A Candle Loses Nothing by Lighting Another Candle

"Do you know what the trace of a matrix is?" he asked in conversation about math we enjoyed. The context was networking-- two professionals in the industry getting to know each other better at an event.
"No," I replied.
"I thought you were at a higher math level," he replied. He sighed and started explaining basic linear algebra concepts.

He then asked me what exactly my company does. I politely told him I build a texture compressor. He told me that that was pretty easy, boring work, but I guess good enough to pay the bills.

I'm noticing a high spike in this attitude lately, as my company's gotten more visibly successful.

And I think it's because when we believe someone is successful, we can choose our reaction: resentment, or joy.

I'm established now. I own a great company. I love my work and have happy customers and supportive people in my life. So I can see straight through the resentment for what it is: insecurity and disappointment in their own image of themselves. Fear that they'll be found out if they don't act smart. Putting people down so they aren't a threat.

This resentment manifests in a few major ways:

  • People asking me software/math trivia or throwing around obscure terms and acting surprised when I don't know them. People grasping at every time I say "I don't know" to prove my incompetence.
  • People simply telling me I'm not actually that successful, or my work isn't actually that valuable or enjoyable, or I'm not actually this happy.
  • And they often have networks of other people who have this attitude.

But you see, the people who react with joy:

  • Ask me how they can help me. Give without expecting to receive if they're in a position to do so.
  • Emanate a joy that's contagious and brightens my whole day, making me want to live life more fully.
  • Ask questions that come from a place of curiosity and enjoyment of life, not trying to prove who's smarter or more successful.
  • Introduce me to more kind-hearted people.

What is that saying? "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle." These people live that quote.

It's important for me to acknowledge this because it bleeds into business. I've learned very quickly to avoid doing business with those who react to my success with resentment. Even if they aren't doing it on purpose, even if they aren't malicious, I still keep my distance.

It is a decision that cost me some short term profits early on.

But it is a decision that has more than paid off, over and over and over.

I kindly thank them for their willingness to talk to me, and move back to those who treat others with joy and happiness.

Interview with April Wensel, Founder of Compassionate Coding

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