Apprenticeship Patterns – Learn How You Fail

People are going to have failures in their field of expertise at one point or another. There is simple no avoiding it. If someone claims that they have never made a mistake I am willing to bet that they are lying or have never even remotely pushed themselves in any way, shape, or form. The pattern Learn How You Fail in Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman[AP] by Dave Hoover and Adewale Oshineye discusses failure and how to handle failure.

The key message this pattern is trying to convey is how to learn from your failures [AP]. People are always going to be weak in certain areas [AP]. The key is to identify where your weaknesses are and be able to recognize when you are heading into one of those areas [AP]. If you can do that, then you are heading in the correct direction. However, simply identifying where your weaknesses is only one step [AP]. Not taking it any further than that is like a dentist saying you have a cavity and then not repairing it. Once you have found an area of weakness you need to be aware of what is causing that weakness and trying to improve that skillset [AP].

Knowing your weaknesses also allows you to set realistic boundaries [AP]. It allows you to keep your goals in sight without getting too side tracked on other matters that you are probably wasting your time on [AP]. That is not to say you should totally avoid your weaknesses. You are going to have to tackle some of them to get where you want to go.

I generally agree with this philosophy. I have always viewed failures as things that happen naturally and in most cases are a good thing (unless there is a deadline). If you never make any mistakes how are you supposed to learn? Be able to recognize quickly when you have made a mistake so you can take advantage of it. Failure is a bad thing if you never take anything from them. You’ll just end up making the same mistake over and over again. The pattern also suggests keeping a list of your skills and limitations to help yourself recognize when you are heading down the right path and more importantly, when you are heading down the wrong path [AP]. I think keep a list like this is a great idea. It allows for people to more easily recognize what they are good at. I may think about doing this myself. This pattern provides some great advice that I certainly will try to follow and I hope others will as well.


Link to pattern in book:



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