document updated 12 years ago, on Sep 1, 2011


Failure is a GOOD thing. Failing is one of the key ways you learn things.

Earlier in my life, I would REALLY get down on myself whenever I failed in any way. Yeah, that's messed up, but I had no clue at the time.

For a long time, I had to constantly remind myself that failure isn't bad. Quite the opposite.

"Show me a person who hasn't failed today, and I'll show you a person who isn't trying hard enough". (-Henry Ford?)

Perfection isn't required, being present is.

It has been HARD for me to shake the perfectionism bug.

But whenever I told myself "don't be a perfectionist", I used to be unsure about "how much" effort was enough.

Well, this makes it clear — you don't need to kill yourself, but you shouldn't slack off either. Be present, and that's enough.

Slower is faster.

It's true. This isn't Orwellian doublespeak.

I have a tendency to think that, if I want to work harder, that the way to do that is to move faster. So I go into a hyper-frenzied state, but don't end up getting very much done, because I'm doing too many things at once, or skipping steps that really aren't optional. ("if something is worth doing, it's worth doing right")

This phrase is the antidote to that tendency.

It also reminds me that if I want to actually be productive, I have to set aside enough time to get the job done. I can't just wait until the last minute, and hope that I'll be able to bang the work out. It doesn't work that way.

This aphorism is suggested by my therapist. (I think he brings it up at least one per session... it ends up coming up in a lot of areas of my life)

One thing at a time.

Another variant of "slower is faster".

In the past, I have done a LOT of multi-tasking. There's quite a bit of evidence that humans really aren't as good at multi-tasking as they think.

I also tend to just get plain old distracted. It's really important for me to put on the horse-blinders.

In boxing, the winner is the person who gets back up one more time than they fall down.

Persistence in the face of adversity is really important.

Adversity is a fact of life. It's how you respond to it that matters.

I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down. I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Sometimes it can be hard to accept that you don't have the ability to fix something. (eg. you might wish you could bring a loved one back from the dead, but you can't).

It's important to recognize that you have to work towards acceptance in these cases. Otherwise you'll burn up lots of energy doing fruitless things.

Ignore the goal. Focus on the process.

Sometimes goals are hard, or you fail at them sometimes. That's okay. If you have a good process, you'll succeed at the goal more often than not. Don't let yourself get bogged down by the fact that you fail to achieve the goal once in a while. If you fail too often, adjust the process accordingly, and move on. As long as you're regularly working the process, then you can consider yourself to have succeeded at the goal.

For example, goal = "keep your house clean enough for your roommate". Process = "spend 10 minutes every evening tidying up".

This hilights the fact that larger more important goals can't be achieved by willpower alone — rather, you have to have a good process in place to achieve it. And that process gets iteratively improved. And iterative-process-improvement is the only way to solve complex problems.

(Desiree gave me this one)

Working with others

Clean up your side of the street first.

A helpful saying from Alcoholics Anonymous culture.

Often, unhealthy people fall into a pattern of blaming their own problems on others. Their life sucks, and it's hard to think about taking responsibility for all that. But they have to.

Also, this phrase succinctly explains boundaries in general.

Hope for the best; plan for the worst.
Trust, but verify.

This phrase helps balance optimism & pessimism when working closely with other people, particularly folks who you depend on to do their part of the job.


You're not getting paid to write pretty code. You're getting paid to write working code.

There's that perfectionism thing again.

Also, there IS a different mentality when writing corporate code versus open-source code. Corporate code is generally more pragmatic but not as nice to read.