In a 2013 interview with Smashing Magazine (https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/12/berlin-designer-interview-benjamin-dauer-npr/), NPR Senior Product Designer and Lead Product Designer at SoundCloud Benjamin Dauer said,
“Don’t be afraid to fail. Challenge yourself at all times, and learn from every experience — good and bad.”
Of all the advice that I've heard, of all the advice I could give, "Don't be afraid to fail" is the single most important lesson we can learn in every part of our lives. Accepting failure is a profoundly humbling experience, and it begins with acknowledging that we cannot know everything, nor can we always make the right choices for any given situation. Deciding that failure is an option allows each of us to accept failure in others. Instead of viewing mistakes as limitations, we can begin to recognize them as an exercise in discovery.
I once heard a story of a man who traveled a road toward home only to arrive at an unfamiliar fork in his path. Unsure of which direction to take, he opted for the road to the right. After a few miles of uncertainty, he arrived at a dead-end. Turning around, he drove back to the fork and took the road to the left. His son, sitting next to him, complained about the detour and the delay. The man smiled and responded, reassuring his son, "We had two paths to from which to choose. Having traveled the wrong path, we can be sure that we are on the right path now."
When I began my career more than 20 years ago, I saw people that seemed to always make the right choice. They knew things I didn't know. They were able to find opportunities that I could not seem to find. They embraced uncertainty with a confidence I could only dream of possessing. Here’s what I now realize: They made mistakes and made them often. They didn't know everything and often had a very limited scope of knowledge of the extremely broad field that is IT. And those opportunities? They came because they pushed themselves into unfamiliar situations.
How do I know? Because I walked that same path. If someone had told my 21-year-old self, who was then commuting 50 miles each way to work as a support technician for a small telecommunications company in Michigan, that I would work from home in Canada's smallest province for one of the largest companies in the world, that I would also operate a successful freelance consulting practice, and, best of all, that I would be Canada's only SolarWinds THWACK MVP, I would have told you that it was impossible. But my family and I embraced failure, and we did fail as I pursued my education and career, but we learned from our experiences.
To my younger self, in whichever multiverse you exist and have yet to take those first steps, don't be afraid to fail. Always be learning. Push yourself. You've got this.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my friends, colleagues, and fellow THWACKsters. May 2019 be a year of courage to accept failure for exactly what it is—a challenge to learn something new.