Permission to Fail


I don’t have much time right now but I wanted to put down a couple thoughts while they’re bothering me. Maybe I can exorcise them and move on.

There has been some attention paid this past week to people being assholes on the internet. Nothing new there but surprising to some people because it was programmers ‘picking on’ another programmer. Others have covered it better, and Scott Hanselman had a thoughtful response (You are not your code, so true, I’ve said for years that anything I wrote, coded, photographed etc. six months ago is crap. When it stops being that way I’ll have stopped learning and it will be time to retire from creative endeavors) so go read them if you don’t know what I am talking about.

This scrapes at a scab our culture has. And I don’t mean programmer culture, I mean ‘big C’ Western Culture. I’ve opined in the past that school “beats the entrepreneurial spirit out” of people, and that college can be the capstone on the death of that spirit. Kids are BORN creative and entrepreneurial and then we spend 20 years grading them, their schools and their teachers until everyone is so afraid to ‘fail’ that they are also afraid to try anything that involves risk or creativity of any sort. The few kids who manage to stave it off get told they are ‘smart’ and ‘creative’ which causes another sort of small death in them as well.

Education is not something that comes in a bottle. It is not a quantity of ‘stuff’ that gets doled out by a teacher. I don’t have any brilliant insights here, but this is a problem that needs to be addressed above all other failings our educational institutions may suffer from. We’ve recognized that there is a problem, but we’re going in the dead wrong direction.

Great things come from creativity and wisdom, and those are born of foolishness and lessons learned from mistakes, failure, and ‘happy accidents’. We should all have permission to fail.