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Things That Go “Fail” In the Night (and Day, too)

Today on Twitter, The ever-delightful Sonia Gupta tweeted an insightful question, which has led to a wealth of compelling, engaging, and equally-insightful comments. You can find the original tweet here, but I’ve reproduced it below as well:

Her point is important enough to simply signal-boost here, because the trend of people curating only the best parts of their lives – whether that curation occurs on social media, on their resume, or around the water cooler – is only getting stronger. And that trend makes it hard to live the reality of day to day life in IT. Which is to say, doing things wrong, repeatedly, until we finally get it right.

To put it another way, working in IT often feel like the purest expression of a famous quote from the TV show “House”:

“I’m not always right… I’m almost always eventually right.”

– Dr. Gregory House (portrayed by Hugh Laurie)

With a little thought, it’s easy to see that this habit of selective curation exacerbates people’s pre-existing aversion to failure. Despite pithy quotes to the contrary, nobody particularly relishes failure.

But with a little more thought, I think it becomes clearer why: Failing on something small, personal, semi-private, and singular may be ok. But fail in a way that hurts the team – or worse, sales – is a nigh-unto unforgivable sin.

“I spent 3 months implementing the wrong code on the worst possible platform and losing thousands of dollars. But I learned so much in the process!”

– written on literally nobody’s resume, ever.

Somewhat coincidentally, that topic – our attitudes and feelings and fears about failure, especially within the realm of IT, and how a strong religious/moral/ethical world view may help, is the subject of this week’s podcast. You can listen to it here: https://technicallyreligious.podbean.com/e/s1e4-failing-with-style/.

In the end, one of the ideas we hit upon was that religion helps habituate in us the sense that apology is a muscle we must exercise in order to feel comfortable using, and that forgiveness is the norm, rather than the exception.

On a related note Leon Adato, one of our podcast regulars, write about “Finding Strength in Failure” not too long ago and hit on some similar themes.

It’s worth considering. What is YOUR relationship with failure? How do you get past it? Are you comfortable sharing it with others?

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