Conferences Presentations

Bush Walking (or how a wasp can destroy your iPhone)

Everyone at the Automattic Grand Meetup is required to give a 4 minute (or less) flash talk about any topic they like. I told a story about how I was stung by a wasp bush walking. This was my talk:

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There’s this really great forest that’s really close to my house. Really close to Brisbane city. It’s amazing.

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So I walking along and I came across one of these:

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It’s a yellow jacket wasp. It’s amazing how scary it looks close up. Everything looks scary close up. It actually looked more like this:

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I tried to make it to scale, but this is very hard to do without knowing the exact dimensions of the projection screen etc. But it wasn’t that big.

When I say I came across it, that’s really not true. It came across me, the back of my leg to be precise.

And a few moments later my brand new iPhone looked something like this:

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Which made me wonder: how can something as small as a wasp destroy my iPhone? So I started to do some research.

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There’s this order that contains like 150,000 species of insects being ants, bees, wasps and sawflies.

The thing that’s common about them is they can inflict pain on humans through stings/bites.

As soon as you start researching pain caused by insects you’ll inevitably come across this guy:

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His name is Justin Schmidt, he’s one of the craziest people I have heard of, but in a good way!

Who else travels the world trying to get stung by insects and coming up with a pain index to benchmark the pain?

It’s called the Schmidt Pain Index and I’ll run you through it:

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It starts at pain 1.0, the sweat bee. It’s like the entry level of pain.

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And it doesn’t last very long at all.

The wasp that stung me sits about halfway through the index:

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It’s rated 2.0 and is a bit more painful than the sweat bee.

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And the pain lasts 4-10 minutes which is enough time to destroy your iPhone.

Now for the top of the pain scale.

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This is a bullet ant from South America. Rated at 4.0+, it’s know for causing the most pain that a human can feel. This is absolutely insane. What’s even more insane is…

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… that the pain lasts for 12 to 24 hours.

The most interesting thing I read about Schmidt wasn’t the Index, even though it’s great.

It’s that pain of any of these bites alone won’t kill or permanently injure you; but the stupid things you do trying to suppress the pain probably will.

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The wasp didn’t destroy my iPhone, I destroyed my iPhone reacting to the wasp.

The thing is, you can’t control what anyone or anything does to you.

They can leave a mean comment on your blog.

They can sneak up behind and sting you on the back of the leg.

You can’t control any of these; you can’t control anything someone or something else does to you.

But what you can control is how you react to something.

You can run around screaming/crying, but you’ll probably do more damage to yourself than the thing that happened.

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I’ll finish with a saying I saw somewhere once:

It went something like “the same pot of boiling water can make a potato soft and an egg hard. It’s not about circumstance, but what you’re made of and how you react”.

I encourage you all to be eggs.

4 replies on “Bush Walking (or how a wasp can destroy your iPhone)”

Interesting post, on your encouragement, (hard) eggs still crack (under pressure). What you’re made of and how you react was more amusing. It may be good to be soft sometimes, just know when to be a potato and when an egg.

Thanks for this post Alister. Very informative / entertaining. At times in life / work we all feel like a Bullet Ant has had a good go at us. As you say if we can manage to keep perspective then we can limit the damage and even perhaps grow from the experience.

I wish we could more often see the funny side. It’s a very useful tool in getting a team deconstructed and reconstructed to work properly together. And talking about pain, owwww, thanks for sharing.

Cheeky question; if I am hard as an egg, can I still be agile and changeable into any shape as business environments reconfigure. Ignore critics of the metaphors, keep talking the talk Alister.

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