Be Your Own Best Quality Control

By Ron Ciancutti

A recent class-action lawsuit is being advertised on television and radio. The lawsuit claims the quality of earplugs used by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2015 were of inferior quality, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus. The claim is the plugs were too short for proper insertion into the ear and could gradually loosen, effectively rendering them useless. The manufacturer, 3M, agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve the allegations, but has admitted no wrongdoing.

Photo: © Can Stock Photo / halfpoint

Photo: © Can Stock Photo / halfpoint

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing seven crew members and terrifying a nation. The cause of the disaster was traced to an “O-ring,” which is a circular gasket that seals the right rocket booster. The gasket failed due to the low temperature at launch time (31 degrees F). Several engineers noted the risk before the launch, but management dismissed the chance of failure. In short, poor statistical reasoning was the main reason the launch was given the fatal go-ahead.

In An Instant
Have you ever found yourself in a moment when you knew something was about to go wrong, yet didn’t take the right steps to prevent it? Sometimes it happens out of simple neglect or forgetfulness. You should have made sure everyone was wearing sunblock; or your Little Leaguer was wearing a batting helmet (even though the pitch was coming in underhanded); or you didn’t accidentally “cc” your mom about the wild night you and your friends had over the weekend.

  • Bang! I locked the keys in the car.

  • Bam! I closed the refrigerator door after resting a glass bowl on top of it.

  • Zap! I should have unplugged the toaster before sticking a knife in there.

  • Urp! I should have known 10-day-old potato salad would go bad, even though it hadn’t been opened.

What about those who have a tragic regret from such neglect?

  • I should have made sure everyone was wearing a seatbelt.

  • I should have taken Eddie’s keys away before he tried to drive home in that condition.

  • I should have never said that.

  • I should have never left him/her alone.

  • I shouldn’t have trusted that stockbroker.

What about examples where people get it both ways, like damned if they do and damned if they don’t?

Photo: © Can Stock Photo / Nandyphotos

Photo: © Can Stock Photo / Nandyphotos

I was always fascinated by the spectacle of Michael Jackson’s life story. Here’s an absolutely talent-filled artist who orchestrated a career that rocketed him to fame of the highest order by doing all the “shoulds” in his life, and then at the peak of his fame, with his privacy collapsed, he concluded that maybe he shouldn’t have given his whole self to the public. His openness, honesty, and willingness to share his life was his undoing, and accusations and rumors destroyed him, impacting his health and moreover his spirit. Although he beat the allegations in court, the burden of defending himself ruined him. In an interview following his death, his mother intimated an innocence about him that constantly wondered why people would want to be so mean after he had tried to be so open and kind. But once he opened that door to others, he was unable to ever go back to the privacy he longed for. His “O-rings” had failed and his world exploded. Sadly, his only neglect was trust. And once he locked his keys in that “car,” he couldn’t get that door open.

Time To Act
There ARE things in life we still have time to fix. There are things we DO have control over, like the relationships with our parents, siblings, children, co-workers, and friends. I have a friend who lost his dad recently to a sudden heart attack, and at the time of his passing their relationship was not good. The look of regret on my friend’s face hasn’t changed in weeks now, and I am thinking it may never change. Regret can be a punishing reality. The chasm between the father and son wasn’t even a big disagreement, but both were admittedly stubborn so they chose not to speak. My friend should have taken the high road and made his apology weeks ago. He knew his dad was aging and that the disagreement was partially due to a memory lapse on his father’s part, but he just couldn’t bring himself to reach out, and now it is too late.

We shouldn’t let that happen to us.

We can minimize regret by bolstering our own “quality control” measures. Try a few of these; they work pretty well for me (and yes, I admit I am far from 100 percent with all of them all the time).

  • Forgive easily.

  • Listen better.

  • Speak less and empathize with a nod and smile.

  • Apologize often and soon after an incident.

  • Always add perspective by TRULY putting yourself in the other guy’s shoes.

  • Don’t rub a victory in—try to make every settlement a “win/win.”

  • Explain FOR others when the point is difficult to understand.

  • Be generous with your time, your understanding, and your thoughtfulness.

In this past NFL season, many games came down to an attempt for a game-winning field goal. I saw as many that were missed as were made, and although I felt bad for whoever missed, I was encouraged when the two opposing kickers sought each other out after the game and offered either congratulations or condolences. The winning sentiment was, “Hey, buddy, I know how it feels. Shake it off. You’ll nail it next time.”

Friends … be that guy.

Ron Ciancutti worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He is now retired. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A. from Baldwin Wallace University. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at