“Let’s make better mistakes tomorrow.” — Alex King
For over 4 years, I’ve worked at Crowd Favorite. When I began working here, the company was solely-owned by Alex King. Though he is no longer with us, he serves as a role-model and an inspiration for much of my approach to my career, and I would feel remiss not expressing my thoughts on how he has influenced me.
Alex was one of the best developers I’ve had the privilege to work with. He worked through the .com bubble in Silicon Valley, invented the share icon, helped develop the core blogging framework that would become WordPress, and built a reputation for excellence and pride both in his own work and in the work that was done within his company.
As a developer, and as an employer, Alex had high expectations on himself and his employees. He pushed everyone he worked with to do their best, almost always beyond their comfort and sometimes even beyond their limits. Very little that was less than perfect was good enough. More than once, I witnessed products we branded get delayed due to perfection paralysis. If it didn’t meet his vision, it wasn’t yet ready for it to be seen by others. Alex built his reputation on his excellence, on his demands, and that he would go to the same lengths for a client project that he would go to for his own. Nothing less than the best was good enough.
Despite that demand for excellence, Alex was more understanding than it may sound. He pushed for perfection, and he demanded excellence, but recognized that you cannot have such success without failures. He knew that failure can be a success, because we can learn from it, and accepted that those he hired may do things in ways that didn’t work out. This was especially true as he pushed us to expand our horizons, to go beyond the way things are done into the way things could be done better. Sometimes, we would iterate for significant time trying to figure something out, and still settle on doing it the way it’s been done before. This was valuable time, because we explored other options, we tested our assumptions, and we grew in our knowledge of our applications and our limitations.
Unfortunately, in 2013 Alex was diagnosed with cancer, and had to step away from the business, and from development as a whole. He fought a long battle, and ultimately passed away in September of this year. He left behind a wonderful family, and the remembrances and his ongoing influence among those who were fortunate enough to have worked with him.
“Let’s Make Better Mistakes Tomorrow.”
One of Alex’s most memorable sayings was “Let’s make better mistakes tomorrow,” and I’ve tried to keep that in mind as a I grow and develop professionally, and as a person. As demanding as Alex ever was on me, I have always had the tendency to be equally or more demanding on myself. I’ve had projects that intimidated me, where I felt myself failing before I began, and in those cases I then had to fight both my own fears and the demanded growth simultaneously. That fear only added a greater chance to fail without motivation to grow. Accepting the possibility of that failure, moving past that fear, was where I was able to grow.
I’m still not perfect, of course, nor do I want to be. Perfection has no room for growth, and represents stagnation. I don’t want to be perfect because I don’t want to stop growing, learning, adapting, and experiencing new things. Sometimes it can be difficult to push past that fear, but even that is another opportunity for growth and there is success just in getting past that point.
It can be a very big challenge to accept that things won’t always go well, or that we don’t start out fully competent at everything we do to the same level of excellence as others who have done it for years. It can be intimidating to put ourselves out there to be judged by those we consider superior within a field. It can be difficult to forgive ourselves the easy mistakes, and the missed opportunities, that come up as we develop. We can’t expect to be perfect. We can’t expect to ever know everything.
All we can demand of ourselves, all we can really push for, is to do our best and never stop trying. Let’s not stay in our comfort zone. Let’s get out there, learn, try new things, and make better mistakes tomorrow.