Life lessons from the IT department

unpluggedThere's a protocol at IT help desks for answering every call for help with computer difficulties that goes something like this:

  1. "Is the machine plugged into the wall?" If "yes"...
  2. "Is the machine--and something else plugged into the same outlet--receiving power?" If "yes"...
  3. "Is the machine turned on?"

It goes on from there. Easy to mock (if you've never seen the email about it, see this site), but there's a great message in there that we don't always apply to our own decision trees:

Try the simplest thing first, no matter how "stupid" or obvious.

This was driven home to me recently. I'd been having problems with my program's display. I'd done elaborate troubleshooting, reinstalled twice, combed the web for solutions, and after coming up blank, was hobbling along, just living with it and using annoying workarounds.

One morning, I was grousing about it in front of The BF, who is, of course, a computer genius. As in, That Guy You Call when you're F*cked. He hates it. So much so, that I made a resolution to ask only under cases of extreme duress. Which this, of course, was not; it was merely supremely annoying.

A puzzled look came across his face. He walked over to the computer, clicked one (unmarked! unmarked! I swear!) button, and my display was back in action.

For me, the lesson, and the simplest thing, is usually to ask someone first. As someone with dependency issues well before becoming a sole proprietor, i.e., an independent cuss from way back, it is too easy for me to go a long, long time before asking for help. I'm learning to get over this by working with a business coach, yes, but also by being less of a loner: in the past couple of years, I've joined no less than five new groups that have all helped me expand my network, not for money-making reasons (although it's nice when that happens) but for information gathering and mutual assistance.

That's right, mutual. Because I have a different skill set and life experience than the people in my various groups. So what's befuddling to me, what seems like a huuuuuuge favor to ask, may be nothing less than a quick email back and forth, or a ten-second phone call.

And what's befuddling to you? To me, it may be as plain as the nose on your face. Or the cord from your computer, that's sitting just short of the outlet...

Image by Kitwe's Finest via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license