Friday, August 9, 2013

Some days, the technology wins

Today is one of those days.  Actually, it's one of those weeks.  How much I appreciate technology when it works is exactly how much I am frustrated when it doesn't.  And here's the thing that should give us all pause: We are far too dependent upon technology for our day-to-day existence.

I'm not a Luddite, nor am I an innovator...not even an early adopter.  Technology of any form should, I believe, make my life easier or better in some way.  Some times it does.  I'd put the electric iron, air conditioning, telephones, and electricity squarely in the corner of Easier or Better in Some Way.  Computers and the attendant peripherals tap dance all over the line between Easier-Better and something best spelled with far fewer letters.  And as cell phones become more computer than phone, they, too, slip further from Easier-Better.

There was a time when we all knew the telephone numbers of our parents (or children, depending upon our age), neighbors, local businesses, and close friends.  Far too many of us don't know the work or cell phone numbers of our spouse or closest friends; when the cell phone stops working, we are frighteningly helpless.  As a friend of mine asks frequently, what will happen when someone unplugs the cord?

The source of my pique today is a recent issue with my home modem, which seems to have stopped working due to a storm-related power surge.  These things happen (though not, I might add, to my books, pens, or paper....just sayin') and the modem was still under warranty.  Installed the new modem and...the wireless router won't allow a connection. After close to an hour on the phone with the helpful (yes, they really were) people at A.T.&T., we reach the end of the support they can provide.  Only when I am left on my own to do the requisite research do I learn that the router has been "phased out" (that's Greek for "we are now making something else that costs a lot more") and is no longer supported.  Would have been nice to know that when I replaced the decrepit modem two months ago.  In order to have wireless access, I am now forced to buy another piece of technology.  All I get to decide is which piece and at what cost.

Lest you think I am overstating the case of our tech-dependency and helplessness, here's what happened when I previewed this post mid-way:
Today, the technology won.  We'll see how tomorrow goes.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

"Self-expression over excellence, confidence over perfection."

I read and copied it (by hand) without attribution many years ago.  There's a sadness in my inability to attribute authorship to words powerful enough to write about some 15 or so years later.  A significant learning in the intervening years is the wisdom of always noting the source, whether a book, a lecture, a website, a speech, or a private conversation. If it's important enough to remember, it's important enough to remember the source.  Though I've tried, I've not yet been able to find the source (and, yes, help is welcome).

What I do remember is why I kept this quote for (re)discovery.  It captured much of what I wanted to convey to my now-grown daughter about the difference between striving for perfection (by some external standard) and accepting who we are. Striving to achieve the unrealistic goal of Perfect derails the very efforts that lead to excellence, as well as the efforts that lead to failure--the failure required for learning.

This doesn't excuse mediocre work or cutting corners or accepting less than our best effort.  What it does, however, is free us from the debilitating effects of chasing a perfection we will never reach.  It frees us from the tyranny of perfection, the tyranny that most often blossoms as procrastination.

Knowing we cannot reach perfection, we fail to reach at all.  Far better to start with an honest assessment and acceptance of who we are and what we know, then find the people and the opportunities to challenge us to personal excellence.