Lifes Too Short

Used in statements like, "life's too short to spend it standing in line."

The idea that there's little enough time to do interesting things in life, so why waste it on stupid stuff.

An interesting counter assertion is that LifesTooLong?. Think about it. If you're actually doing something fun, then, indeed, life's too short. If you're doing something that hurts -- daily -- then every hour spent doing it is like days or weeks, and now life's too long if it's spent in pain. - There is a video about Johny kennedy suffering daily from Epidermolysis Bullosa, a genetic disorder that cause blistering and shearing of the skin from even the mildest of friction. See also Life is never too long, but sometimes long enough

Your life is the longest thing you have...

Life does in fact go on and on, but specific lives have a beginning and an end. The duration of a life is indeterminate and unpredictable. The statement "Life is too short" begs the question; too short for what? If you only had one more hour, day, week, year; what would you do? Why are you not doing these now? "wiki?FourQuadrants"

This assumes that time can be wasted and that some activities ("something fun", activities that trigger pleasure responses) are not a waste of time.

See also ThisIsYourLife, GetaLife, BurnOut, TimeToMakeItShort,


... so get on and do what you want to get done before you die. --AlistairCockburn

For me, that means I don't want to spend any more time wondering where a pointer is pointing, what is on the heap; I don't want to write another linked list; in fact, I don't want to write any more transaction logs in my life. There are much more interesting things to program. Rumor reaches me the Talmud says, "Plant a tree, have a child, write a book." Now I just have to go plant that tree. Alistair (1997)

What are you saying, Alistair. Are you going for Smalltalk, ehe... --Benny

I planted the tree. (1998) - Alistair

Actually, I made that LifesTooShort decision back in 1988, deciding against C++ and for Smalltalk / Prolog / Lisp. I have since dropped Prolog as being too low level. I wrote the opening paragraph back in 1996 or 97, when I was also fed up with transaction logs and trying to find reusable components at a higher level. Now I am faced with Java and itty bitty Java beans.

I still think LifesTooShort, but now I'm wrestling with how to deal with the circular movement in our profession. It seems HistoryRepeatsItself, indeed. -- AlistairCockburn

Accept it. "Everything I needed to know about programming I learnt on the Apple ][."

While haranguing one of my colleagues recently about the benefits of writing tests first, I found myself saying, "Life's too short to write code that nobody wants." -- SteveFreeman

Someone I know has recently decided to write a BBS/Web conferencing system in C (writing all his own networking/comms/security gunk). I suggested he look at a more component-based approach...

"But C is just so much more efficient" said Mr Anonymous.

There are three things a man must do before his life is done: write two reams of C code, and make the buggers run! -- trad.

Maybe this is just a question of DeveloperMaturity. If only I could remember the Booch quote where he repeats the word "abstraction" a lot.

The sad fact is that in my 21 years in the Biz developing software, despite all the hype to the contrary, it looks to me like we still seem to be doing it the same old way.

Organizations under ever-increasing competitive and cost pressures revert to behavior that feels comfortable - no matter how much we try to change the process of development, it always collapses into the rubble of the waterfall. Peel back the skin of whatever the current rage may be, it's still the same old same old. We still work at lower levels than seems to make sense after all this time, we still organize our work so that it's easy to manage rather than organizing so that it's easier to do, and I'm very nearly at the point where I want to say the hell with it. Life is too short to repeat the same stupid experiences again and again.

And you know what really caps it? Has all this technology added to the quotient of happiness? Can many of us honestly claim to have improved the human condition? Oh, I know that good things do get done, but I fear that what is good is dwarfed by a continuous avalanche of crap created by people innocently just trying to earn a paycheck. Big wheels keep on turning. -- DonOlson

This really is a mystery to me. People seem intelligent enough to analyze how and why things go wrong, but don't seem to have the courage to take the steps necessary to improve. Why is that? -- AnonymousDonor

Bhikkhus, all is burning. -- Buddha

...hmmm, does that mean I next should plant another tree, write another book, have another child? (the conundrums just never stop coming, do they?)

Make the next tree you plant a Shrieking Tree. Whenever you get that frustrated feeling (and we all feel it sometimes!), go and shout at the tree. The tree can take all the curses and frustrations and hurts, and you may even get to feel better. The world would be a much better place if more people talked to (or even shouted at) trees more often. Of course it would be much, much better if more people actually listened to the trees once in awhile... but that's a whole other topic.

That really struck some resonant note in me... see ConversationsWithTrees

Frustrated with the crap-level, I took the "opt-out" decision some years ago, and now take on only things I think interesting. I also plant quite a lot of trees.

Have you ever been stuck inside one of those "beam-me-up-Scottie" doors that some corporates love so much?

See what happens when you put a computer in charge of opening doors?

-- MikeMorris

I wonder how many people here have seen the episode of FawltyTowers where John Cleese threatens his car with a good thrashing. Watch that episode before you ask yourself whether technology has added to the quotient of happiness. (Fawlty Towers is a British comedy about a hotel and its highly strung owner, Basil Fawlty (played by John Cleese).)

To answer that question, ask yourself whether you would give up "technology" in exchange for the life of an 11th century peasant.

Well he did give it a Trashing with the Branch of a Tree (I wonder how the Tree felt about that).

Fairly recently, a classmate said IhadToWriteMyOwnLinkedList with quite a bit of pride. And others near-by nodded in the yup, gotta do it way. The instructor did, too. I was too shocked to do anything but gawk. At another time, I boggled at the idea of starting to write something simple from scratch, preferring to use a library that was close enough to what I needed. The response was amazement that I would waste the time learning a library interface.

These incidents were in the graduate program at a top-notch school, CalBerkeley.

People wonder how computer technology has come so far. The people contributing to this page know why it hasn't gone much, much farther.

You may be missing the point that the experience crafting something well is an enjoyment. What does it matter that it has done 1000 times before? Everyone has looked at a sunset. Should I not because of that? The difference is in our personal experience of it. Maybe next time they won't write the link list because they have experienced it. Maybe they will write it new every time. Life is too short to try and tell other people what is a waste of their time.

But even if they wrote a linked list three times before, they are still going to screw up some pointer or some mutex or something, just because they insist that the linked list in our common library is not entirely what they want. And I have to call their cr*ppy library from our project at work, and we will get access violations all over the place. -- BjarkeEbert

"I don't do housework. Life is too short." - Annie Dillard

Hmmm... Maybe my brother is right to hire a maid service, after all. Until now, I thought of it solely as an extravagance. But if you look at it as trading money for hours of life, it's probably a bargain.

What else would money be good for?

And didn't Thomas Edison say "Never do anything you can afford to pay someone else to do"? Of course, work is for most people how you get to be able to pay someone else ... but from experience, a maid service is a big win in personal time.

OfficeSpaceMovie is based on this theme. It's very funny, watch it. It's about a software engineer working on the Y2K problem (but the film isn't about the software or the problem). Through hypnotism he learns to not give a shit and to enjoy life. He trashes his office, insults his boss and basically enjoys life.

He also gets promoted to management while his friends who do real work are laid off. In the end though, he finds true happiness. Doing manual labor.

He also relaxes enough to become CompletelyHonest -- he has some trouble keeping that up later, but the change in his life is quite refreshing.

I worked in London as a contractor for a number of years. I spent most of my time either in work or being stressed about travelling to and from work. I'd usually spend 14 hours a day away from home and my beautiful baby daughter.

I was travelling home on a train and it stopped in the dark in the middle of nowhere for an hour, with no reason why. Then an announcement, as the train began to move, that there had been a fatality on the line and that all services on the line had been suspended. The train pulled into a station and we all got off and walked down the platform intending to find taxis home.

I was impatient, and was about the third person off the train.

As I walked down the platform, I began to see, in the half light, that someone had dropped some meat on the platform. I thought "that's fairly stupid, someone will kick themselves when they get home and discover that their shopping bag has ripped and that their steak has fallen out somewhere". In retrospect, I find it amazing that my mind was trying to protect me in this way.

As I got closer to the meat, the image began to get clearer. It was steaming, and covered in little pipelets each of which had a drip of blood at the end. The strangest thing was the pattern covering it. It was all wrinkled, and gray with red smears on it.

I started to retch.

I started to vomit.

It was a brain.

I looked up. The rest of the platform was covered in various bits of body. Arms, legs, bits of lung.

It was just so wrong that we (15 of us in all) had been forced to walk through that. I saw a policeman, got angry, punched him. He didn't complain, odd, perhaps he was in shock too. It was the wrong thing to do; it didn't make me feel any better.

On the news the next day, I learnt that an 18 year old had seen his train waiting at the platform, and had just run across the tracks behind it in the hope of catching it. He was hit by an express train (the Flying Scotsman) passing on the central track. It was doing about 120 miles an hour.

An 18 year old!

I don't waste time anymore. I don't program for programming's sake. I do XP because it allows me to spend less time at work and more time with my beautiful daughters (we have three now). I don't waste time doing anything more than once. I don't waste time doing things for no reason.

A month later, I quit my contracts and we moved to New Zealand; now I'm a consultant over here. I show people how to do XP, I teach Java, I swim, I play with my girls, I eat, I have a life. I plan to plant a tree. I keep thinking about a book, but I don't really have time for that, I'm too busy enjoying life. I only work where I know that I'll enjoy it.

-- Bryan (BryanDollery)

I agree, Bryan. ProgrammingMatters! -- BrucePennington

Yes, it was wrong that you had to walk through that. But where would you be now if you hadn't? Would you have come to such a realization that LifesTooShort, or did seeing the carnage force you to re-evaluate your priorities? It was probably very good for you in the long run to have walked through that. -- ChrisRiley (who's trying to get his own priorities straight)

"It was probably very good for you in the long run to have walked through that." I'm sure that teenager's parents would appreciate knowing that their son made such a contribution to Bryan's life: his purpose in life was to serve as a warning to others.

Yes LifesTooShort; so why do we waste so much of it?

"There is nothing new under the sun" was uttered thousands of years ago. As time goes by, I wonder where all of this technobabble is taking us. People waste valuable oxygen debating miniscule points which are just as ridiculous as "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is". When enough people learn a particular jargon and the people who speak it are no longer the elite, someone will come up with a 'new and fresh' approach and terminology. If you haven't read 'Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect', please do and you will realize that the guild system is still around and people have made fortunes convincing us the Emperor has something on. Nevertheless, projects keep on failing at a greater rate than at any time in history.

As a practical matter, any occupation has some degree of apprenticeship. We all work toward mastery of something, but the drive to be the next so-and-so (Bill Gates, Grady Booch, Dennis Rodman) does consume valuable time and some of us are not up to it. If we are lucky enough to have the choice in the manner in which we spend our time, we should spend it in the way that gives us the most satisfaction. So if I want to waste my hours playing PC games rather than preparing a class on UML, I should be allowed to do this - of course my boss disagrees. Since I rent my time to him, I guess I have to do something I don't want to do. Maybe that's why they call it 'work'. On the other hand, I 'earn' time periods in which I can do whatever I like and empty my mind of everything, which is where the vacate in vacation must come from.

Technology doesn't kill people it just makes it more efficient.

-- Mark Spanglet in the wastelands of the Sword Coast

Hopefully, the Internet will make it possible for apprentices to meet their masters virtually. It won't stop the vast majority playing games and looking for porn, though. Am I just being too negative about the (lack of) impact of our "new" technology?

As I recall every new type of innovation has been used for games and porn. Why should Internet be any different?

Having computerized waves coming out of a screen towards my body for several hours a day changes the way I communicate with people, I am addicted to it and I know that it is not good for me. I have used my computer for so many things in my life and I enjoy its creativity but I always fail to find focus in my creations and lose it for understanding the machine. I can find technical beauty in everything but I know the truth is behind a true creation and that the computer is the farthest thing from inspiring.

I don't think LifesTooShort, I think life's far too short.

It has taken me so long to know what I am doing that now I don't have the energy to do it any more.

In French:Si jeunesse savait; si vieillesse pouvait.

Or (Amish, I believe): Too soon we grow old; too late we grow smart.

I share the feeling. But what to do then? We have cursed ourselves. We love complexity, so... the only domain to fulfill our thirst is here in the computing biz... -- PhilippeBack

You want complexity? Try dating.

Or marriage!


"But what to do then?" Yep, we all suffer from the limits of the human frame. Maybe radical pruning of non-essentials, an uncluttered environment, good supplies of basic human needs, making time to drift and dream (which allows for background trawling of brain hashes), and asking yourself (Castaneda-style) "would I be doing this if I knew I were going to die tomorrow?" is a good start... oh yeah, and throw the TV out. -- DaveEveritt

It's funny, the people who NEED experience (young people) don't have any. The people who do have experience don't have the Energy to take advantage of that fact. I think Life should go backward:

This was the premise of a RedDwarf episode. "I shot him, and he came to life!"

Not to mention Mork and Mindy.

Not to mention Time's Arrow by Martin Amis.

Not to mention

Life's too short.

So strive to live it in constant pain.

It'll make it seem longer.

"Can many of us honestly claim to have improved the human condition?"

Perhaps not too many, but I'm pretty proud of the Class II, Class IIB, and Class III patient handling, diagnostic, and treatment machines I have participated in building. Also, my process automation gear has made the workplace safer for lots of people in factory settings. Is that not something to take pride in? Life is short, so I'd prefer to work on the stuff that matters. (I'm going to pretend I had nothing to do with those 8051-based TV remote controls.)

LifesTooShort to spend it writing a SkipList Visualization in OpenGl instead of adding to the LifesTooShort wiki.

LifesTooShort to read this wiki page

I had a Eureka moment recently where I realized something that is inter-twined with LifesTooShort. It is this -- "There are no style points." Or, you might word it as "No one is grading this."

I think a lot of computer programmers like me can tend to be neurotic, or perhaps borderline obsessive-compulsive (not necessarily to the extreme that would be clinically diagnosed, but nearly all psychological disorders are simply matters of degrees). We have the capacity to manage thousands of details and create a system which controls all of them, in order to make a group of computers do what we want. To do that, we need some amount of perfectionism or obsessive-compulsion or something like that.

As a result, in other areas of life, we might get too caught up in things. For example, imagine that you took great pride at having a perfect attendance in third grade. Well, now that you're an adult, and are 15 years into your career, does it *really* *matter* that you got a perfect attendance award? Looking back from your vantage point now, did it really make as much difference in how your life unfolded as you would have expected? Were the rewards proportional to the amount of mental devotion you put into it at the time?

My dad died in October, and one of the things that struck me was that, one day, he just died. It's not like he "finished things up", and then was "ready to move on to the next adventure", like you might see in some fantasy novel. No, he just died one day. That's how we'll all go.

And in the meantime, *no* *one* *is* *grading* how we perform each day. Whether or not you believe in God, even He is not grading every little detail of how clean your house is, or whether your car is waxed, or whatever it is you obsess over these days.

LifesTooShort, and there are no style points. No one is grading this. So just decide what is important to you, what helps you self-actualize, and invest your time in those things as much as possible. CharlieFlowers

See also: ThisIsYourLife, GetaLife


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