Mistakes — 16

This post is part of Project: Inception, written ~8 years ago. It has been untouched from its original, pseudonymous, form. It is also part of the larger “farewell” tour and countdown as I turn-off this blog and head to the metaverse where I will live out the rest of my wonderful days. I hope to see you there!


We all make mistakes. Tons of them. In fact, for us it seems that we can’t seem to learn from our so-called mistakes. To make things worse, as we grow into adults, these tendencies can become even more apparent and detrimental to ourselves, our relationships, and the work that we are trying to do.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been scolded or asked why I couldn’t just learn from my mistakes. I remember finding myself in one of my bosses office earlier in my career, for the third time within the first 3 months of employment and being asked, for the 100th time it seemed, the same question that I’ve heard far too often:

Bro, why don’t you get it? How many times do I have to tell you the same thing over and over?

The previous issue was that I was watching movies during my work, which helped relax me while I built their integrated software solution that was managing their cisco routers for Fortune 500 companies. The stress and pressure to make sure that we met our targeted SLAs pushed my tendencies and behaviors to the max as every minute of downtime was literally tens of thousands of dollars in damages. There was one large technology company out of Redmond, Washington where we owed them literally $12,000 per minute of outtage – it was hard for me to even wrap my mind around the “cost” of my mistake.

But that was the conundrum that my boss (and every other boss before and after) would eventually face – I didn’t really make mistakes, at least not functionally. I was great at my job(s) and I always performed exceptionally well, producing better than expected results, under time and under budget.

It’s the behavioral patterns that they didn’t like – the fact that I would, in this last case, turn on a movie on one of my three flat-panel displays so that I could do my work and the fact that I would liberally browse the internet on another, while on the third screen was my actual software development tools.

2 out of 3 screens showed “distraction” to my important work and just wasn’t what they “did” around these parts, or in this business and in this culture.

And I didn’t learn from my mistakes. But I couldn’t help it – through sheer compulsion I had to create these structures within my environment so I could do the very job they were asking me to do! I stammered shamefully,

I’m sorry sir, I really am. I… I… I… … … … I need those things to do my job.

I could feel his black eyes undressing me as he paced back and forth behind his desk. This time the HR Director was also in the office, sharing the seat next to me, and I knew what was coming. Time to dust off the old resume. No need to ask for references here since I made no friends during my short stay. I’ll pack up my few things quickly and get out of your hair.

As I walked back to my desk it was apparent that my colleagues had already heard the news and were strangely silent in their seats. In fact, they must have anticipated it since the gal sitting next to me had already taken my mouse.

Excuse me, that’s my mouse that I brought from home. I’ll need that back.

She muttered something incomprehensible, unplugged it from the back of her box, and shoved it to the side, never making eye-contact with me once.

Mistakes? My patterns of execution weren’t mistakes at all. Learning from them? Overrated. In fact, it’s not even in the same playing field. Learning from some of these so-called mistakes were not only impossible but were in categorical opposition of how I did my best work.

I would never let them go, and neither should you.

You see, in the real world, there are patterns of behavior that are acceptable, normal, and assumed. In a business, a company, and an organization, there are cultural behaviors and nuances that also exist that we will never pick up on.

That’s ok, we can still do a good job. Sometimes it’s actually to our benefit that we are able to somehow miss the cultural idiosyncrasies and allow us to focus on the work and tasks at hand.

It’s hard for some people and businesses to admit that an individual may actually have a system that requires very little, if any, refining. In business, if you mess up, if you fail, then you must learn from it and become better in the process. Is it so hard to imagine that we have invented our own personal wheel to perfection the very first time?

Other people’s failures and the process of learning from mistakes can be, at times, completely mythological. Aspies already exist in the real world, one where things actually “work” the first time through.

If I learn anything then it’s not so much through failure but rather success. When someone smiles at my strange sense of humor or I manage to come up a different system to engage acquaintances that mirrors that of neurotypical reciprocity then I know I’m onto something big.

The prerequisite for success for me is success. Want to know something fascinating? A study done at the exalted Harvard Business School (HBS) showed that entrepreneurs who had previously successful ventures were far more likely to achieve success in subsequent ventures. This is in comparison to entrepreneurs who failed their first time, which was also the same rate as other starting a company for the first time; a measly 23% (first time failure rate is also applicable at 18% and then only 20% for subsequent attempts).

Compare this with the 34% of successful leaders doing it again, and again, and again.

The point? Success breeds success and the formula beneath it all is persistence. An aspie is one persistent son of a bitch.

It’s almost Darwinian, if you think about it, right? Evolution gives the cup to the survivalist, you know, the one that killed all the others to become king of the hill, the one that was successful, time and time and time again.

And to the victor go the spoils.

[via HBS, HBS]