Dapeng Li

Hungry, foolish and passionate – yet another software developer.

Set your work on fire, let it burn

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The family of my ex-roommate had moved to another city, they mailed four big packages to the city before they left. For some reason the packages got returned, and I would help my friends mailing them back.

I took me some time to get all the packages from parcel store, then called a taxi to the post office (where packages can be sent). The packages were heavy, and the taxi could only stop as near as 100 meters away from the post office so I decided to move the packages one by one. When I was there with the first package, I found out I could not leave the package there because of ‘security reasons’. The staff showed no sympathy to me – a person in a struggling position – instead they asked for understanding from me. Rush, anger, disappointment and frustration. Luckily the owner of a shop nearby agreed to let me leave the package there while I went back to the taxi to get the others. When I finally have all four packages in the shop and then moved one of them to the post office, the staff again told me I have to mail them one after another for the same security reason. I managed to keep my calm, but could not keep my beads of sweat from falling onto my glasses, the desk and post forms. Finally the packages got sent out successfully and hopefully my friends are going to receive them soon, that’s the good news. That was also a stressful morning, my experience definitely fell somewhere between unpleasant and miserable.

The reason I’m telling this story is not showing ‘how apathetic government staff can be’ or ‘how good a person I am to help friends in need’.

No. The point of the story is that I want to tell you what happened next.

The day after, I told the story to another friend, my friend asked me some questions and suggested there might be a better way in which I could have handled the situation.

I was very defensive, even a little bit emotional. I felt like my friend not only didn’t appreciate my effort, but also wanted to criticize me.

I totally overreacted.

Then I realized I was wrong. I overreacted that way because I was too attached to what I had done – not because I did it perfectly, but because it costed me so much (in time, energy and emotion). From that perspective, even a friendly suggestion sounds like criticism.

I apologized to my friend afterwards, and started thinking more about what happened.

This small incident reminds me of a talk I heard in 2013, by Obie Fernandez in the Ruby conference in Beijing, China. The talk was about the Burning Man festival and community of Ruby programming language.

The Burning Man is a week-long annual event in the desert of Nevada, USA. People gather together for a week, they create art, share with each other and had good time; but after that week, they burn everything they had created – the fine art, the temple, and of course, the ‘Burning Man’.

What striked me the most in Burning Man was the attitude people showed towards their work. They burn everything, to remind themselves not to be too attached to what they had made, and give them the oppotunity to achieve something even greater in the future.

That’s the spirit I want to have, the spirit of immediacy.

Live in the moment, don’t get too attached to what you have done, and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Written by Dapeng

February 13th, 2015 at 5:05 am

Posted in Life