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by Joel Spolsky

One morning I needed an extra set of keys to my apartment, so on the way to work, I went to the locksmith around the corner.

13 years living in an apartment in New York City has taught me never to trust a locksmith; half of the time their copies don’t work. So I went home to test the new keys, and, lo and behold, one didn’t work.

I took it back to the locksmith.

He made it again.

I went back home and tested the new copy.

It still didn’t work.

Now I was fuming. Squiggly lines were coming up out of my head. I was a half hour late to work and had to go to the locksmith for a third time. I was tempted just to give up on him. But I decided to give this loser one more chance.

I stomped into the store, ready to unleash my fury.

“It still doesn’t work?” he asked. “Let me see.”

He looked at it.

I was sputtering, trying to figure out how best to express my rage at being forced to spend the morning going back and forth.

“Ah. It’s my fault,” he said.

And suddenly, I wasn’t mad at all.

Mysteriously, the words “it’s my fault” completely defused me. That was all it took.

He made the key a third time. I wasn’t mad any more. The key worked.

And, here I was, on this planet for forty years, and I couldn’t believe how much the three words “it’s my fault” had completely changed my emotions in a matter of seconds.

Most locksmiths in New York are not the kinds of guys to admit that they’re wrong. Saying “it’s my fault” was completely out of character. But he did it anyway.

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