I got a nice offer from Freelancer the other day to take one of their exams and earn a badge on my Freelancer resume. I had taken the Editing exam and earned a 100% a few months ago so I appreciated the opportunity to add to my presence there.
So naturally I chose the HTML exam thinking that 40 questions in 15 minutes would be no problem for a budding genius programmer like myself. I mean I’m enrolled in Treehouse after all, and I spend all my free time on coding-related activities these days.
15 minutes later I was left with a large “FAIL – 36%” flashing before me.
A few years ago such an unexpected failure would have left me upset and looking for excuses long after the test was over. Luckily, I read a great book by Carol Dweck called “Mindset”. In it she argues that we have two mindsets, a fixed or growth mindset.
A fixed mindset views intelligence as a set number and anything, any feedback we get that goes against this fixed construct can shake us to our foundation. Because we protect this image of ourselves it keeps us from trying new things or taking on new challenges.
A growth mindset looks at failure as an opportunity. What went wrong? Where can I improve? What did this experience show me so I can learn from it?
I got a 36%. I’ve never gotten a 36%. But I’ll learn from it and redouble my efforts in learning to code. What that 36% represents is feedback, not a judgement on me as a person or my worth as a human being.
And the simple fact that I’m willing to share this experience on my blog is a success for me.
So much of what I read on other blogs is an endless loop of someone’s greatest hits that being brutally honest (hat tip to James Altucher and “Choose Yourself”) shows that I’m confident enough to say I know I’m smart, but learning something new like coding is hard and there will be failure along the way.
Just not too much failure because that 36% sucked.