There’s a famous quotation attributed to an Italian adventurer and author, Giacomo Casanova, which says “one who makes no mistakes makes nothing at all”. To learn, you need to make mistakes to learn from.
We work in an industry where failure is expected. Some days it can feel like your life revolves around fixing bugs. Comments come back in code review pointing out little typos. Linting tools constantly pick up tiny syntax errors. Edge cases pop up in the most unlikely of places, making it look like our work is “broken”. Even when we produce the most beautiful, functionally airtight piece of work, we can almost guarantee that someone will find a problem with it. We miss things in requirements, or we start work and requirements change, or the project team changes - and suddenly our ideal solution isn’t so ideal anymore.
Failure is expected, which means we are always learning. But not everyone is well-equipped to cope with failure on that kind of scale. What happens if you’re one of those people? Failure can take a massive toll on a person’s mental health, leading to imposter syndrome, anxiety, depression and burnout.
This talk is a very personal one, talking about the way I’ve tried to cope with my own fear of failure over the last four or five years, and how I’ve tried to make changes to my workflow to help to alleviate some of those anxieties. I will talk about:
What a fear of failure means to me, and how it affects the work I do
How everything came to a head and I almost burned out at the start of a big project
What I learned from that experience - and what I am still learning today
What I try to do to make work more manageable, and what you can take away to implement in your teams
You may not suffer from a fear of failure personally, but perhaps you know someone who does. Even if you don’t, you may be able to pick up some helpful tips to take back to your teams. At the end of the day, a team who isn’t afraid to fail will succeed more frequently and confidently, and be better-equipped to cope with the changes that failure brings about.