I think it’s uncontroversial to say that our culture looks down on failure. Failure is to be avoided. Failure elicits shame and generates negative headlines. On the other hand, success is triumphantly celebrated by traditional news and social media alike, in some cases, to our psychological detriment.

I’m certainly not opposed to success; I just believe that failure is getting an unwarranted bad rap. In my opinion, failure should be the real goal of an endeavor – with the caveat that the method of failure is of critical importance as well. More on that later.

Failure deserves to be embraced. Real-world evidence in software, science, personal growth, exercise, engineering, project management, philosophy, technology supports this idea. Embracing failure improves your chances of getting to successful results.

Failure is the only thing that teaches honest lessons. Without failure, how do we truly know what our boundaries are? Without failure, how do we know under which conditions success turns to catastrophe? Without failure, we cannot meaningfully evolve. Without failure, we cannot improve.

Failure is interesting, because it’s frequently surprising. There are so many ways to fail!

Not all failure is equal, however. This is where the methodology of failure comes into play. For failure to culminate in success, you must plan to fail, and do the work to get there. Simply failing because you did no preparation is not part of the fail-to-succeed journey – I wouldn’t even call it failure because that kind of non-action imparts no lessons and moves nothing.

One excellent plan-to-fail approach out there is TDD – test driven development methodology for software. TDD starts with creating test cases that are guaranteed to fail when they are first created because nothing exists to support them. Gradually, as you write code to support your test cases, the rate of failures diminishes, and in the end – a result that is made better through repeated failure.

Biological failure leads to evolution on a species scale and drives growth and development on a personal level; it happens to be a useful tool in a bodybuilder’s arsenal.

Failure is the only thing we can count on. As Mythbusters said, failure is always an option, so get comfortable with it, and it’ll serve you well.

Success is the boundary between effort and failure. Sure, there are other factors at play, but if you’re going to explore your potential and grow beyond your current limitations, striving for failure is the way to do it.

Rethink your views of failure. Embrace it, accept it as part of your process, and – most importantly – plan for it. Planning for failure creates robust more architectures than otherwise, and remember that it’s better to fail gracefully than catastrophically. The more imaginative you are in planning for failures, the more robust the end product will be, and even if you don’t get to where you thought you were going, you will learn a lot about yourself, the process, and your subject matter in the process – way more than if you merely achieved success.

To get an interesting perspective on failure, check out works by the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran – for an entertaining and abbreviated version you can also listen to one of my favorite podcasts, Philosophize This!

Waffle launchers, Hamburger menus, and ellipses

Waffle launchers, Hamburger menus, and ellipses

There are a few terms that we often use during support or training sessions that aren’t always familiar to everyone. These terms are convenient shortcuts that refer to common menu elements in wide use today: you will see them frequently on many apps and websites.

So, what are they and what do they mean?

Ellipsis

I’ll start with “ellipsis” (plural: “ellipses”). This is the proper word you can use to refer to the ubiquitous three dots (…) that indicate additional actions hidden from view to reduce clutter. What does it actually mean, though?

ellipsis

[əˈlipsis]

NOUN

Ellipsis (noun); ellipses (plural noun)

the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues.

“it is very rare for an ellipsis to occur without a linguistic antecedent”

Synonyms: leaving out, exclusion, exception, noninclusion, deletion, erasure, cut, excision, elimination, absence

Antonyms: addition, inclusion

ORIGIN

mid 16th century: via Latin from Greek elleipsis, from elleipein ‘leave out’.

In written English the ellipsis denotes something that is left unsaid, an implication that has been left to the reader to interpret. It’s a little more definitive in technological terms; if you see an ellipsis in an app or on the web, clicking it will reveal additional options or actions you can take – something the developer thought would be used less frequently than the menu options in plain view.

Microsoft Edge, for example, hides all the menu options behind an ellipsis in the browser’s toolbar:

Ellipsis menu example
Ellipsis menu example

SharePoint provides additional contextual menu options for many elements in a view through a vertical ellipsis:

Vertical ellipsis example

Next time someone tells you to click on the ellipsis, you’ll know exactly what they mean!

Waffle Launcher

This one always elicits a chuckle. It’s easy to imagine waffles being launched, but as exciting as that sounds, in this case a waffle launcher is just a button that sorta looks like a waffle and gives you a list of apps you can launch when you click on it – hence, “waffle launcher.”

Both Microsoft and Google use the waffle launcher icon to indicate access to more apps. Here it is for Office 365:

Waffle launcher example
Waffle launcher example

The Waffle Launcher is frequently called the “App Launcher”, but I prefer the other term – it’s more descriptive and way more amusing.

Hamburger Menu

The “hamburger menu” is a gastronomic nickname for another common menu element used hide navigation options – not as exciting as an actual burger menu. Frequently this is used in mobile versions of web sites, and, like the ellipsis, is just a way to indicate that there’s more options for you to explore. It consists of three horizontal lines stacked on top of one another, kinda like the bun and the burger in the middle.

The Bing home page hides some setting options behind a hamburger menu:

Hamburger menu example
Hamburger menu example

One interesting bit of trivia: the icon has been around since around 1980 and was created by Norm Cox of Xerox for the Xerox Star (source: Medium.com).


Working from Home: do you have a “Commuting” ritual?
Illustration of a man walking from his bed to computer while imagining a crowded sidewalk in front of a taxi in front of a crowded bus in front of a crowded train

Here’s a thought:

Take 30 minutes before and after work to perform a personal “transition” ritual.

The time you’d usually spend getting to or from work, that used to belong to you – when you commuted – is important in psychological preparation for switching into different “states” of being.

Carl G. Jung wrote that we wear different masks for different occasions. It may be necessary for us to take some time to put on “The Professional” mask, for example – and then to take it off when we’re done.

My morning “commute” involves reading – preferably something not related to technology – for 30-45 minutes before I start my work day. Traditionally I haven’t had as much success at an end-of-day ritual, as usually demands of family life pull me out of my work settings quite rapidly and without much ceremony. I have noticed the absence of that transition, though – I think adding it would help in cementing the events of the day and preparing for the following day would have positive effect on my effectiveness at work.

Here’s an interesting read on the post-pandemic commute, plus some useful tips for reclaiming its useful function while celebrating the absence of its harmful side-effects.

Commuting Has Surprising Mental-Health Benefits – The Atlantic