Failure, The Box Of Shame, and What We Do With It.

So, I’m going to start this with a little story. You see, a couple of years ago there was an overly excited gamer/engineer type who had gone through a life change that involved a brand new job. This gamer/engineer purchased a brand new — and at the time, very difficult to come by — Nintendo Switch as a personal reward.

This Nintendo Switch is now sitting in a Box of Shame.

I can’t mention any names when I tell this story, because no one likes their box of shame opened for public display.

No One wants that box opened. No one.

In fact, some people, who again will go unnamed, tend to have a whole ‘closet’ of shame that is behind an absolutely ridiculous home made security setup behind an iron door completely covered in caution tape, guarded by Dementors on loan from Azkaban.

Continuing on, this individual — who I will refer to as ‘HJ’ for the sake of anonymity — was eager and excited about obtaining such a cool new piece of technology and really, really wanted to know how it ticked .

HJ played games on the Nintendo Switch for a while and was able to keep the curiosity monster at bay for a time.

For a good six months, even.

But then the inevitable happened. After a long, exhausting day, HJ was relaxing on the couch, put the switch on the edge of it, got up too fast, and the switch fell on the ground. Lo and behold, this resulted in a cracked front face plate.

Oh, it still worked, you see, but it wasn’t perfect anymore. It needed to be FIXED. And if it needed to be FIXED, well, wasn’t this a perfect opportunity to also UPGRADE it?

I would say at this time that HJ knew nothing about the inner workings of a PCB, micro-controllers, LCDs, EEPROM memory modules, touch screen interfaces or, you know, the fact that tricky companies like Nintendo use the superpowers held by their master-class-completely-all-the-way-leveled-up-electrical-engineers to add traps into their PCB designs that prevent us mere mortals from tampering with them.

HJ did not KNOW any of that. Nor did HJ know that HJ didn’t know any of that.

What HJ knew was that HJ was an engineer!

…Yeah. So HJ asked me not to share how that turned out, but I think for the sake of the story I must. It turns out that while one can easily replace the back of a Nintendo Switch case, one must remove all sorts of important things that don’t like being detached from their mommy board to get at it. And when one attempts to re-attach these various things, the mommy board screams in agony and starts smoking and dies a slow, painful death.

Okay. Not a problem. HJ felt that this was not a unrecoverable situation. During the process of failure, HJ learned a ‘WHOLE LOT’ about the inner workings of the evil Nintendo Switch. HJ learned that all the saved games were on an EEPROM module. HJ THOUGHT THAT HJ KNEW that because it was a memory module, it could be easily moved from one Nintendo Switch to another. In HJ’s mind, this meant: ‘Voila! Bing bang boom, new looking Nintendo Switch, no loss of saved games. Problem solved!’

HJ did NOT know at this point that there was a hardware security check that matched an EEPROM to a specific motherboard.

Basically, HJ got overzealous, took apart a working system, and then when that didn’t work, took apart ANOTHER working system to attempt to repair the first. This had a financial cost of upwards of $500 — two Nintendo Switches and the tools needed to take them apart.

Needless to say, the whole ‘Nintendo Switch Incident’ has neatly been locked in the closet of shame, in a dark corner covered with cobwebs and protected with mines triggered by proximity sensors. It was a classic example of believing ‘What You Know’ and ‘What You Know You Don’t Know’ in any situation, ever outweighs ‘What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know’

Fascinating Article – I suggest everyone read it at least once!

The decision to act without having a full understanding of the underlying technology had a financial cost, as well as even a mental cost. HJ had to question decisions and conclusions made in haste, and grudgingly accept the consequences of them, which in this case was an overwhelming feeling of failure and inadequacy.

But the moral of this story isn’t in the fact that the incident resulted in another ‘Box of Shame’. The moral of the story is in what ‘HJ’ did with the knowledge gained from having to add that ‘Box’ to the ‘Closet’.

HJ recognized that Electrical Engineering, PCB designs and micro-controllers were things that life had not yet provided an opportunity for HJ to learn. They weren’t things that were in HJ’s wheel house.

HJ could accept that, chalk it up as a failure, throw it in the closet and forget about it completely… or HJ could recognize why that box was tossed in the closet, find those skills that were missing from HJ’s wheel house, and put them there.

That experience of failure which resulted in an entry to the ‘Box of Shame’ opened HJ’s eyes to a new and interesting side of technology. HJ found experts in the field, learned from them on HJ’ personal time, and joined online communities. HJ started with smaller projects, and focused on understanding each component of each board HJ worked with, knowing that both the first and second foray into such endeavors were unsuccessful because of HJ’s lack of knowledge.

There were failures. There were a lot of failures. But then, all of a sudden, there were successes.

HJ has built some incredible iOT things, and is delving into PCB design and areas of engineering that at one time, were unknown to HJ.

All because of a ‘Box of Shame’ containing two broken Nintendo Switches.

Not too shabby for a homemade Arduboy. Yes, it is a novice’s attempt. HJ is okay with that.

Learn from your mistakes. Learn where you went wrong and why. Learn how to recognize ‘What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know’ and always strive to improve, as individuals, employees, engineers, leaders, followers, students, mentors and family members. We are all every one of those things in some way.

Accept that sometimes you have to fail — and fail a LOT — if you want to succeed!

(As a side note, HJ still hasn’t touched another Nintendo Switch and won’t until HJ is absolutely sure that HJ understands everything about it first. *cough*)

—hyperjoule // juliann@womenwhocode.com

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