I have this obsession of trying to do everything perfect right from the beginning. Ask me to implement something and you will find me first collecting at least 1 book, and few online resources on the subject before even starting a single line of code. The reason behind doing this is simple – I’m afraid of failing and I want to do everything properly right from the beginning. Researching, or reading about a subject matter beforehand is not wrong but making it too obsessive has its own drawbacks and will actually make you fail harder. I’ve been realizing about the drawbacks of this ‘obsessive failure restraint’ habit.
Trying to restrain myself from committing a mistake always gave me a false sense of perfectionism. I somehow grew up this wrong thinking that perfectionist means someone who never commits a mistake. Now, that I re-read stories of renowned people, like Steve Jobs, who are/ were no less than perfectionists, I’ve realized that they’ve failed more often but they learned from their mistakes. When you make small mistakes then you can see how you came to commit those mistakes, rectify them, learn from them, and will, probably, never make the same mistakes again. But if you fail big which will be, obviously, because of the small mistakes you were never aware of, it will be hard to find where those tiny mistakes were, and you can neither rectify them, nor you can learn from the mistakes. Probably, the failed project itself was a very good idea, and had a potential but you will end of giving up because of the smaller mistakes you were afraid to commit, and then admit.
For last few weekends I’ve been joining my few friends to go ice-skating, and skiing. I have never done ice-skating, or skiing before because, to be honest, I was afraid of falling down and ending up breaking my fingers, hands, or legs. But last weekend I decided to give it a try and see how it goes. Better to be late than to be never, I thought. In the group there were only 1, or 2 people who could call themselves an advanced skater. All of the others were starters, just like me. Some of them were even afraid of going for skating. At least I had some plus points on that regard. I thought I had better chance of learning faster because I was at least not afraid to enter the arena.
At the end of the day it turned out that my other friends had learned more than me. They could skate freely without any support, and they were skating at the center of the arena. I found myself taking help of the fence all the time, and could hardly skate freely for more 10-20 seconds. To make the experience worst, I fell so hard on the floor with my face down that I nearly had a concussion. My friends had to help me to get off the arena. I was afraid that the fear of falling down so hard would overcome me and I would never be able to skate again. So I decided to go back skating again after resting for about 10 minutes.
I’m still recovering from the pain of that hit. But the pain was nothing compared to the embarrassment of being the last of the lot. How could everyone started skating so quickly, and I ended up being at where I started? After a week, and after being last of the lot again, but this time with skiing, I’ve started to realize the reason of me being the last – I was too afraid of falling on the ground. All my skiing 101 friends ended up skiing from more advanced level slopes, but I ended up only skiing only on the bunny hills. I didn’t fell much but the last fall, which I tried from bunny slope++ level, was pretty cruel; nearly breaking my leg.
I hardly remember what happened after the moment I started falling when I was ice-skating. But I do remember that I was trying hard not to fall down. One of my friends had told me to lean forward, esp. when if I started losing my balance, so not to fall down. I took that advice too seriously because when I started losing my balance, I first struggled for few seconds to keep my balance, and then leaned forward too much. At that point I also had reached to the edge of the arena where the floor was very rough. My boot stuck, and I fell my face down. I now think that I could have avoided the injury if I had let myself down before trying too much to keep my balance. I should have committed that mistake to avoid the bigger injury. But I wanted to hold myself still, saving myself from the embarrassment of falling.
I fell for the last time that day again just before we left. The same friend who taught me to lean forward, saw me falling, and noticed what I was doing something wrong. He gave me some tips – “Don’t try to walk, let one foot glide you for few seconds before trying it again with the second foot”. I made some improvements right away after that. I was freely skating for more than 20-30 seconds. But it didn’t last because we had to leave the arena for ice-hokey practice game.
Later, when all of us got together, we talked about how everything went. I was surprised that, in an average, my other friends had fallen for about 10 times; 8 times more than me, which I was proud of then. How foolish I was trying so hard not to fall? They fell more than me and ended up learning more than me. I remember myself trying to be very close to the fence, so that I could catch it for support if I fell. Later on I found myself not able to skate without the fence support because it gave me so much security. Same thing happened with skiing yesterday. My friends fell more than I did. Their jackets, and trousers were wet because of snow. One friend complained about feeling too much pain in his right thumb. Overall they were more hurt than I was. But they enjoyed it more. When we were leaving, I was swearing never to come again where everyone else was planning returning the next weekend.
So, after these two back-to-back outdoor incidents, I’ve realized that letting yourself fall, if that’s the most probable result right at that moment, is not a bad idea. It has more benefits than trying to forcefully take yourself out of it. Because you will end up with nothing. Try to be a perfectionist but get there after perfecting your skills which you can only do by a systematic rinse-and-repeat procedure – let yourself fail, don’t feel embarrassed about the fail, fail fast, learn from the failure, make yourself better rectifying the mistake. Now rinse-and-repeat.