on embracing failure

I’ve been getting behind on too many blogs these days, but this morning I was catching up with posts on the Security Catalyst site and have been impressed with the myriad contributors posting useful and dijestable articles. Nice!

One in particular by Adam Dodge reinforces something I’ve been trying to learn these last few years (and is also referenced in A Hacker Looks at 50 presentation). In essence: don’t be afraid to fail; don’t be afraid to be wrong; don’t be afraid to be ‘not perfect.’

I’ve seen this in many ways, in books for tech geeks, posts on blogs, and even leadership/CEO books. I’ve even experienced it because, let’s face it, we learn the most when we fail (or for us geeks, we learn the most when we’re troubleshooting). Waiting for perfection is inaction. We even learn this in relationships, the power of admitting to being wrong.

But damn is that paradigm hard to learn when we’re implicitly taught from childhood to adulthood in the workplace that you have to be right and it is bad to be wrong. Even topics I know I know very little about seem to have this urge to present oneself as knowledgable (such as nodding along with the service mechanic explaining what is wrong with my car!).

So it’s been a sort of quiet goal of mine to be wrong a bit more often, and ask more questions, even seemingly simple ones, just to allow me to understand things better. And rather than sit inactive waiting for knowledge on a topic like implementing a new system/tool, just do it and be ready to be wrong.

Kinda like being ready for the inevitable security incident, eh?

I could even bring this around back to gaming. In order to be a good player, you have to take those small steps where you bumble around a map, try to learn the buttons, and figure out tactics. You’ll take those 0-20 lumps. Or in an MMO you can’t just wait around to raid only when you have full knowledge, but you have to get in there and make your mistakes those first few times. It is strange that these simple concepts become demons in a workplace.