It’s Alright to Make Mistakes

Looking at the screenshot above, it’s ironic that there’s a mismatch between the commit message and the actual pipeline result from the tests after pushing the said commit. 😛 What happened was that after making the unit tests pass on my local machine, I fetched the latest changes from the remote repository, made a commit of my changes, and then pushed the commit. Standard procedure, right? After receiving the failure email I realized that I forgot to re-run the tests locally to double-check, which I should have done since there were changes from remote. Those pulled changes broke some of the tests. Honest mistake, lesson learned.

I frequently make errors like this on all sorts of things, not just code, and I welcome them. They bewilder me in a good way, and remind me of how fallible I can be. They show me that it’s alright to make mistakes, and tell me that it’s all part of the journey to becoming better.

And yes, testers can also test on the unit level! 🙂



Lessons Learned from Scott Adams’ “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big”

Last week I had a lovely time reading “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” by cartoonist Scott Adams. His views on success and happiness, and his formula for increasing the odds of success through failures are intriguing, based on his life experiences. He shares ideas about goals and systems, skills, happiness, priorities, and personal energy, which provides a guide for living well. Some of those ideas are ones I already exercise, while others have provided answers to goals that have failed me in the past as well as reasons to why I’ve acted a certain way before. It’s refreshing to learn something new about existing patterns of behavior.

Here are some favorite quotes from the book:

  • A goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal. Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy. Goals only make sense if you also have a system that moves you in the right direction.
  • One of the most important tricks for maximizing your productivity involves matching your mental state to the task. For example, when I first wake up, my brain is relaxed and creative. The thought of writing a comic is fun, and it’s relatively easy because my brain is in exactly the right mode for that task. I know from experience that trying to be creative in the mid-afternoon is a waste of time. By 2:00 PM all I can do is regurgitate the ideas I’ve seen elsewhere. At 6:00 AM I’m a creator, and by 2:00 PM I’m a copier.
  • The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main metric: my energy. I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities. Maximizing my personal energy means eating right, exercising, avoiding unnecessary stress, getting enough sleep, and all of the obvious steps. But it also means having something in my life that makes me excited to wake up.
  • It’s useful to think of your priorities in terms of concentric circles, like an archery target. In the center is your highest priority: you. If you ruin yourself, you won’t be able to work on any other  priorities. So taking care of your own health is job one. The next ring – and your second-biggest priority is economics. That includes your job, your investments, and even your house. You might wince at the fact that I put economics ahead of your family, your friends, and the rest of the world, but there’s a reason. If you don’t get your personal financial engine working right, you place a burden on everyone from your family to the country. Once you are both healthy and financially sound, it’s time for the third ring: family, friends, and lovers. Good health and sufficient money are necessary for a base level of happiness, but you need to be right with your family, friends, and romantic partners to truly enjoy life.
  • There’s a formula for success. You can manipulate your odds of success by how you choose to fill out the variables in the formula. The formula, roughly speaking, is that every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success. Good + Good > Excellent. If you think extraordinary talent and a maniacal pursuit of excellence are necessary for success, I say that’s just one approach, and probably the hardest. When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality.
  • I find it helpful to see the world as a slot machine that doesn’t ask you to put money in. All it asks is your time, focus, and energy to pull the handle over and over. A normal slot machine that requires money will bankrupt any player in the long run. But the machine that has rare yet certain payoffs, and asks for no money up front, is a guaranteed winner if you have what it takes yo keep yanking until you get lucky. In that environment, you can fail 99% of the time, while knowing success is guaranteed. All you need to do is stay in the game long enough.
  • The single biggest trick for manipulating your happiness chemistry is being able to do what you want, when you want. I’m contrasting that with the more common situation, in which you might be able to do all the things you want, but you can’t often do them when you want. The timing of things can be more important than the intrinsic value of the things. It’s hard to become rich enough to buy your own private island, but, relatively speaking, it’s easier to find a job with flexible hours. A person with a flexible schedule and average resources will be happier than a rich person who has everything except a flexible schedule. Step one in your search for happiness is to continually work toward having control of your schedule.
  • No one wants to believe that the formula for happiness is as simple as daydreaming, controlling your schedule, napping, eating right, and being active every day. You’d feel like an idiot for suffering so many unhappy days while not knowing the cure was so accessible.
  • The happiness formula:
    • Eat right
    • Exercise
    • Get enough sleep
    • Imagine an incredible future (even if you don’t believe it)
    • Work toward a flexible schedule
    • Do things you can steadily improve at
    • Help others (if you’ve already helped yourself)
    • Reduce daily decisions to routine
  • Always remember that failure is your friend. It is the raw material of success. Invite it in. Learn from it. And don’t let it leave until you pick its pocket.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

I came across this free desktop app called f.lux once while on one of my tool-browsing sprees. According to their site, it’s something that automatically changes a display screen’s lighting according to the time of the day to make it sight-friendly. I imagined some similar setting that works well on smartphones, and I thought that it might be cool to try it out. So I installed it on my work desktop to see how it works. I clicked the download button on their site, ran the executable after it finished downloading, then waited for the app to finish installing. After that, I changed some of the app settings as needed and waited for something to happen. One minute went by, two minutes, 15 minutes.. bummer. Okay, nothing happened. Maybe my screen is already at the best lighting condition, adapted to the room where I was working. Happy path, I guess. Hmm, I could turn off some of the lights or turn on some of the others to test if it changes anything on my display, but it would be rude to do so when there are many people in the office. Maybe some other time. I went back to work after thinking that, then pretty much forgot about f.lux when weeks passed by.

Then one day I decided to stay in the office later than the usual. I remember wanting to finish some test code I was writing so that’s what I did, while it got dark outside and people went home one after another. It was a good day, and I was really in the mood to finish what I was doing, typing what’s in my head steadily, like a master conductor in the middle of a beautiful concerto. Then suddenly my Samsung S22B310 desktop monitor started flickering like crazy and the music abruptly stopped. Horizontal lines unexpectedly flew everywhere in my screen, looping back and forth. “Great, things break when you need them,” I muttered to myself.

I started checking the cables first because those are usually the culprit. Remove, re-attach, see if they fit snuggly to both the desktop and the monitor. Looks good, no problem there, but the screen is still acting up. Okay, let’s try restarting the computer.. monitor behaved well at bootup but then several minutes later flickers are all over the place once again. I tried replacing the cables with ones I’m sure was working but the same rapid flutters continued happening. “Okay, what did I do?,” my mind screamed. By this time, I’m thinking that maybe it’s the video card or the screen itself. Hardware failure, darn. I guess I won’t be able to work this evening now that the thing is busted.

Let’s back up data, I thought, trying to calm myself, and let’s just clean the system before I hand the machine to the techs tomorrow. That’s what I often do when similar hardware symptoms start to occur, before they totally break and do their worst, like when hard disk reads begin to fail some of the time. It’s always better to be prepared, I won’t be able to finish what I did today anyway. I synced important files to personal cloud storages, even if the flickers began to hurt my eyes. After that, I decided to clean up installed apps. Okay, there isn’t really much to clean in my system.. but perhaps I should remove this f.lux app because I don’t think it has been of any use since the day I installed it. I remember having high hopes for the app but I guess it wasn’t very helpful. Going to Control Panel, I clicked Programs and Features, then f.lux, clicked Uninstall, and there we go. Done.

As quickly as the flickering started earlier in the evening, they immediately stopped right after the f.lux uninstallation process finished. My monitor went back to normal. Fuck. That was it? After staring blankly at the screen for a few seconds, I suddenly found myself laughing. Haha, I realized I was the culprit after all.

Testing happens that way sometimes. Life too. We sincerely believe that the reason why an event happened is something we know for sure, because we’ve been playing with the system for many years now, because there can’t be any other possible cause after exhausting the known possibilities. But then again, we don’t know what we don’t know, and  when a time comes where unexpected new events happen and we see new information that we’ve never seen before and we realize how things became the way they are, we laugh at ourselves and honestly say that we haven’t known everything yet after all. Lesson learned.

When We (Or Other People) Make Mistakes

Everyday, we try to go about our tasks without fail. We want the things we do to flow smoothly, without mistakes, without errors, because we want to be happy. We seek the ideal, we always go for the perfect. We get angry it when things don’t go our way.

We often forget that the only thing we learn from success is that we can. We do not learn anything new from not failing, only the fact that we have the abilities to succeed. We can learn many things, however, from making mistakes, planned or not, about how certain processes work, about what variables affect the results, about what things we can change in order to improve, and about what decisions work better than others.

We learn more about ourselves when we fail and we learn many things from other people too when we allow them to make miscalculations from time to time. Making mistakes is a natural event, we need only to learn as much as we can from them when they happen and say thanks for the lessons. We do not have to be afraid.