Chinese Idiom Stories for Software Professionals: #11 Pulling Up the Seedlings to Help Them Grow(拔苗助长)

To spoil things through a desire for quick results

Zhimin Zhan
5 min readApr 8, 2022


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This article is one of the “Chinese Idiom Stories for Software Professionals” series.


written by Mencius, a famous philosopher, ~300BC.

There was a farmer in the State of Song who was very impatient. Day and night he longed for the seedlings in the field to grow tall and strong quickly. But the seedlings grew very slowly, not as quickly as he hoped.

One day, he hit upon a good idea. He sneaked to the field and pulled each seedling up a little bit from the soil. Seeing that all these seedlings in the field were taller than before, he felt very pleased with himself.

He went home. Though all worn out, he couldn’t wait to tell his family: “I worked very hard for a whole day today. And the seedlings in the field have grown a lot taller.”

When his son heard that the seedlings had grown taller, he hurried to the field to take a look. Instead of seeing the seedlings growing taller, he saw all the seedlings had started to wither.


Pulling up the seedlings to help them grow is a metaphor for those who go against the natural, objective course of things and are hasty to get success, but only to fail at last.

The equivalent in English: “You cannot have ten pregnant mothers to have a baby in one month”.

This idiom was told by the famous philosopher Mencius. At the end of the story, Mencius added: “There are only a few not doing this.”

Examples in Software Development

As Mencius said, “Pulling Up the Seedlings to Help Them Grow” happens a lot in general, certainly common in software development.

Hiring more programmers when under pressure, hoping to speed up development.

When the deadline approaches, the management gets panicked and often chooses to hire more programmers in order to complete the task on time. As pointed out in the classic…



Zhimin Zhan

Test automation & CT coach, author, speaker and award-winning software developer. Help teams succeed with Agile/DevOps by implementing real Continuous Testing.