Monday, December 3, 2018

Dress for failure

Serious aversion to big failures demands a strange sort of attraction to small failures. As a firefighter ought to love fire a little, so the engineer ought to love failure a little. Antifragility at the system level requires the fragile components to die so that they can be reborn stronger. Let the bolts break, so the bridge may survive. Let the service crash, so that the operating system can stay running.

Lack of exposure to failure in school will cause our children to be both over- and under-confident. Resilience to failure is enormously valuable. We ought to fail kids more often (without emotional punishment), so that they get used to it. In both formal education and in the ongoing learning of people on the workforce, we need to simultaneously reduce the consequences of failure and increase our exposure to failure. In science, engineering and software development (at least), let’s get good at failing. 

The value of failure is in the insight gained while one is getting back up again. We have a social stigma attached to failure and we are preoccupied with the outcome while we discount the importance of the process. The antidote is to study and celebrate failure. 

Let’s fail more often. 
Let’s fail better. 
Fail great. 
Fail marvelously.