How do you deal with mistakes?


—Andy Hunt

04/27/2003
Published in Andy's Blog

A woodworking magazine recently had an article suggesting that how a woodworker deals with mistakes is what differentiates a master from someone who’s not. Everyone makes mistakes: You cut something too short; There’s a crack in the board; Something goes wrong. Do you have the skill to work with the mistake, to get beyond it? Or are you just dead in the water and have to start over?

Some mistakes are obviously worse than others; once you cut a piece of wood too short, it’s really hard to grow it back long again. That’s a bad thing. Writing software seems to be kind of similar.

Once you’ve messed up a piece of code to the point where you think you need to start over - you really do need to start over. Bite the bullet and do it; you probably can’t patch it successfully. But many programmers don’t like to make that decision, preferring to say, “No, I’m sure I can just patch around it.” And that’s equivalent to trying to glue that little bit of extra wood on the end of a piece of lumber. It just doesn’t work out real well. You’ve got to know when to cut your losses.

These observations and more come out in the latest installment of our interview at Artima.com.

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