Ethics Phooey: No Self-Serving Bias When I Really Need It

At least I'm finally home.

Last month I posted a list of the Top Ten Thought Fallacies That Undermine Our Ethics. This week, I really, really wanted to use one of them. But integrity beckoned. Damn integrity.

I just returned from a week-long speaking trip that took me to Palm Springs and Maui, and involved a total of about 38 hours travel time for a total of 3 hours of actual lecturing and instruction. It would have been about eight hours less and not have required me to be awake for 50 hours (and counting) straight if I had not managed to miss my flight to L.A. out of the Maui airport. Somehow, I got it in my mind that the flight was at 3:30 PM, when it was really at 12:30 PM. I had managed to check the time on the wrong page of my itinerary, and then never looked at my boarding pass. Only dumb luck got me the last seat on the last flight out of Maui on Sunday night.

When I discovered that I had missed my plane, my immediate reaction was to blame my itinerary, the travel schedule, my exhaustion, jet lag, and the crazy teaching-to-travel ratio. Doing so would have been consistent with #9 on the “Top Ten,” Self-Serving Bias, described as when an individual attributes positive outcomes to internal factors and negative outcomes to external factors. “This warps one’s perception of experience, and leads to an ingrained resistance to personal accountability, as people assume credit for successes but refuse to accept responsibility for failures,”  I wrote, fool that I was.


Regardless of the various factors that contributed to my making a stupid, careless, easily avoided mistake that was costly in both time, energy and money, it was my mistake, and there is nobody else to blame other than myself. There is no way out.

There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have been furious at anyone vaguely connected with this self-made disaster, and would have adamantly refused to admit the truth: I was an idiot. Luckily, or not so luckily, I am now stuck with the principles I talk about to groups, write about here, and think about all day. There is no escape.

It was my fault, and mine alone. No “Self-serving Bias” for me.

3 thoughts on “Ethics Phooey: No Self-Serving Bias When I Really Need It

  1. Well done. Also, are you really complaining about being in Maui instead of DC? Just up the parkway, we went from 75 degrees to Snow to 85 degrees to possibly freezing again tonight. I was in Fredericksburg Saturday, and every hour we rotated through bright sunny skies, blustering winds, and horrible dark clouds of pounding rain.

    Maui, even the Maui airport, sounds quite pleasant.

  2. I have pleasant memories of Oahu (my daughter was born there), have been to all the major islands except Ni’ihau.

    Maui you can keep and welcome to it.

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