The Daily Stoic for June 5th. “Blow Your Own Nose”.
“We cry to God Almighty, how can we escape this agony? Fool, don’t you have hands? Or could it be God forgot to give you a pair? Sit and pray your nose doesn’t run! Or, rather just wipe your nose and stop seeking a scapegoat.”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.16.13
“The teacher has it out for me!”. we cried when we failed an exam. I think it’s always a universal behavior to look for escape goats to evade our own responsibility.
That’s probably because we all hate failure. We hate making mistakes or enduring what we see as injustices.
The problem is that, sometimes, we tend to focus on the ways we have been wronged, our mistakes or our bad luck for longer than necessary. That was certainly my case.
Blow Your Own Nose
Some time ago, I was a speaker at a developers conference. There were some amazing inspirational talks. You know the type, those that would be a good fit for TED.
Conversely, my talk was very technical and related to a very difficult topic, cryptography. Obviously, that’s not out of place in a conference packed with developers, and I think it was actually very informative and helpful.
I did my best to put some jokes in between and try to make it as light and engaging as possible. However, I knew that the subject, alongside my poor skills as entertainer on-stage, won’t make my talk one of the most enjoyable ones.
When I stopped talking and the questions round arrived… Nobody raised a hand, and I felt completely disheartened. I had hoped for at least one question or raising some interest. I even articulated some kind of apology for the technical difficulty of the talk. After that, I got off the stage feeling completely discouraged.
Later, some other speakers tried to cheer me up, telling me that I shouldn’t have apologized, as not having questions was actually not that strange. That only made me feel worse.
For months, when I remembered the conference, I couldn’t help but experience that discouraging feeling again. I will automatically feel nervous and start reliving that final moment.
It took me some time, and actually some stoic reading, to stop caring that much about it. I did nothing wrong. I just wanted to entertain my audience, be helpful, and make them enjoy the talk.
Regardless of whether I achieved it or not, and regardless of how convenient or ridiculous my apologies sounded… I know I did the right thing. I participated for free to share my knowledge with others, and hopefully, I managed to help some fellow developers.
But the point is. Whatever you do, whatever mistakes you make, whatever happens to you, don’t gloat. Just think on how you can solve the problem -if there’s one to solve at all, in my case there wasn’t- and just do something about it… Carry on with your life.
Today’s Daily Stoic, “Blow Your Own Nose”, teaches us an important lesson. We should not succumb to self-pity or stay forever in the past, in our problems, mistakes or whatever wrong happened to us. Instead, we should focus on what we can do to solve our problems and carry on with our lives.