Monday, April 25, 2011

Practice Falling Until You Fly

(Psst. I can blame this late posting on chocolate-bunny overdose, right? Sure, I can.)

This article about "The Chaos Monkey" is just awesome. It talks about dealing with failure and details how Netflix created a program that randomly kills processes within their computer system.

That's kind of mind-melting, isn't it? The company purposefully created a daemon that sabotages their business. And why would they do that? Because they knew it would force them to build a system that could survive genuine equipment failures.

To quote the article writer, Jeff Atwood, "[T]he best way to avoid failure is to fail constantly." In other words, to really learn how to deal with disaster, you have to incorporate it into your life--expect it, plan for it, and get some practical experience at sweeping up the rubble.

Trail runners--those crazy people who jog up and down mountains for fun--are supposed to practice falling. It's not enough to know how to do it safely; you must practice the skill. This is because your body's natural instinct to splay its hands to stop a tumble could get you killed when you're sprinting down a 45 degree hillside. Instead, you need to tuck into a ball, roll over your shoulder and back up onto your feet, then keep on running. And to be truly ready for the real crisis--for that hideous moment when a tree root mugs your ankle--you must fail on purpose so you learn how to survive such failures. You have to practice crash-landing.

When was the last time you wrote something experimental that you knew you couldn't pull off? Do you ever force yourself to submit to magazines and literary agents you realistically have no hope with? How about pitching a non-fiction idea when you've got no platform?

The great thing about practising failure is that at some point, it will turn into success. Even better, you're never going to be scared to fail because you will already know you can handle it.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

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