Failure, Part 3

Recently, I discussed a recent failure of mine that hit home pretty hard. You can read part one and part two, first, if you’d like, but it’s not necessary. Today another important event happened that goes well with this impromptu series I’ve started and I want to talk about it.

Every day contains a new measure of varying successes. From the very beginning whether we get up in the morning on time and how many times we hit the snooze button, to whether we make it to work on time because of an accident on the freeway, to if we prepared enough for the meeting with the big cheeses.

Let’s be honest about something. Failure isn’t a thing.

Whoa, wait what?

Says who?

Me.

As someone who’s “failed” many times you and I should very well know by now that sometimes shit happens. That doesn’t make any one thing a failure.

We define failure as a threshold. Beyond X percentage of things going according to plan, we’re succeeding at something. Below X, we’re failing. This starts early in life with school. The archaic grading system we still use today—because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?…right?…guys?—tells us if we’re 100% correct on whatever menial task we’re completing, we’re performing admirably. If we only complete 59%, we’re failures.

Well damn.

I’m no rocket scientist but I think we’re on to something and it’s surely not rocket science.

This rather feudal method of ranking each other sets everyone up for failure. We carry it through life and it becomes how we go about our day. Maybe we’re not getting a grade on how quickly we showered, but we’re still looking internally and ranking ourselves.

We just use the words “today sucked.”

We have this system so ingrained in our minds and in our ways of life that after a point, we just say “I give up” or “I’m over it.” It becomes easy to care none because we not only have this mindless scale, but we automatically think that once we cross the point of no return, it’s better to blow the rest off.

That would certainly be the case in school if you didn’t have a passing grade and there wasn’t enough time or “things” left to do to possibly raise the score… 20th century education at its finest.

I keep going back and bashing on the educational system and in all honesty, that wasn’t my original goal when I started writing this. Things just kind of turned that way as the pieces started falling into place.

Failure is a completely synthetic thing. Failure is only measurable because we as humans believe we need to measure it.

Think about everything we have and interact with that measures failure:

  1. Performance Reviews
  2. Report Cards
  3. Credit Reports
  4. Insurance Rates
  5. Incarceration
  6. Counseling

I bet you’d love to shoot back at me with a million reason why each one of those don’t actually measure failure, and I’d be interested to hear what you have to say. I was going to originally break down each one of these things but I really don’t think it’s necessary. I made the list to prove a point.

Our lives rotate around not failing, and failing is how we learn. We complete a task or an action and don’t do well at it, so we figure out what we did wrong and continue. We shouldn’t dwell on the idea that a particular thing takes time to master and in the meantime, we’re sub-par. No one is a master of anything overnight. No one is a master of anything even over two nights.

The next time you tell yourself: “I wish I could just do today over,” let me know so I can slap you. You can go ahead and be a little bitch about it or you can just keep moving. You of all people should care the least if you haven’t mastered the day. Continue doing you and don’t worry about the rest. If you’re learning a new language, just keep working on it. If you’re trying to get into graduate school, just keep applying. If you’re developing a new app and don’t feel like it’ll meet everyone’s standards and would rather play video games because at least there you don’t get to see utter failure in the form of bad reviews, I’m sorry to say it but you need to nut up.

The best things you have in life are the ones you worked the hardest for. You’ll value them the most and you’ll appreciate having them around. This goes for people, too.

The next time you tell yourself you failed, tell yourself instead that you’ll be better at it tomorrow. Yoda tells us there is no “try.” That cat was right.


Recovering From Failure, Part 2

Yesterday, I spent a few minutes spilling my guts about a recent failure. It felt good to get it out there and the support and helpful words I received made it feel less painful. Failing sucks and it’s hard to swallow the truth that you’ll fail at something you think you’re good at.

Now that I’ve had a little bit of time to look back on it, I see it in a more neutral light. While I’m certainly still bummed out, it’s not affecting me like it did yesterday and the day before. Truth be told, I’m just one of many. My story isn’t unique or groundbreaking. Even the smartest of people fail at things from time to time. It’s what they do afterwards that makes a difference.

This failure event was timed perfectly. After listening to John Saddington’s first podcast show thing called Ask The Indie, it got me thinking. What am I doing to continually enrich myself, not just in my regular studies but in my career? I want to be in a better position in five years, a year, even six months from now, doing more of what I enjoy: making things that people see.

(Aside: part of the reason why I chose a self-hosted option for running this site, based on WordPress. I could used a hosted platform and I would probably enjoy it, but that’s not what I’m about.)

I made a decision last Friday that every weekday, I would spend one hour doing something that enriched my technical knowledge bucket in my head and can be used to further my career (when combined with other essential pieces). This is where the site TrueAbility comes into play. I’ve known about them for some time but always looked at them like they were just a performance/technical assessment type site for job hunters. While that’s certainly true, there’s more to their offerings.

One of the cool things they offer are a lot of “101” courses on technical matters, typically surrounding development, Linux, WordPress, and other SysAdmin-y type things. They’re free to use and if you’re looking for a job, they have listings, too. Take one of their performance tests with questions chosen by the employer and they’ll send your results straight to them and likely put you on a shortlist compared to taking the traditional route of submitting a resume.

I really enjoy their platform and how quickly one can get started. The catch is everything is done via the command line so get comfortable with SSH/Putty, Linux, and other non-Windows development processes. Did I mention the tests are timed? I didn’t? Oh, well they’re timed. Most are 60-90 minutes in length. If you’re taking a performance assessment created by a potential employer, it would behoove you to not get hung up on one thing you can’t figure out. If you spend all your time on one problem and never move on to the rest, it’ll bring your score down. Each question is not all or nothing in most cases so come back to it and complete some of the other tasks, instead. It’ll make a big difference, I promise. Getting an 80% is much better than getting a 20% because you spent all your time on the first of five tasks.

Outside of all this, the real trick is to never give up and to never stop pushing forward. The proverbial horse will always be there to get back up on, that apple cart isn’t going to leave without you, and take advantage of your support system if you have one. It’ll help immensely. It’s helping me, quite a bit.

In other news, I received contact for an interview with another company, yesterday, so that also did quite a bit to boost my spirits. In my case, there’ll be all “no” responses until I get a yes. That’s just how it is.


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