Engineer fun stuff servers

Stop Looking At My Finger, Silly Dog

My friend manages to piss me off and it’s not yet 8:00 in the morning. A thought flashes across my brain, “Maybe he’s not the root cause.”

This morning, the first text I see: Priority 1 emergency ticket.

Damn. I hope the server isn’t down.

As usual, my alarm went off this morning at 6:00. I look at my phone and see a text message that was sent late last night, an automated message from our Linux server passing along a support ticket. A surge of anxiety rushes through me. “Oh no, I forgot to re-enable the submit button in our application!” A suspicion, though I don’t really know yet for certain. I jump out of bed.

I check the emergency ticket’s timestamp. About 10 hours ago. “Oh please,” I pray-but-do-not-say as I head for my computer, “Please let it be that someone jumped in and handled this last night.”

Last night we performed a software upgrade to the server. The entire team on the phone, dialing in from multiple geographies, talking through headsets and typing commands on the server, a virtual everyone-from-home Mission Control. All talking on the same call, as we’ve done dozens of times before. The launch pad ready, countdown begun, I was walking us through the checklist and then gave the go ahead to deploy. But wait! There’s an error, a build error that is picked up by the programming group doing the deployment. We investigate and discover that the server is offline and end users are waiting. Finally, we call it. Abort.

As Flight Director (no, nobody refers to me as “Flight”, shame that), it’s my job to take us through the checklist. This was an unscheduled release, though, and we really were just doing a “minor thing” on the server. “No big deal,” one of my programmers said. Always an omen, those words, and I should have known better. I was distracted last night, not mindful, and I didn’t finish the checklist. I am ready to be done with the project — perhaps I already am to some degree — because I am leaving the company and already thinking about the project to follow. Another company’s project.

I make it to my computer. Feeling the urgency to know what went wrong last night, I start reading through the ticket.

Prayer answered. Someone caught my error, and tech support jumped in and fielded the ticket. They figured out the problem and re-enabled the button I had forgotten to enable last night. How did I miss something like that? Aren’t I the one always hammering and yammering on discipline and process? Of course, I know the answer. I know the root cause of my oversight.

So following my freak-out, I manage to settle down a bit when a message comes across from my friend K2 in response to a text I sent to him yesterday that read simply:

“Can’t get that article written by Wednesday.”

His delayed response, received this morning post-near-catastrophe?

“If you wait for the right time, it might never come.”

To which he adds: “Dimestore Psychology 101.”

“‘Dimestore’ is right,” I think. And, yes, I am pissed off. Does he not realize what I am going through? I’m not procrastinating writing this stupid article. I am genuinely busy, man! I text him again.

“You are wrong…” and proceed to list all things I have to do this week. A feeling of being overwhelmed begins to build inside of me. I know this feeling. It can paralyze. I need to nip it. I must settle down.

Only 4 weeks ago I was on a 10-day silent meditation retreat, from which I returned in a true state of bliss. Unflappable. Calm. Collected. My mind in a state of equanimity. Now, only four weeks later and I can be ruffled by an early morning text message?

Problem Solved

I decide to have a cup of coffee and seek some grounding from a book I am currently reading on Kundalini Yoga. I read,”…it is important to stay receptive to what is unseen and the possibility of change.” and I have to close the book. Am I going to accept that little nugget of wisdom, or reject it? Am I going to be dismissive, or open?

Jeez, I’m a jerk. I reacted like a jerk to my friend, projecting my own issues of impatience and criticism onto him.

No. Wait… remember your training, Marcos. Be gentle with your own thoughts. I’m not a jerk, That’s just being harsh on yourself. No, perhaps I could just say that I’m a silly dog. Yes, I’m like that silly dog who when you point at the beautiful moon, stares at your finger.

Me: “Look at that spectacular moon!”

Dog: Finger.

I pause. I breathe. I look down at what I’m typing and say to myself, “Stop looking at the computer, you silly dog.”

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