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Holding On For Too Long

I’ve always admired Linus Torvalds. Thus, I found this slashdot.org article, “Linus Torvalds Answers Your Questions“, fascinating. Particularly, this Q & A struck a chord in me:

Q: You must of been burned out on Linux kernel development multiple-times over by now… how do you deal with it?

Linus: Oh, I really enjoy what I do. And I actually enjoy arguing too, and while I may swear a lot and appear like a grumpy angry old man at times, I am also pretty good at just letting things go. So I can be very passionate about some things, but at the same time I don’t tend to really hold on to some particular issue for too long, and I think that helps avoid burn-out.

Obsessing about things is important, and things really do matter, but if you can’t let go of them, you’ll end up crazy.

I’ve found that when I can’t let go of something that “shouldn’t be like it is“, the world suddenly stops. I get stuck; immobilized by a stagnating cesspool of circular thoughts and wondering if I’ll ever get unstuck.

The key for me to getting unstuck and moving forward again is to realize that I can’t control or fix everything to “my” liking. As hard as it is to accept, the world doesn’t exist to accommodate “ME“. Thus, when I can remember it (which is a challenge in itself), my favorite prayer is:

BD00, please grant the “other” BD00 the serenity to accept the things he cannot change,
The courage to change the things he can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

How about you? Do you ever get stuck? What gets you unstuck?

  1. October 25, 2012 at 6:21 am

    Well said! BD00. And well timed. I experienced this during the past two days. I think the key is that when you are arguing passionately about something, it is likely that both sides have something valuable to contribute. As “Getting to Yes” points out, position-centric negotiation is almost always inferior to interest-centric negotiation. In other words, the better solution usually is a derivative of the two approaches being argued about.

    30 years ago, back in my 20’s I co-founded a company to work on a transportation routing and scheduling problem. Now this predated MapQuest and Google Maps by 20 years, so it was a bit like mowing a lawn with scissors.

    We had 3 Type-A’s (2 logistics and 1 software) and used to have some ferocious arguments. But we always managed to work them out fairly quickly. I always had great confidence that the 3 of us shared the same purpose and vision, so if there was a strong difference of opinion, it was because another had different micro objectives, facts or priorities. This was powerful, because it taught me how to look past the argument to discover the pieces of the puzzle I was missing. Frequently, there was an answer that was better than any of the individual approaches were had been arguing about.

    Since then, I’ve often wondered why this approach didn’t work better. I’ve discovered that one of the important reasons is not having that same confidence that people i am arguing with really share the same purpose and vision.

    What it took me a while to realize (with the cumulative benefit of many Russell Ackoff and Peter Senge insights) is that if I was confident I had the same micro objectives, facts and priorities as others, and still argued ferociously, then I could use this to better understand their purpose and vision.

    The catch is that you need to get at least two tent poles anchored before you can put up the tent. Otherwise, you are just pushing on rope.


    • October 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      Thanks once again for the great input CA. I love listening to the personal experiences of others. 🙂

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