The masters of failure
If to discuss art you focus on a great artist, then to discuss the failure first we need to find a master of failure, and I think I’ve found the perfect one. Someone who fails on a daily basis, but is never discouraged. They are called technical traders. A technical trader is a person who trades on the stock market, but unlike fundamental traders who study companies thoroughly and assess their worth, the technical traders are only concerned with analyzing graphs and finding patterns. It doesn’t matter what the company does, or how it’s performing, all that a day trader cares about is the graph. So they spend the day looking at graphs, and the minute they believe they recognize a pattern they make a trade.
In the world of technical trading, there seems to be one thing which sets apart the professional traders from the beginners, and it’s called Stop-Loss. Let’s say a trader believes he recognizes a graph pattern, he makes a hypothesis about the future price of a certain stock and puts his money where his mouth is and makes the trade. At this point, while believing they know what’s going to happen and just waiting to count the money, a good trader sets a stop-loss. A stop loss is the point of failure. If the current price is 5, and the hypothesis is that it will go up to 7, that’s great, but what if it goes down to 4.5? Does that mean you’ve been wrong? Or maybe you should wait, it might still go up, right? A good hypothesis must have a predefined point of failure. A good hypothesis is, now it’s on 5 it will go up to 7, if it goes below 4 I WAS WRONG, stop my loss!! The ability to recognize and accept your failures, rather than avoid them is a mandatory skill for success, and without it, you end up losing, and losing, and losing.
Ignorance is bliss.
When looking into techniques for reprograming the human mind, such as CBT, Neuro Linguistic Programming and other types of therapy, such professionals are hard to come by. Most therapists and life coaches work like beginner traders. They believe they see a pattern, come up with a hypothesis, and make changes, but never set a point of failure. As a result, something remarkable happens – everyone’s always right. Every therapy session, every NLP affirmation, and every CBT technique have always been a success. Some maybe haven’t been a complete success, but none has ever failed. All hypothesis were correct! Or is that so? Can therapy hurt you? Can affirmations make you worse? Can your own beliefs limit you? Does sloppy mind programming exist?
The learning curve.
I will share something a bit personal with you. I started writing code a little over 20 years ago and haven’t stopped since. In all these years, when writing a fresh piece of code I am absolutely certain that it is good, flawless and amazing. I mean how can it not be? I know what I’m doing. Time goes by, and every now and then I would come across some old code I’ve written months, or years earlier, and … well… I’d rewrite it all. I wrote bad code. It should have been done differently, but I fixed it, now it’s good. Another year might go by and I stumble across that code again and… the same thing happens again, my better work is still not good enough.
This is not my problem alone, we all have a learning curve, and as we progress we all get better at what we do. But is this an achievement or a failure? When you were reading this did you think: “Gosh what a dumb-ass, he writes bad code” or did you think “wow he must have gotten so much better”. Some see the glass as half empty, covered with judgment and fear of failure, while others see it as half full, making a mistake yesterday means you’re smarter today.
Which of them is true? Both. I did something wrong and I got smart enough to see it; I’ve made a mistake and was improved by it. Failure is not to be dreaded, mistakes do not make you stupid, and in order to be right, you have to acknowledge that you might also be wrong.
So for every hypothesis you make, and every journey you embark on, set a point of failure because without failure there can be no success.