I Accidentally Deleted A Year’s Worth Of Work – Here’s What You Can Learn From My Mistake

The most important document on my computer is a master spreadsheet. It includes all of my ideas for this website, jokes, notes for my parenting website, ideas for Reels, videos, TikTok, and ideas for some of my coaching clients. There’s even a section with potential projects for the next year or two.

The document is missing, and I’m trying not to freak out. Maybe I renamed the spreadsheet. Maybe I moved it to a new folder. Perhaps it’s right in front of my face, and I just don’t see it. Since I’m not married I don’t have a wife to come point it out, so I’ll have to find it myself.

It’s none of the above.

The document is gone, and the desktop recycle bin is empty (more on that later).

Here’s the only possible explanation for the document’s disappearance. While working on several different projects, I’ll save items to the desktop every day. Things that I won’t need when the workday is done. I’ll highlight unnecessary documents, JPGs, and notes and drag them into the trash.

I mistakenly highlighted the master list and dragged it into the trash in a rush. A careless mistake. The rest is just bad luck. I didn’t notice the document erased from the desktop, and my recycle bin is set to automatically empty to keep space open on my hard drive.

Mistakes happen, but dumb and careless mistakes are avoidable. This was a dumb and careless mistake.

As much as I’m trying to practice stoicism, I’ll admit, I had no choice but to freak the fuck out. The article ideas will eventually pop back in my head. The Reel ideas will come back to mind after scrolling Instagram and TikTok and hearing the sounds used repeatedly in other videos.

The notes and jokes, though. Ugh.

This experience was almost as bad as writing a clean joke book.

As a part of my daily routine, I’d developed the habit of writing five new notes or jokes a day. I’ll admit that not every message and joke was a killer. It was more about the practice of writing. It’s an idea I stole from Jerry Seinfeld, who sits down and writes new jokes every single day whether he wants to not.

I had at least 55-60 post-it note ideas – one new note a week for an entire year – along with about 70 jokes for Twitter.


Here’s What You Can Learn From My Mistake

losing all work mistake

There are countless lessons to learn from my mistake. I learned more than a few tough lessons, but I also learned a great deal about myself. Here are some of the takeaways from losing a year’s worth of work.

I Did It Once. I Can Do It Again

Yes, I panicked when I couldn’t retrieve the document, but I talked myself down off the ledge after about five minutes.

Sure, maybe I lost a bunch of solid jokes and notes, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, texted, and thought some funny stuff and realized “that should be a note” only to totally forget the idea a few moments later.

A calm came over me when I realized that I’d come up with all of the jokes before, and I could do it again. In fact, not only did I come up with new note ideas, but I’ve been able to recall a few of the old ideas that were forever lost in the big recycle bin in the sky.

If you did it once, you could do it again. If you thought of one idea, you could conjure up a better idea or a way to make the idea even better. Sometimes you’ve just got to start from scratch.

Realizing The Work Wasn’t All Great

I was able to amass so much work ahead of time for one reason – I forced myself to write jokes, ideas, and concepts daily. Not every single line was comedy gold.

If I’m being honest, more than a few were awful, but I wrote them down because the process of writing the jokes and observations is just like doing stand-up. It’s about working and reworking the joke until it’s funny, or you’re just sick of thinking about how to make it funny and want to move past it. Many of the jokes and one-liners on the master sheet had potential. In my head, they were perfect jokes waiting to happen.

Losing all of the ideas forced me to start over and let go of some ideas. How many times have you come up with a good idea and thought, “I should do something with that idea,” only to let it sit on a piece of scratch paper for weeks and months? You look the idea over occasionally, think about the idea from time to time, and even make one or two attempts to begin working on bringing the concept to life.

You never execute but (holds up the piece of paper) “MAN, THERE’S A GOOD IDEA WAITING TO HAPPEN!”

If it were such a good idea, you would have acted on the concept. If my jokes were that good, I could have turned chickenshit into chicken salad in a matter of minutes. Not every idea is a winner, and even the stinkers stick around for far too long.

If you’ve got several ideas sitting around, either execute those ideas or trash them. Either way, take some type of action.

Have Backups To The Backups

I like to be completely transparent on this website, so I’m going to admit possibly the most frustrating part of this exercise in futility. Every note and joke idea on that master spreadsheet came from a notebook. I’ll sit down and brainstorm, write out jokes and ideas, and transfer the material to my computer. The original spiral notebook is gone.

If you just yelled, “IDIOT!” I’ll take that criticism. It’s fair, but allow me a second to explain why I tossed the notebook too. After transferring the joke to the document, I’d cross it out with a Sharpie. The spiral notebook became pages and pages of words underneath each Sharpie line. It seemed pointless to keep a notebook full of crossed-out pages.

Obviously, don’t make the same mistakes with hard copies of your work or documents on your computer. Here’s how to back up your Mac, and here’s how to back up your PC.

The Most Valuable Lesson I Learned From My Mistake Was…

Taking a more stoic approach to life helped tremendously, but one line from a random Andy Frisella video on YouTube brought the entire ordeal into perspective.

Frisella talked to Emily Hayden, an IFBB Bikini Pro competitor, who discussed the differences in her thought process after losing a competition and winning a contest. Frisella and Hayden both came to the same conclusion.

“You learn way more in losing than you do winning.”

I learned a lot about myself by losing all that work.

I learned that I overreacted, and feeling sorry for myself wouldn’t bring the document back from the abyss.

I learned that planning ahead doesn’t always go as planned.

I learned that sometimes a setback helps move things along faster.

A new master document with 20 notes and 30 jokes is on my computer desktop and a new notebook filled with ideas for jokes and notes is in the desk drawer. All of the concepts transferred from paper to desktop now get tiny checkmarks next to them so I can reread the joke in case of an emergency. The day the notebook is filled, it gets shoved in a drawer just in case.

There was nothing funny about losing a year’s worth of work but being able to bounce back did put a smile on my face.


If this article helped, I want to hear about it. Shoot me an email at chrisilluminati@gmail.com and let’s talk. 

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