aviate, navigate, communicate

”…or die tryin’” or how failures help us grow

there’s a lot of wisdom in books, presentations and trainings covering “how to achieve success” (however we choose to define it). this can be applied to working with people, managing them - or companies. one of great books helps reader achieve the success by simply structuring it in a simple, three-step program:

  1. decide what you want to achieve
  2. prepare plan, that will help you achieving what you want
  3. execute the plan

simple, isn’t it? what’s really interesting, it’s actually that easy. but people tend to get lost very quickly around point number 2, and spend most of their lives around number 1.

i’d like to go deeper however, looping back to the subject of this post. how you deal with your failure? are you (like me) enchanted by quote attributed to Einstein that “doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results is definition of insanity”? on the other hand, it’s good to be able to learn from your failures. and here i fully agree with last blog post by Ethan Banks. Ethan writes, that if by now you didn’t encounter failure while working in the area of your specialization, something is wrong. either you’re not willing to go outside of your box, or you’re simply lying to yourself. the power to recognize your own weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and then draw actionable conclusions from it is truly liberating.

i’ve been working up to now with many people. some of them could state that they never failed anything with straight face.

i’m far for being ideal. i failed my CCIE SP exam for example. you can blame everyone, proctors or equipment - but I did fail them. other people did succeed. we even decided to take to stage example of such failure during Cisco Forum 2012 with Piotr Jabłoński, my fellow uber-architect/consultant/networking engineer. the topic of 90 minutes session was our live (lack of) performance during customer testing we did back in San Jose, in Cisco global proof of concept labs, where we did test convergence patterns in modern SP network. before we could do that however, we had to do baseline configuration, including port aggregations and routing. you can imagine our frustration, where singe etherchannel failed to form between directly attached devices, and then - we hit a problem with BGP session that did come somewhat half-way. we’ve spent entire day troubleshooting that simple thing, but we value this experience highly - it was eye opener (and also deep dive to hardware architectures, etherchannels and BGP process itself). i also didn’t pass my last CCDE attempt. again - i can claim that’s it is focused on theory back from 2007-2009, or on encyclopedic knowledge about inner tweaks you can configure somewhere under some specific situation… but it would be an typical defensive excuse. instead, each and every failed attempt triggered very interesting process - we would sit down with my friends and collegues from the office. we would spend hour, two, sometimes six discussing designs, pros and cons, our approaches. we would play devils advocate just to understand fully all technical aspects of each and every decision. it was great path to enlightement - we against the soulless exam designers :) it immediately brought advantages - recently i was on customer design session, standing in for one of my team members, and with great satisfaction I have to say i was able to immediately think deeper than most of the people in the room - just because i already covered those discussions before. interaction between people is very valuable when you meet proper people in proper environment… and let them discuss over specific topic that has value for them (for us it was design itself, not necessarily CCDE exam).

discuss and look for opportunities to discuss. cherish and value your own failures. it’s already part of the history, but you can take a lesson from them and move forward. that is your own adventure, and you create it one step at a time - life, company, certification or personal one.

to sum it up - let me note that we already have first Polish CCDE - Maciej Rzehak working at Trecom in Poland was recently taking a jab at CCDE exam and passed it in London. kudos - and let’s start designing :)