CodeClan's instructor Darren Breen

Learning from failure. Why feel like the fool?

If you are going to fail, fail with style. Stomach churning advice from our wise owl, Darren Breen.

I want you to think of a moment when you made a mistake or experienced failure.

It could be as trivial as that time you had a momentary lapse of your senses and mess up in that interview. Or it could be the time when you made that infamous once in a blue moon colossal mistake at work.

Now imagine the feeling that surfaced when you made it, the dread that set in, the churning of the stomach, the mind instantly starting to wish you could teleport back just that extra few minutes to undo it.

Ultimately, you may even start to feel like a fool, sometimes even going as far to wish you change who you are, to not be you right now so that you can change back when it’s all yesterday’s news.

These feelings can be a nightmare to deal with but the question I propose to you is why? Why dread? Why wish something that cannot be undone? To be someone that you are not? Why feel like the fool?

All good questions that I started to ask myself after the one billionth mistake I had made.

Man, I wish I could just go back in time and undo all this!

Embracing failures … learn from them

The answer? To embrace your failures and mistakes and learn from them.

But Darren…“, you may ask, “you probably have not experienced the number of failures I have suffered or all the mistakes that I made“.

Throughout my career, I have made a lot, and I mean a LOT of mistakes. I have slipped up in interviews and panicked. I’ve thrashed and crashed databases and even brought down websites. I’ve made a fool of myself in meetings, in front of CEO’s and CTO’s, colleagues, friends and family. This is not even including the thousands of coding or logic errors that I have had.

However, through all this, I started to enjoy it.

I would come into work the next day and joke about my misfortunes. I then would recount my tales of woe to other people, warning them of the errors of migrating such a large database without going through the procedure, even going as far as writing a checklist so that other developers would heed the warning. Developers would come to me to seek help from me, knowing I have suffered the dreaded legacy system that plagues all engineers.

Eventually, I started to realise that I was becoming a leader like figure, helping younger developers to grow, teaching them things and mistakes to avoid. At this point I realised that these failures, these hiccups, mistakes or slip-ups are actually good, they helped me to learn from them so that I could improve myself.

Office man realising his achievement

Finding my mantra

So, if we can flip our mind-set and embrace failure, can that be an effective learning tool? Well yes and surprisingly this concept is not new.

John Dewey, a famous philosopher and educational reformer once said in 1933 Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes”.

Embracing failure has been a mantra from popular figures such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, who suffered from failures, mistakes and setbacks before they got to where they wanted to be.

If you are going to fail, fail with style

At CodeClan we try to make sure that our students are aware that every typo, mistake or bug is an opportunity to learn something new that you did not know before. Personally, I try to incorporate it into my teaching style, going as far as to make mistakes a funny and enjoyable experience.

Because that is what mistakes can be, not something that should be feared, but a funny and enjoyable experience, one that will make us into better developers.  

So, at the end of the day if you are going to fail, fail with style.

Going out in style


About Darren

Darren Breen is an instructor on our 16-week software development course.

“I have a GCHQ certified masters in Advanced Security & Digital Forensics at Napier University. I love technology. I have worked with Security, Mobile development, Cloud Computing and Microservices in a variety of sectors including financial, heritage, manufacturing and retail. I have only been at CodeClan for 6 months now and I love every second of it.”

Read Darren’s blog on instructing at CodeClan >>>