Challenging experiences are a blessing.

At the moment, I'm halfway through my third software engineering internship. And, for reasons I won't get into here, it's by far the most challenging internship I've ever experienced. Crying tears of frustration, and spending hours near-midnight poring over code are not infrequent occurrences.

But, today I'm feeling optimistic.


Because challenging experiences are a blessing.

I'll explain what I mean -

Right now, I'm reading No Mud, No Lotus - The Art of Transforming Suffering by Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay). If you're unfamiliar with him, Thay is a buddhist monk that popularized the Plum Village tradition of Buddhism that most Western mindfulness practices draw inspiration from.

As a young monk in Vietnam, Thay experienced the Vietnam War firsthand.

In No Mud, No Lotus, he shares:

Every day people would ask me if I thought the war would end soon. It was very difficult to answer, because there was no end in sight. But I knew if I said, “I don’t know,” that would only water their seeds of despair.

So when people asked me that question, I replied, “Everything is impermanent, even war. It will end some day.” Knowing that, we could continue to work for peace. And indeed the war did end. Now the former mortal enemies are busily trading and touring back and forth, and people throughout the world enjoy practicing our tradition’s teachings on mindfulness and peace.

Throughout the Vietnam War, Thay transformed his own suffering to bring peace to others while they were surrounded by violence, death, and despair. His activism and teachings have continued to bring peace today, and will do so for many years to come.

Now, just to be clear here, I'm in no way suggesting the Vietnam War was a blessing. Millions of people died in that senseless war.

What I am suggesting, however, is that as software engineers - both current and aspiring - the challenges we face in our careers are mild enough that, if we look deeply, we can recognize them as opportunities for growth.

In fact, if I take a moment to reflect on my own challenging career experiences, I can easily pick out the crucial lessons I've learned.

For example:

So, if you're having a difficult career experience like I am, I challenge you to think of how you can transform your suffering into something that can bring joy to yourself and others in the future.

I'll be sure to provide an update once I figure out how to do that with mine :)