CategoryDeverloper skills

Mistakes are a good thing

If you make a bad mistake you’ve proved two things to the people you’re working with:

  1. You aren’t sitting around doing nothing
  2. You can learn

Many years ago I read a story about a man who had cost the company he worked for several million dollars. He managed to do some other things that mitigated the loss, but there was still a loss of a couple of hundred thousand bucks.

He glumly told his boss what had happened and how he had managed to claw back a good chunk of the cash.

He was very surprised when he wasn’t fired.

Why didn’t you fire me?

Why would I? I just spent 200k training you how to manage risk!

There we have it. If you can take a breath, look at what caused the mistake, and why, and how to reduce the chance of it happening again, you’ve come out ahead.

Don’t let the fear of mistakes paralyse you. If you’re junior you won’t have been put in a place where you can do any serious damage if you’re working for people with any sense. If you’re senior, well, there’s always something new you need to learn.

The newbie super power

If you’re new or junior in your job you can sometimes find yourself paralysed by how little you know. This can come from two different places:

  • Context. There are so many choices you don’t know where to start.
  • Fear. Your ignorance means you don’t know what to do to even try to start.

You can fix both of these by using your newbie super power:

Ask questions.

We’ve been taught in school that you’re not supposed to cheat, you’re just supposed to know things and teacher will be angry if you don’t. You were taught that cribbing from other people is bad.

But real life, in a real job, is not an exam. Everyone, selfishly, needs you to become productive and be able to make a contribution. The only way that can happen is if you ask what they need you to do. If you don’t understand, ask again. I would try something first, just so you have something to talk about and learn from, but asking is a super power.

Watch the people who are senior. They listen, and they ask. This is a superpower you need to master.

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