Dale Carnegie believed in the power of admitting one’s mistakes – believed so much, in fact, that this makes up his twelfth human relations principle:
If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
Thirty-two years after the release of Carnegie’s seminal work, How To Win Friends and Influence People, this principle was put to excellent use by Captain Kohei Asoh, a Japanese commercial airline pilot.
On the morning of November 22, 1968, Captain Asoh was landing a plane at San Francisco International Airport when he missed the runway by two and a half miles, landing instead in shallow water near Coyote Point Harbor. Luckily, none of the ninety-six passengers or eleven crew members were injured during the missed landing, but the plane itself suffered $4 million in damages.
Asoh is not remembered for merely flubbing the landing, however. His notoriety came instead from how he conducted himself after the fact.
During the investigation held by the National Transportation Safety Board, Captain Asoh was called to testify at a hearing about what happened that day, and this is where he proved himself as a leader.
Despite excuses that Asoh might have employed, like poor visibility due to weather, and unfamiliarity with the landing gear, the Captain instead chose to take full responsibility for the crash: “As you Americans say, I messed up!” (Okay, his actual quote is a little more colorful than this, but we’re keeping it family-friendly.)
This matter-of-fact admittance for fault resulted in Asoh being demoted and sent for training, as opposed to being fired outright. It has also lead to his name going down in history, with his story being used as a case study for business apologies in books and classrooms around the world, and “The Asoh Defense” becoming a popular strategy for shouldering blame.
So the next time you make a mistake, remember Captain Asoh, ask yourself if your blunder is as bad as crashing a plane, and prepare to take full accountability for your actions.
“Any fool can try to defend his or her mistakes — and most fools do — but it raises one above the herd and gives one a feeling of nobility and exultation to admit one’s mistakes.” – Dale Carnegie