Learn How You Fail

This week I read the section “Learn How You Fail” in chapter five of Apprenticeship Patterns by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye. This section focuses on the concept of learning from your mistakes by understanding your shortcomings. An example the authors use to illustrate this is writing an implementation of binary search and its tests in one sitting without compiling the code or running tests once. Once finished, compile the code and run the tests in order to find any mistakes you’ve made. Repeat this process until the code compiles and passes all the tests while also writing down notes on each iteration. These notes will act as an identifier to your personal shortcomings which will certainly be useful into the self-assessment that allows one to set realistic expectations and a direction to aim towards in self-development.

The concept of “Learn How You Fail” has a lot in common with “Expose Your Ignorance” like how they both promote self-improvement and emphasize examining one’s shortcomings. But the most important similarities among these is that they’re both concepts that center around learning from your failures. However, the key difference is that EYI is opening up yourself to failure while LHYF is learning from that failure. It’s just that both concepts complement each other in that one naturally leads to the other. Take for example that exposing your ignorance could very easily act as the direction needed for self-development similar to the notes in the “Learn How You Fail” example.

The idea of “Learn How You Fail” is also one that applies to many different contexts outside of software development. For example, before someone learns how to ride a bicycle, they’re likely to fall dozens of times. A saying I’ve encountered in everyday life is that mindlessly failing again and again will only get you so far, improving muscle memory and the like. A key aspect in learning effectively and quickly is knowing exactly what to improve on. That’s why I personally believe that a direction or a goal is incredibly important not only to this concept, but to learning as a whole.

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