If you're Gray Powell, the 27-year-old software engineer who left a next-generation iPhone in a bar one night last month, it's probably safe to say that you're having a bad week.
After all, because of your lapse in judgment, the entire Internet is buzzing over a device that your employer didn't want anyone seeing for at least a couple of months. And, yes, your mistake could potentially cost your company a lot of money - especially now that the lawyers have been summoned to make sure the company gets that device back in its hands.
You probably feel like the whole world is crumbling around you right about now. And that feeling will last for some time. But don't beat yourself up too much, Gray. Yes, it look pretty bad right now. But, over time, things will get better. I know. I've been in your shoes before - sort of.
When I was your age, I made a pretty major error myself. This wasn't just any error - this was one of those gut-wrenching "What the $#&@ was I thinking?" kind of errors, a career-changing error that lands you a seat in the big boss's office, earns you a formal letter in your personnel file and keeps you guessing whether you're about to handed a final check and asked for your badge.
Once my company decided to not fire me and I slowly stopped feeling sorry for myself, I remember taking a hard look at my own attitudes about responsibility and accountability. I swore I would learn from the experience and like to think that, all these years later, I have.
Mine was an error that landed on the doorsteps of hundreds of thousands of newspaper readers in my circulation area. Yours spread like wildfire around the globe and appeared on blogs, tweets and national television news. Mine had pretty limited interest among everyday folks. Yours involved one of the most high-profile products by one of the most high-profile companies.
And while that was bad enough, things probably got worse for you once your name was outed in blogs. And then there was that picture of you holding a Jack Daniels bottle. It probably wasn't one of Mom's proudest moments and she surely wasn't calling her friends to say "Gray was finally recognized by his bosses."
Sure, things are bad now - but soon enough, things will get less bad. You'll inevitably have that sit-down with the big boss - the man himself - in the next day or so (if not already). And, there's the walking past the cubicles of co-workers who know what's up or the first awkward meeting with the team.
So, Gray, here's some advice from a guy who remembers 27 like it was yesterday: Take a deep breath and face the music. Don't try to defend your actions or blame others. You can't. You were wrong. Take the lumps. You have them coming.
If Apple lets you go, exit gracefully and - after what are sure to be some uneasy times - remember that you were talented enough to score a software engineer job at Apple in the first place. You made a costly mistake - but hopefully you've learned from it. You'll find another gig.
If Apple lets you stay, be extremely grateful, gracious and especially humble. Don't be surprised if there's a suspension or some other form of disciplinary action coming. Gladly accept it and be thankful, again, that they let you keep your job.
More importantly, learn a few lessons from this. Recognize the awesome responsibility that comes with your job and how you shouldn't take it lightly.
Finally, don't beat yourself up too hard. You made a mistake. People make mistakes. We're human. Don't worry about what the rest of the world has to say. Worry about proving to yourself and your bosses that you have learned from your mistakes, that you won't ever again compromise the trust they've put in you and that, over time, you can be trusted again.
It won't be easy. But if you take things one day at a time - and never, ever forget the magnitude of your carelessness - you'll be a better individual for it in the long run.