USA, Year 2012) but they cannot arrange for transport of the body. So the responsible party should be prepared to transport the body by ambulance service (sometimes a funeral parlor may provide it) from hospital or nursing home to cemetery. Transport services can be accessed from Yellow Pages or hospital or, of course, the Internet. The sequence is: dying/death, certification and its paper in hand, ambulance transport of body to the alerted cemetery, and cremation and disposal by cemetery. Do not wait a minute because of time of day or night or other inconvenience. Approach the death with a game plan. (For useful fictional account, click 12.(46-51): Deterioration, Death, Disposal, Denou...
Missed Appointments: The mistaken appointment in its variations – mistaken time of day or date, of place, or even of person (Also airport arrival where plane arrives early or late or the traveler you are supposed to meet has been bumped from flight and has not informed you) – happens much and loses us time, energy, opportunity. Occasionally it leads to death from someone hurrying and having accident or heart attack. If you analyze this mistake, it could just as well fall under mistake of mis-assumption, or be due to impatience (in not taking time to confirm), or to not calling ahead or checking ahead. The most effective preventive is to have a metaphoric red flare in your mind on an appointment. And use cell phones for on-the-spot finding of missing person. Make it rule to get a meeting's exact place and time, down to the minute and also cell phone numbers and recheck the data (because origin of mistake could be the other party) by calling the party on day of appointment to reconfirm. On arrival, check airline to last minute. And when someone is meeting another at an airport be sure you both know the correct arrival terminal down to the exit point for the meeting.

The Not Asking Mistake whatever its cause, can be headed off with patience to ask. A case of deadly impatience follows: A 45-year-old lady buys an antique 2-story house in Boston. Despite being rich enough to afford hired help, she is an impatient do-it-yourself person who likes to act first and not to call ahead to ask. The house has an old shellac-finished staircase she wants to cleanup so she spends a day on her knees like a charwoman with bucket of turpentine on floor beside her, scrubbing old shellac off stair, immersed in fumes as she works without protective gas mask. Feels dizzy afterward but shrugs it off and next morning seems good as new. Several months pass and she notes increasing fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling ankles. A year later after time-consuming, expensive consultations and tests she is diagnosed as toxic cardiomyopathy, a disease due to heart muscle subjected to chemical poisoning (various organic poisons including turpentine fume) which causes individual irreplaceable heart muscle fibers to die slowly over years. And after enough of them have died, the poison victim's heart fails. The lady ended up living 5 more years, only because of expensive heart transplant that left her an invalid, dying slowly. This whole unhappy, costly, painful and financially exhausting effort was caused by a misapprehension of safety in her cleaning behavior compounded by impatience preventing what a little common sense ought to dictate everyone to do when engaged in potentially dangerous behavior: Call ahead to check with authority whether an action is dangerous or not and then take precaution.

The “too quick” mistake is a movement accident as walking into glass door. (Just happened to my assistant because she went  out to buy a snack late at night just having got up from sleep and was still too unalert) Or an impulsive decision, eg, years ago I angrily terminated an account suddenly because of bad treatment by clerk in bank. Later I realized the jackass I’d been because the account was performing invaluable service. “Too quick” also verges into “reaction mistake” ie, strong emotional reaction to a minor event. Another variation of impulsive decision is sending money to help in what seems emergency. Recently my friend got an email that his grandson's wife was in an auto accident in a foreign country and several thousand dollars needed to be wired immediately for her surgery. He followed instructions and next day discovered it was a scam. Never respond too quickly. Always check alternative sources.
   Howard Hughes, billionaire, made his billions by taking almost forever for decision (eg, buying Trans World Airlines, the price kept dropping while he waited). The World War 2 General and postwar U.S. President Eisenhower’s rule was to wait 6 hours before deciding what to do in emergency. If you are not sure of a decision – call a stop in order to delay and think it out. A few years ago I was ordering eyeglasses in Tokyo and the optician quoted a ridiculously high price. I could have had the glasses made free by waiting a month to go to NYC where my Medicare insurance would have paid but, impatient and euphoric, I too quickly agreed to the order. Go slow! Unfortunately, it just happened again today in 2017. Intent on buying inexpensive footwear but impatient, I got a pair of shoes without testing the feel of wearing them and almost immediately after the purchase realized from the sore feeling of wearing the shoes that I'd made a 2000-Yen mistake. Go slow! Test before you buy!

The "too slow" mistake (Delayed reaction time) is at the opposite extremeIf you think something that may affect your well-being has gone wrong, been neglected, been done in error, instead of reacting too slow, immediately speak up to the authority in charge.

Mailing, Typing, Printing, Copying and Publishing Lack of patience is basic here. One type is seen in sending and addressing. Under the urge to too quickly get your words before other eyes, how many times have you neglected to include important additional comment and been forced to write another letter due to your too quick incomplete communication? Also, what about mistake of typing or other word mistake, which you only see on rereading just after sending fax or email and that forces you to immediately retype and resend corrected version? Or writing something under influence of strong emotion – anger, lust, etc. – that – after you send it – you regret doing and it ends up costing you friendship or love of best friend or close relative? If you have insight to admit error, the answer is: too many, too much! Slow down impatience to get message off. With postal letter I let it lie on my desk 24 hours and then review it carefully, sometimes more than once. And even after it passes my review I do not seal it into envelope until about to drop it in box. Fax and email have greatly increased this error because of ease of rapid reply. Important reply and serious correspondence should be by postal snail mail.
   Publishing is an area of wasted time and money for writers. Basic mistake comes from impatience to get the writing in front of reader(s) and to rush writing and, while still full of error of typing, style, content and psychological intent, to print it and send it or make copies, or even spend dollars on vanity publishing a manuscript miserably error-ridden. Never pay to publish. In these last several years the free electronic publishing on sites like have safely satisfied this desire of an unpublished author to get his work read and allowed him to correct the errors by constant up editing, as I do here.

Furry or Other Large Animal Pet is a bad mistake via children. Parents must have plan to keep their children from the furry or other large pets. Large pets are part of the overpopulation problem afflicting Earth. Furry or other large pets divert money that could be saved to save you from salary slavery, and they waste energy you might better use for improving self, and pets are unhealthy. As an adult, having a pet for a good purpose –companionship for single person, guide for blind - may be rational; but do not get one because you get emotional or want a baby or because of your child's desire. And getting photographed with your pet - though it may satisfy your self image - causes many viewers to think What a dumb dodo! (And not about the pet; about you!)

End notes: In USA, A woman contracts with builder to build house. She pays $174,000 in illegally earned cash and the builder deposits it in bank. The tax office is alerted because U.S. banks file a special currency transaction report for cash transaction more than $10,000. The woman adds to the error by hounding the builder on a final adjustment so much that he places anonymous call to tax office (He had no knowledge the bank had already alerted them) reporting she paid entirely in cash. Lesson: be aware of bank requirement for cash transactions and if you are involving someone in fishy business, at least be nice mannered.
Karma of Mistake is the delayed error. Like 5 yrs ago you allowed a then loving wife to know you cheated on tax return; now angry over decision to divorce, she calls the tax office and informs on you. Always consider the delayed bad effect!
   To read next now, click 1.11 Ideas that Work/Invention/No Longer Needed/Ne...

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