“If the map doesn’t agree with the ground the map is wrong” – Gordon Livingston

Along my journey through life I (like most people) have collected many experiences, thoughts & questions I’d like to share and discuss. But events in my life pass by so swiftly like the moving blocks in a game of Domino, leaving me barely any time to remember the experiences let alone reflect on what’s gone by. Here’s a stab at unravelling the knotted threads of one of my buried memories. This one takes us back to the beginning of last month – Sunday 4th June to be precise.

Being one of the few members under 40yrs old, the Hakka Association gave me two options for what I could do on the 4th June  – Paddle for the Hakka Warrior Dragon Boat Team in the Multicultural Dragon Boat Festival or be the Master of Ceremonies (M.C.) for the Multicultural Dragon Boat Festival. Since each option was as appealing as the other, I left it up to them to decide.

I ended up drawing the M.C. straw.

This wasn’t the first time I was a M.C. for an event, the first time was actually at the same festival, on the same outdoor stage at Forest Lake, 6 years ago in 2011. However, more experience since then didn’t result in a smooth running program that day.

If you had compared the printed program with its scheduled times at 10 minute intervals against the reality that was un-folding on stage you’d say you were witnessing pure chaos. Almost none of the performances or races happened when they were planned to happen and everything was out of order. As always there were a plethora of reasons for that; performers were missing, some said they had to perform 2hrs before their scheduled slot, dragon boats took double the amount of time to do everything and all sorts of people were whispering into our ears about last minute program changes. All I could do was paste on a permanent Barbie smile on my face while my brain was in overdrive figuring out how to put out fires as discretely as possible.

I made all sorts of mistakes from making Cr Angela Owen (Councillor for Calamvale Ward Chairman of Council) very angry to running on and off stage mid-sentence to get more details from performers as I introduced them onto the stage. 6 years ago I would have fell into a heap on the ground, too embarrassed to ever show my face on stage. But that day, I just rolled with the punches and smoothed over whatever I could. Because – number one, I haven’t yet found the Ctrl-Z for life & number two, the show had to go on, literally.

When the chaos eventually came to an end, the splashing was replaced by the still lake, the crowd was replaced by the sound of birds and my panic was replaced with a warm feeling of pride. I felt proud of the M.C. Team, the Hakka Stage Team and I felt proud of myself. Sure, things didn’t go to plan even though we practiced it over and over many times before. Sure, I made some mistakes. But there were a lot of successful improvisations which went so smoothly it was as if we had planned it.

We managed to slot in all the performances and even gave some performers a chance to perform an extra song or dance or some self-promotion. We miraculously finished the event on time and the crowd was still relatively large & appeared to be engaged all the way to the end of the day. But the best part was hearing the praise and gratefulness from the people of the Hakka Association and even the performers themselves at how well we hosted the event. To them, it looked like everything had gone to plan.

Thinking about it now, one of the key lessons I had learnt from that experience is to be kind to myself and to see the big picture of the situation before beating myself to a pulp. We must learn to zoom out from the minute details of a negative experience to be able to see it in context of everything else. By doing that we might find that a lot of negative energy is spent dwelling over a storm in a teacup. Think about the tea party, not the tea cup.

The other lesson I had learnt from that experience is that being able to “go with the flow” and improvise is an invaluable life skill. We could spend to the end of time planning something but no matter how prepared we are, something will fall out of place. It’s just life. Like we all know, life is made up of many complexities and variabilities, throw humans into the mix and you’re sure to get an unpredictable outcome. But that’s fine, in fact, that’s great! I think being exposed to different/ scary/ uncomfortable experiences help shine a brighter light on this sea of unknown we call “life”. I think the more we find out about the life, the more curious and engaged we become, thus the more interesting life becomes. If we are able to improvise in these sticky situations, we can get through the harder times and maybe even enjoy the experience a little.

Do you guys have an different/ scary/ uncomfortable experience coming up?

Trust in your skills and abilities and remember “If the map doesn’t agree with the ground the map is wrong”. Gordon Livingston



4 thoughts on ““If the map doesn’t agree with the ground the map is wrong” – Gordon Livingston

  1. An absolutely brilliant post! Some good lessons, indeed. I’ll try to remember your words of wisdom next time I feel like I’ve stuffed something up (which happens more than you might think).
    As for planning and improvisation: I totally agree. One quote that’s crossed my mind a lot over the years is: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”


  2. I love that you’re always throwing yourself into uncomfortable situations. For as long as I have known you, that’s what I have admired most about you.

    Your lesson learnt about the big picture is so relatable for me. Sometimes I’m so caught up in wanting a certain outcome that I forget to look at the big picture. I’m glad you’ve managed to apply this in your life.

    Love the quote too!


  3. People are often their own harshest critics! I think we sometimes all need to take a chill pill and not beat ourselves up. If we gave it our all and tried our best, that’s already a great achievement…


  4. I want to see you angry sometime. You’re always smiling and quite frankly it makes me worry for you because you’re an internal stresshead. So come at me and yell at me sometime ❤


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