Right the First Time

There’s a lot of emphasis on getting things right. I suppose that is needed, even essential. Nobody I’ve met however, can get things right (get every single detail right) the first time. And yet, that’s what every student who goes through an examination is supposed to do. From the point of view of an evaluator, this may not be so big a deal since everyone who takes the exam is in the same boat, and after all, “To err is human, to excel divine” and all of us seem to be searching for a bit of divinity.

One thing that this examination process lets go through the sieve-holes however is a crucial analytical skill: that of identifying and correcting mistakes, and finally to submit a revised and finished product. In an ideal examination scenario, a student would look over his valued paper, learn from his mistakes, identify the areas where he is weak and work to improve his paper as a whole. However, I’m sure that the percentage of students who do this is very small, perhaps in the order of <5%. And yet, debugging – the act of finding out mistakes and correcting them is crucial in any workplace, especially so if your job demands analytical reasoning skills. This skill, like many other skills that we aren’t taught, we learn either because of things that we do in real life, or when we’re stuck at a juncture in our job – incidentally, this is part of the reason why job offers carry an “experience” requirement.

One of the best ways to learn to debug is (as the term implies) to learn to program. When you write a piece of code, you rarely get it right the first time; debugging is often considered an art (just like coding is) and more often than not, the secret to get a program working is to know how to debug, not how to logically work out the code. If you’ve got children, please teach them BASIC.

Getting it right the first time isn’t that crucial for most of us, learning how to get out of a hole (both at the workplace and in life) counts, so get it wrong and then get it right. But do find a way out of the hole.

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