My history with failure is long and storied. After all, I have spent my life in the tech business, and failure is endemic to what we do.
I began thinking about those failures sometime last year after reading Mark Manson’s piece asking “7 Strange Questions that Help You Find Your Life Purpose.” Two of these questions resonated in particular:
- What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive?
- How can you better embarrass yourself?
Both, in a sense are about failure, or at least struggle, another topic Manson addressed in greater detail. This hit me at about the time I was struggling with my own career issues and thinking a lot about what made me unhappy in my situation at the time compared to other postions I’ve held. I zeroed in on failure modes and failure responses as the thing that really made me unhappy with that situation. There are some failures that are learning experiences and energize me. As Manson says, they come with an olive. Most of my failures and difficulties at the time were ones that were neither educational nor energizing. I wanted something else.
In a roundabout way this led me to roles I had earlier in my career, which led me back to data, to data science, to a fair amount of coding, and to data architecture. All those combined led me to becoming somewhat of an expert at certain aspects of Amazon Web Services. And now I’m actually getting job offers that seem really exciting, appealing and worth moving halfway around the world for if that’s what it takes. I want the successes that come with those jobs, but more than that, I don’t mind the failures and even look forward to some of them in a perverse way.
Since then, I’ve heard pretty regularly from people who want to talk about failure. It seems to be something that we’ve glossed over in our modern tech culture but that beneath the surface we still yearn to discuss. I hear from women more than men, and I hear from people outside the US more than people here. Take from that what you will, and maybe I’ll have more to say about it at some time, though I think Barbara Ehrenreich is probably on to something.
This blog (and podcast coming soon!) will delve into those issues, primarily in the tech world but also elsewhere.