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Learning From Screw Ups [Education
Posted on October 4, 2014 @ 10:37:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I've had to deal with three screw ups recently. I've learned quite a bit from each one.

The first screw up happened yesterday and involved knocking over my digital camera. It was mounted on a tripod at shoulder height and when it tipped over it fell lens first into the pavement. It didn't shatter the lens as the lens is offset back from the lens barrel, however, it did bend the lens rim and I think it also messed with the guides that allow it to extend out as that feature does not appear to work anymore. My initial reaction was horror at my stupidity and then frustration that I would have to shell out for a new camera. As I began living with the idea of being cameraless, I knew I couldn't remain cameraless for long as it is a nice time of year to take pictures and I usually take quite a few pictures and videos on my camera in any given week. So I started researching the sales ads that came in the mail, then I went online, and finally I went to the stores and comparison shopped in 4 different stores with good camera lines. In the end I settled with a Cannon Powershot SX50 HS. I learned what I wouldn't admit to myself before, that it was getting time for an upgrade. My previous digital camera was about 3 yrs old and while it had a nice 30x zoom in its day, my current camera has a 50x zoom and upgrades my camera in every dimension. It provides me with the next level of performance and encourages me to take my photography interests to a higher level. I'm no pro at this. If I were, the Rebel line of Canon cameras would be my choice of camera. I'm quite happy upgrading to this particular camera and have already started to learn new things about photography by purchasing it and watching some YouTube videos on it. So breaking an old device is not the end of the world if getting a newer device opens up new options and produces a better experience. It may be the event that forces you to do what you should have done to improve your hobbyist experience or professional abilities.

The second screw up was that when I was driving down to my farm last night I didn't have any running lights or dash lights. I was pulled over by a police officer who pointed this out to me and told me to run with my flashers until I got to my destination and could fix it. I run an older 1996 Mazda B3000 farm truck and my mechanice took a short cut in fixing this problem in the past. He jumpered wires from one fuse to another. I showed the officer the setup and he was not too impressed. I showed him a blown fuse which probably explained why the jumper wires weren't working. He let me go without any tickets. I stopped at the next place along my route that had an automotive store and got a fuse hoping to fix the problem. I got the running lights and dash lights to work again by putting in a new fuse with the jumper wire back in place but the jumper wire soon started to melt the fuse and then kept blowing the fuse. I wondered why the truck had not caught on fire before this. So I drove the rest of the way to my destination with no jumper wires and my flashers on as it was night time and you would have a hard time seeing the rear end of the trailer I was hauling if I didn't have the flashers going on it.

It was when I was dealing with my third screw up that I realized the problem in my second screw up. My lawn tractor stopped running shortly after I turned on my night lights. I didn't have time to look into it too much when I was down last time, but I did notice that the leads running to one of my front lights had fallen off, was touching the frame below it, and the two metal leads were melted/fused together. Based on my reading I suspected that I had blown a fuse when the light leads fell onto the frame and shorted out. I put in a new fuse and that fixed the starting problem. In the course of trying to find the fuse to replace, I followed a wire leading below the mower deck. I pulled it out a bit and noticed the covering had been scraped off and exposed wire was showing. I'm going to have to fix that now. So from this little episode I learned that the electrical system on my lawn tractor is something I need to keep an eye on, not just the oil and air filters and keeping the deck underneath clean.

I then started to realize that my trucks electrical system has to deal with a trailer with running lights, signal lights, and braking lights on it. These running lights and signals draw electricity in addition to the electricity that the running, signal, and braking on the back of my truck use. My theory is that the fuse I'm using cannot handle the electricity load being put on it when I hook up my trailer. I think I need a different fuse or I need to wire things differently. As I reflect on my experience, I believe I see a pattern where, when I hooked up my trailer, my dash and running lights stopped working and I got them working again the last time when I didn't have my trailer on. The jumper wires also don't cause melting when my truck does not have the trailer attached.

So these last two screw ups are starting to teach me about how to troubleshoot some electrical problems and making me feel a bit more interested in learning some basic electrical skills and theory.

As Paul Graham said in the third lecture of How to Start a Startup (see below), the fastest way to learn how to startup a business is to just start doing it and dealing with the screw ups. Its hard to appreciate that a screw up is a learning opportunity but if you can remember this and try to figure out how you might educationally benefit from fixing the problem, then you might be able to face your screw ups with a bit more calmness and good humor instead of going off the deep end and making problems worse. My screw ups have taught me alot on the last couple of days - in proportion to the number of significant screw ups I have made some progress on resolving.

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