You are going to fail

Eventually, you are going to fail. Not once but many time.

Wimbledon finalists (and champions) are remembered of this fact each time they enter the court.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

If (Ruyard Kipling)

And basketball champions like Michael Jordan said it long ago.

26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed.
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.
And that is why I succeed.

The Sign of the Swoosh (Goldman, Papson)

And both professional tennis and professional basketball are competitive games. Many works today are not competitive but cooperative ones.

When facing innovation, being able to fail and face it in the same way as success is not only a skill. It is a MUST. That’s what this “celebrating failure” culture is about.

Both your successes and your failures report useful information and open new paths to tackle new challenges. Embrace them. The only people not failing are the ones not trying.

Related: Trying is harmful.

Related: On winners and dealing with failure.


A lesson by the Washington Generals: Winning doesn’t make sense if you are playing an infinite game

“what is it about a team that has lost over 10,000 games and counting to the same team, and had their last win against them all the way back in 1971” (Why I love The Washington Generals)

I’m a tennis player. But I do not play tennis to win. I do not play to lose either.

Adolfo, you ask, what do you play for?

play_the_infinite_gameI play for the challenge. And I play for the fun. I play for doing right the right things.

When everything out there was dangerous and risky, when every generation lived through a major war, when roads were dangerous, when it was win or die, you used to need to train to win at all costs. It’s no wonder that the original olympic games were all about throwing weapons, wrestling and jumping over walls and moats.

Many of our current sports are heir to this tradition although it makes no sense anymore. We are not throwing spears to our enemies, but we still keep trainning, and competing, on javeling throw.

But there are lots of sports that are not competitive:

  • Figure ice skating
  • Dancing
  • Tennis played among old glories from the 80’s

Of course you can compete (and we do) on figure ice skating. But subjective judges based on hard to understand criteria are the ones “choosing” who wins.
Of course a doubles tennis match Cash-McEnroe vs Lendl-Wilander can be competitive. But they’re not playing for the result. They’re playing for the fun. Their fun and the crowd’s fun. That’s why they arrange this awesome long rallies, full of trick shots, instead of going for the quick winner.

We have been taught that this is not as valid as a competitive match. We have been taught that this is not serious nor professional. We’ve been told that a professional must win. At all costs.

We have been fooled. Won’t get fooled again.

Every year the market is less about competing and more about cooperating, but win-win relationships won’t prosper until we all understand that sometimes competing is a root cause for the problem. Being able to force your supplier to a 10% cost reduction is not a win if next year you’re obliged to search for another supplier when the current one fills bankruptcy. Being able to sell a broken product to a customer is not a win if news spread and you loose trust and confidence from your customer base.

The Generals are not there for winning. They’re there for the fun.

“Their job is not, nor has it ever been to win championships. Like their long time rivals their job is to entertain a crowd. The fans may come to see the Globetrotters but it’s the Generals who see to it that the Trotters always do their best.” (Why I love The Washington Generals)


  • Why I love The Washington Generals (Dan The Generals Fan): “what is it about a team that has lost over 10,000 games and counting to the same team, and had their last win against them all the way back in 1971”
  • The short game, the long game and the infinite game (Seth): “In the infinite game, though, something completely different is going on. In the infinite game, the point is to keep playing, not to win. In the infinite game, the journey is all there is.”
  • Turning competitive into cooperative: “Competitive games are useful for learning things like getting more than your fair share during a negotiation or like killing the enemies of your people.”

My first football match and my first day at a job

I was six when my father first took me to the stadium for watching my town’s local team playing football. I was thrilled. I didn’t know a thing about standings, promotions or relegations, or even in which category was our team playing. But being there was excitingly terrific. By the way, C.D. Logroñes beat Sporting Atletico, two goals to one.

logrones_sporting_atletico I started coming regularly with him and some friends. Every day… and I mean EVERY, ONE, OF THEM, I was equally thrilled for being there. It didn’t really matter if it was a 1-4 defeat against Bilbao Athletic or a last minute 2-0 victory over U.D. Salamanca. I always came to the stadium thrilled, happy, expecting to take part to the experience and ready to give my best to the task.

Then I grew up and realized the football world was much bigger. I realized that each match counted, and that there were promotions, and relegations. Sometimes I was thrilled because of a promotion, but sometimes I was scared of my team being relegated. And those thoughts changed the experience. I was no longer coming to the stadium filled with hopes and joy EVERY single day. I usually came thinking on how badly the team played last match, or the fact that we had lost four times in a row, or the fact that my team was at the bottom of the table.

Football is a competitive zero-sum game. What you win, I lose. When the referee calls the end of the match, that’s it. At the end of the season you win a trophy or you are relegated.

On the other hand, the interesting thing is work is not a competitive zero-sum game. Not anymore. I can go there thrilled, happy, expecting to take part to the experience and ready to give my best to the task. Everyday. EVERY…ONE…OF THEM.

Related: Stinginess in the connection economy (Seth): “But in interactions that lead to connection, to shared knowledge, to possibility, it’s pretty clear that there isn’t a zero-sum game being played. In fact, the more enthusiasm and optimism people bring to the interaction, the more there is for everyone else.”

Related: Winning is overrated: “Sometimes you just need to lose, and losing while making your best effort is far better than winning by default.”

You are not what you are

I stretched back and I hiccupped
And looked back on my busy day
Eleven hours in the tin pan
God, there’s got to be another way
Well, who are you? (who are you? who, who, who, who?)
Oh, who are you? (who are you? who, who, who, who?)
                                                                                    “Who are you?” (The Who)

You are not your degree.

You are not your role not your job position.

You are not your age not your weight. You are not your gender, nor where you were born.


You are not your marital status, nor your citizenship. You are not the place where you live. You are not your savings nor your debts.

You are what you do.

And, each day, you can decide to do lots of different things. Or you can decide not doing anything. Even you can decide not deciding at all.

What are you doing? Who are you? Two different questions meaning absolutely the same.

Persistence as the way to achieve things

The main reason why people don’t get what they want is they don’t ask for it.

shawsank_redemptionAndy, main character in The Shawshank Redemption, knew it when he set him up to get a library funded in the prison.

Andy Dufresne (reading the letter he’s just received): “In addition, the Library District has generously responded with a charitable donation of used books and sundries. We trust this will fill your needs. We now consider the matter closed. Please stop sending us letters.”
Guard Wiley: Good for you, Andy.
Andy Dufresne: Wow. It only took six years. From now on, I’ll write two letters a week, instead of one.

Red: [narrating] Andy was as good as his word. He wrote two letters a week instead of one. In 1959 the State Senate finally clued into the fact they couldn’t buy him off with just a two hundred dollar check. Appropriations Committee voted an annual payment of five hundred dollars just to shut him up.

You can track this piece of advice back to The Gospels.

One piece from Matthew.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew, 7)

Another one from Luke.

“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she will not eventually wear me out with her coming!'” (Luke, 18)

Persistence, being able of keep trying after receiving a negative, not being afraid of asking once and again, not being afraid of failing… are not the kind of personality traits we usually relate to winners.

We tend to think winners are people who always get what they want.

In fact, winners are people who didn’t stop trying to get what they want after a defeat.


  • Don’t be afraid of losing. Receiving a “no” is just another step to getting the final “yes”.
  • Know what you want, and don’t be afraid of asking for it.


  • Related: “In business if there’s one thing that successful entrepreneurs have in common, it’s just sheer determination and persistence. Often to get a sale it’s a no, the second time is a no, sometimes 7 times it’s a no and eventually it’s a yes.” (Sam Ovens)
  • Related: “Succeed as often as you can. But don’t let failure keep you from trying and learning and improving and trying again.” (On winners and dealing with failure)
  • Related: “You are going to lose. But you won’t get shaper, nor stronger, you won’t reach pro level, nor acquire enough experience just by quitting.” (Winning is overrated)

Why do you work here? (3/3)

After two posts in this series, we agree on:

  1. Presented with a better job offer we would change ships.
  2. There are three issues easily talkable during negotiation stage.


Being in the intersection of the three circles is the optimum. The sweet spot. Hard to get, hard to leave.

At the beginning of your career you’ll probably start far from the sweet spot. Maybe you are an intern in a very demanding firm, low salary, bad work-life balance but lots of interesting things to learn. Or you could be a low-rank assistant on a well founded business, having a good work-life balance and a fair salary, but with lots of bureaucratic, repetitive, uninteresting job.3circles_CAMBIO_PRIMER_CURRO

If you are just into one circle,finding a new job will be easier because you can do several type of movements.

  • You could leave your interesting first job, just because you’ve found another interesting job which will bring you more money or more spare time.
  • You could leave your boring fairly-paid job, so you can learn new stuff and make your career advance, in a demanding but interesting new job.

When you are into two circles it’s harder to change jobs, because you need to find a place that drives you into the sweet spot.3circles_CAMBIO_segundo_CURRO

  • If you are well paid and enjoy a great work-life balance, you will find for jobs in other markets or with new technologies (interesting new things to learn) but these will demand you effort and time to get up to speed.
  • If you are always learning new things and are well-paid, it would be hard to find a job which could give you more time to deal with other issues, since you need to keep learning and working extra hours to stay on top.

With this in mind, you could be in four situations.

  1. In the sweet spot. You are in the three circles. You feel happy about your job. Difficult to be here, so you won’t seek a change.
  2. In two of the circles. You would be happy about parts of your life, but worried about another. If you’ve been not so much time in your current job, you won’t look for a change, because only the sweet spot offers you an improvement.
  3. Out of the three circles. You would be actively seeking for a change, and it could be almost in any job that improves your situation a bit.

Ok, Adolfo, you said four situations, but you’ve only talked about three.


Thanks for the comment, Adolfo. You are right. This is because the fourth one is the most peculiar. You can be (4.) Trapped in one of the circles. Most of the times this happens when you work long hours in a job than doesn’t satisfy you enough, but which is well-paid.

This situation is special because in a demanding but not rewarding job, your company will use money as a way to keep you in. And the more money you accept, the farther you are from the sweet spot, the harder you will be able to make it to the other two circles.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on the golden jail and how to avoid it.

(Software) people have the power!

Where the pure air recognized
And my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry
That the people have the power

People have the power (Patti Smith)

Hollywood blockbusters have depicted software developers or computer scientists as unstable freaks, unable of living a normal life. Best case, we were performing as a sidekick for the hero, assisting him with some dark security issue, so he can go on, kicking asses and kissing the girl.


Average software developers discussing how to hack John McLane’s way for saving the world today. One lives in his mother’s basement. The other has no friends at all.

This kind of role is normally associated with comic relief based on clothing, being fat and socially incompetent.


You are the one preventing T-Rexes from wrecking havoc so why should you worry for cleaning your desk (or yourself)?

The other role a software developer could play was as assistant to the bad guy. Just a tool for some business or military master mind who is carrying the task of dominating the free world.


Bad guys: the brain, the brute and the software developer

But, while everyone was having a good time watching this social outcasts helping the main characters, software was already filling every hole, crack and space in real life. First through the internet. Then through digitization and through cell phones. And this software is done by real developers. Not like the ones portrayed in the movies.

Programmers don’t think of themselves as people with the power to change the world. Most programmers I know, including myself, grew up as nerds, geeks, social outcasts. […] What do you do when you wake up one day and software has kind of eaten the world, and it is no longer clear if software is in fact an unambiguously good thing, like we thought, like everyone told us … like we wanted it to be?

To serve man, with software (Jeff Attwood)

And now, without anyone even realizing, real programmers are ruling the world.

We rule the world. We programmers. We rule the world. We write the rules that make our society work. […] Without software: Phones don’t ring. Cars don’t start. Planes don’t fly. Bombs don’t explode. Ships don’t sail. Ovens don’t bake. Garage doors don’t open […] Nothing happens without software. And what is software? Software is a set of rules. […] To protect our society from the power they have unwittingly ceded to us, we should adopt a code of ethics that describes our sworn promise and duty to humbly use our power to serve.

The obligation of a programmer (Bob Martin)

With great power comes great responsibility. What are we doing about it?

Then he waited, marshaling his thoughts and brooding over his still untested powers. For though he was master of the world, he was not quite sure what to do next. But he would think of something.

A Space Odissey. (Arthur C. Clarke)