In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

― Dwight D. Eisenhower

UnknownWhat is a “real” test? I will submit that it is what happens when something different than what you prepared for. If we are at our best, we will plan ahead and test ourselves to prepare for the future. Reality always manages to throw more at us that we anticipate. The same can be said for theory, computing and experiment. Science is empowered by the unexpected and should be embraced. Too often the unexpected event or failure is viewed negatively, but instead it should be embraced as an opportunity.

 Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.

― Shannon L. Alder

We prepare for life and test ourselves, but the real test is when something unexpected happens. I always view myself as being in constant improvement mode. Sometimes events hit me in an unexpected way. When I don’t react well, it provides me the feedback that perhaps I should rethink my preparation a bit. I’m missing so things, or perhaps I let emotion cloud my response. The point is that I’m not perfect and never will be. Again, science, theory and models are much the same, imperfect and tend to buckle under use under unforeseen circumstances.

In science if you know what you are doing you should not be doing it.

In engineering if you do not know what you are doing you should not be doing it.

Of course, you seldom, if ever, see the pure state.

– Richard Hamming

Not-just-fail-but-epic-failIn a similar vein we test our codes. For a good professional code there will be an immense number of tests executed and potentially a sizable team involved in testing the code. Nonetheless, the code will break with almost certainty because it will be used in innovative ways not foreseen by the developers or testers. The real test is when the code is used for something we didn’t anticipate. Then we find out how good it really is. As usual the problems that arise are usually viewed as failures rather than opportunities. We should endeavor to view this differently; these failures are the opportunity to take the code to the next level of performance.

But words in a book were one thing. The true test came in battle.

― George R.R. Martin

Failure is a good thing. Too much of modernity has deemed failure as unacceptable, but without failure true excellence in unachievable.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.

Robert F. Kennedy