Controlled Failure is the Key to Learning More

TSQL2sDay150x150Recently Andy Leonard ( blog | twitter ) tweeted: “I was asked recently about secrets to success. My reply? “Never fear failure.” :{>” I really agree with this in a lot of ways. Surprised? Don’t be, there’s a big difference between ‘not fearing failure’ and ‘liking failure’. I don’t get up in the morning because I like to fail, I just know that it’s going to happen. A lot.

I approach a new programming feature by reading through it’s capabilities one command at a time. After I’ve read the definition of a command then I like to play with the examples. After that I’ve done some of the things it says it can do, then I like to try and make it do things that weren’t actually listed. I like to test the boundaries of a feature. This is where some “controlled failure” comes in.

Boundary testing is useful for a number of reasons. A best practice for using the feature might be established, but without testing the boundary you won’t understand why it is the best practice. When I’m done testing boundaries for myself I look at what others have done with the feature. I find out what problems they’ve experienced and what innovations they discovered. Because I’ve tested the boundaries myself I can better understand examples online and discuss these discoveries with other data nerds. By doing this I learn from my failures and other peoples failures too.

This appetite for failure spills over into my work–and I’d bet it spills over into your work too. At the end of the day though no matter how big or awesome a solution we create chances are a ton of failure that went into it. On a good day I probably fail at trying more things by noon than most people do all day, heck maybe even all week. Embrace failure as part of the learning process. It makes you a better employee and even a better mentor at work, because let’s face it, if you can fail and then persistently succeed yourself then you’re better positioned to help a struggling coworker find that persistent success too.

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0 Responses

    1. Robert, Michael,
      Glad to hear that you guys liked the different approach. Another factor that I wanted to work in but didn’t because of length was how the roller coaster of breaking it and then getting it working again helps to keep me excited about learning. Excitement is another big key to learning for me.

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