Failures and Fuck-ups

Rants June 10, 2014 • 1 min read

I tried to refine this post a few times. I can't. Honestly, it may not need refinement. So pull your socks up before reading.

For the past several months I've lead a small team of developers. We have a lot of broken windows. In managing these broken windows, I realized an important distinction between a failure and a fuck-up.


A failure is lack of success. This implies success exists and for failure to exist, success can not. Failure is often systematic, occurring in steps which prevent success. Conversely, failure provides the opportunity to learn how we may achieve success.

Not everyone experiences failure. We don't always expect failure. As such failure is hard, but it is important we learn from it.


A fuck-up results in a lack of success. But, different from failure, a fuck-up can occur without preventing success. It is isolated. Often the result of carelessness or accident. A fuck-up does not provide the opportunity to learn how we may achieve success, only how we may prevent the same fuck-up.

We all know shit happens. Similarly, fuck-ups happen. Since they are not without some expectation, we can handle them more easily.

Why the distinction?

If we want to achieve success we need to determine which is more detrimental, failure or fuck-up? Distinguishing between the two allows us to answer that question.

While the occasional fuck-up is not detrimental, continual fuck-ups slow progress. True failure is not detrimental. In fact, it is essential for progress.

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