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Bad Judgement is Always Bad But You Can’t Control the Outcome / Texting While Driving

Bad Judgement is Always Bad But You Can’t Control the Outcome / Texting While Driving

If You Use Bad Judgement, You Become Vulnerable To A Range Of Outcomes. They Are All Bad.

At New York City Guitar, we have lots of policies which are written to ensure a safe and respectful environment for students and team members Most are very specific, but we have one which is more general, the “Best Judgement Policy.” It reads:

When working with all students, use your best judgment at all times. If there is any question about whether or not something is appropriate, don’t do it!

I wrote about why we have the Best Judgement Policy and how to use it in another post. But in this post, I’m going to explore what happens when you DON’T use good judgement! And even though this post is for music teachers, I’m going to use the highway as a lens for examining bad judgement.

Confession: I Texted While Driving

I have a confession to make. It’s a little embarrassing, but I think it is a helpful story to talk about the importance of policies and how to make judgement calls.

Sometimes while driving I have done something I shouldn’t: I’ve texted. Of course I was always careful. I only did it when I felt it made sense–not while driving too fast, or around a curve. Only at stop signs. Or if it was something urgent maybe while pulling into the driveway. Or if it was something important perhaps while decelerating for a red light.

Good Intentions Are Good, But They Don’t Change Bad Outcomes

Bad judgement? Maybe–but I promise you, my intentions were good! I meant no harm, and I am a good person and a good driver.

Then, about five years ago, I was driving my wife and three kids (including one in a car seat) to a temple potluck. As I eased into a red light, an incoming message dinged on my phone and I grabbed it to take a look and quickly answer and–


I had just rear ended another car! A car filled with another family, coincidentally on their way to a church potluck.

I was going about 5 miles an hour–but the truth is I could have been driving faster.

Everyone in my car and the other car had their seatbelts on–but the truth is, they might not have.

There was only a slight dent on the other car, and the people in the other car already had a few dents and they were very forgiving and told me not to worry about it–but the truth is, they could have been angry, upset or litigious.

The truth is, I got lucky! When I grabbed my phone to text while driving, I exposed my family and others to danger–and myself to pain, loss and risk. In that moment, my bad judgement was exposed to others, and to myself, and still in this moment five years later I’m shaking my head with gratitude that I didn’t hit a pedestrian or gradually get into a habit of high speed texting while driving.

I got back into the car, and my 10 year old daughter said, “Dad, you really shouldn’t use your phone when you drive.”


Good person, good intentions…bad judgement.

What Are The Results Of Bad Judgement? It Depends. But Not On You.

Sometimes the results of bad judgment are nonexistent–like the times I texted at a stop sign and nothing happened (except perhaps a deepening on a texting habit).

Sometimes the results of bad judgment are brutal–like a texting driver who hits a pedestrian.

And sometimes they are kinda bad–like a texting driver who rear ends another car at 5 miles per hour.

And here is the important point! Once you’ve done something stupid, you don’t get to control what happens next!

Bad Judgement In Teaching

Now, I’m sure that as a music teacher, you are like me in the texting story–you aren’t malicious. You aren’t a bad person. You aren’t trying to do something harmful or wrong.

But being a good person who isn’t trying to cause harm doesn’t insulate you from actually causing harm for yourself or others.

For example, at NYC Guitar School we have a policy of not making touch corrections. But maybe your school doesn’t. And maybe a young student is making a G chord, and their fingers are in the wrong place, and you have an urge to grab their fingers and put them in the right place because you want them to learn the chord. What might the results be?

They might not even notice and they might learn a better G chord.

They might be annoyed and not say anything.

They might feel creeped out and violated and the parent might feel enraged.

All you wanted to do was to quickly help them learn a chord–but you used bad judgement. And now what happens next is out of your control!

Or, let’s say you aren’t coming in for lessons tomorrow–all your students know but you haven’t looped in the school or manager. What might go wrong?

Or, let’s say a young student asks if they can learn their favorite song and you’re excited that they are feeling motivated and interested in guitar. You’ve never heard the song before, but when you quickly look it up you realize it is laden with curses. If you teach that song, what might the results be?

There Is Already A Lot Out Of Our Control, Don’t Add To It With Bad Judgement

Earthquakes, volcanos, and strangers who are texting when they are driving can happen to all of us. The world is already full of things that are out of our control, and part of life is maintaining momentum and integrity even through what Shakespeare called “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” will surely come our way from time to time.

Those slings and arrows are bad enough! Don’t take up arms against yourself by using bad judgement. Sometimes you can get away with bad judgment. But over time, bad judgement leads to confusion, drama and pain for yourself and others. We, our students and our life will be happier and healthier if we strive to use our best judgement.

Best Judgement Policy:

When working with all students, use your best judgment at all times. If there is any question about whether or not something is appropriate, don’t do it!

On to Greatness,

Dan Emery

Founder & CEO, NYC Guitar School

Have any questions? Fill out my online form.

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Dan Emery is dedicated to Coaching Personal Greatness, One Lesson At A Time. He is the founder of NYC's friendliest and fastest growing guitar schools, New York City Guitar School, Brooklyn Guitar School, Queens Guitar School and NYC Guitar School, East, and the author of the Amazon best-selling Guitar For Absolute Beginners and six other books on learning guitar and deliberate practice. He coaches new entrepreneurs through the Entrepreneurs Organization Accelerator program and especially enjoys helping other Educational Entrepreneurs. He has a Masters in Education from Columbia University Teachers College, extensive performing experience as songwriter and guitarist for The Dan Emery Mystery Band, a wife, three kids, a cat and some juggling equipment.


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