Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, February 16, 2015

Never be ashamed of failure.

This is a epic fail.
I am a professional Scrum Master and entrepreneur.  When I tell others about this, they have a perception of me as a hard charging success junky.  The reality is more complex and depressing.  This week on the blog I want to discuss failure and how it shapes you as a professional.

From the moment you enter middles school until you graduate, you are place in competition with others.  An “A” is the pinnacle of work while an “F” is equated with failure.  You are given class ranking and placed in a pecking order based on academic performance.  You are consistently reinforced by your teachers that your performance in the classroom will impact your life.  A good student has a chance to escape his or her mundane middle class life.  A poor one will be condemned to flipping burgers or dancing with a brass pole.

From a learning perspective, failure was discouraged and success gateway to further success.  In hind sight, it seem like educational malpractice.  Some of the most important lessons I have learned have come from mistakes.

This situation is further exacerbated when you leave school and enter the work force.  Sales people are judged on the amount of revenue they generated.  T.V. news casters on their ratings.  Programmers on how many hits they receive on their web sites or how many times their app is downloaded.  The numbers are merciless and cruel.  As an entrepreneur, I am judged on how much money I have raised or made for my business.

By any objective measure, I have been a failure.  I have been in business for five years and finally have made enough money to finance the business without having to dip into my own personal savings.  I have done part time consulting to keep my software start-up afloat.  In the meantime, I work full time during the day to keep myself in health care and pay my mortgage.  The Silicon Valley dream of having my own company is still a long way off.

My career have been a series of misadventures being laid off and fired from so many technology jobs that I do not even know how to describe it to others.  In that time, I have gained a tremendous amount of wisdom.  I have been forced to reinvent myself six times of the last 25 years.  I have taken these experiences and applied them to how I have led my technology teams.  It seems that those failures and the wisdom I have gained from them have made me a better leaders.  I also think it will help me when success pays me a visit.

There is a saying in the agile world, “Fail early and often.”  I have lived by that virtue my entire life.  I am still obsessed with success but now I have the experience which will prevent me going insane when success decides to visit.  Failure informs success and makes you able to deal with adversity.

So here I am, a failure.  I have governed most of my life but it has not defeated me.  It has made me stronger and more resilient for the success to come.

Until next time.