Monday, February 18, 2013

Winning is easy, you just have to try

I've noticed an odd phenomenon among people in general - they're afraid of failure.  Yeah.  Me too.  So much so that I'd often rather do nothing than risk failure.

Let's move on from the "well duh" department.  There have been plenty of studies, blog articles, and crazy uncles telling you to try something because Failure Isn't Bad.  Bah.  Failure is bad.  Otherwise, it wouldn't be failure.  There are many different good things that can result from something going wrong (say, vulcanized rubber) but on the whole, one wants to succeed.

Learning how something doesn't work is often a step on the path to discovering what does, but we've lost sight of what the whole point is.  Instead of seeing failure for what it is (a step on the path to success), we have made it into an end of itself.  Failure isn't something to be proud of.  Instead, be glad you're further along the road to success.  Focusing on failure tends to create a more-permanent failure.

When I try something new, I want to learn, and I want to win.  I accept that work needs to be done and things will never work out the way I want them to on the first time.  That doesn't mean that success can't be easy.  Instead of looking at failure as the metric, why not break success down into smaller parts?  (astute readers will notice that this is the basis behind A/B testing and to-do lists).

For instance, I've been working to make myself a more sociable person.  I could list off the many times I've "failed" and what I learned from that, or I could look at just how easy small changes for the better can be.  As it turns out, saying "hi" as you walk past someone makes them feel a lot better and more likely to reciprocate.  Making that change was a small success, but it was a success nonetheless.

Not all changes can be as small and simple as that, but when I run git commit for something as basic as adding a <br />, I could let it roll pass me and move on to the next thing.  Instead, I choose to see that as my product becoming one step better, no matter how small that step is.

1 comment:

  1. I like the distinction you've made between failure as a good thing and failure as a learning experience. "Guys! I failed! Isn't that great!?!" is a ridiculous statement. "I failed, but I learned some stuff that will help me succeed" is a great statement, and something that people should accept more readily.

    There was a friend of mine in college who would routinely make bad jokes. But he would also make good ones. We referred to this as the "Tim Method" - make as many jokes as possible, and you're bound to make some good ones.

    Similarly, if you try as much stuff as possible, you're bound to succeed as something.