The Printed Cover Read Neal Armstrong

There it was for everyone to see.

The world's most famous person—with his name misspelled.

How could this happen?

In the summer of 1969, Wapakoneta, Ohio native son Neil Armstrong gained worldwide acclaim by becoming the first person to walk on the Moon.

That same summer, the Auglaize County Fair was held (like every other year). Wapakoneta is the county seat, so it was no surprise that Armstrong would adorn the fair book's front cover.

At the time, I was a teenager working in the family printing business, and we were printing the 1969 fair book.

My brother, cousins and I were inserting the internal text pages into the cover before the books were picked up later that day. Suddenly, my older brother asked, “how does Armstrong spell his first name?”

“N-E-I-L,” we replied.

“Then why does the cover say N-E-A-L?”

We couldn’t believe it, but the (now) glaring error stared back at us.

A glaring error that slipped past the designer, the prepress department, the customer's proof review and the pressmen, but was caught (fortunately!) at the end of the production schedule. Yes, the spelling was corrected, and a new cover was printed. That's not the story here.

What is?

As business owners, we often fall victim to predictive reality. We look at every element of our business, and we see what we expect or want to see—not what’s actually happening.

Predictive reality can explain how every person who saw that fair book cover read N-E-I-L when it was clearly spelled N-E-A-L.

In business, this can happen when reviewing sales results, KPIs (key performance indicators) and even email communications. Plus, it’s not limited to what we read or see; it also applies to what we hear.

The antidote to this is a fresh set of eyes (or ears). For critical documents or meetings, invite someone else to look it over or sit in to listen. For example, share your KPI results with peers or a trusted adviser. Ask them what they see (or hear) before giving them more information.

These people aren't as familiar with the material, so they're more likely to see (or hear) reality, not predictive reality.

Do you have a predictive reality experience to share? Comment below or email us at

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