At some point early in our relationship, Amanda shared with me a very insightful piece of advice. She said, "it’s important to talk TO your partner more than you talk ABOUT your partner." If you spend all your time talking about the problems you have with someone to OTHER PEOPLE, those problems aren’t likely to ever get solved.
That really struck a chord with me. I’m not the kind of person who generally cares what other people thinks about him. Most people won’t understand this. I think most people are consumed by their fear that they won’t be "popular" or that someone might be saying "bad things" about them to someone else. I will admit that there was a time when this…the gossiping…bothered me, particularly when it came to my profession and the quality of the work I put out. Then, one day about 10 years ago, I had an epiphany of sorts. I suddenly realized that if someone has an opinion or a concern about me–about ANY aspect of me–and doesn’t bring that concern to me personally; then that concern, whatever it is, is TRIVIAL as far as I am care about it goes. I have applied this to all areas of my Life and it sure does make it easier to get through it (life).
If you think I’m fat and you want to talk about it with other people, good for you! If you want to talk about it with ME, I’d love that too. If you don’t like my shirt/pants/shoes/hair/beard/whatever, same thing. If you aren’t talking to ME about it, I don’t care that you’re talking to anyone else. If your concern was a serious one, you’d be talking to ME. The way I see it, you’re just entertaining yourself and I’m flattered, should you choose to talk about me, that I am sufficiently entertaining!
It was hardest to adopt this philosophy at work. I am continually frustrated by the low bar I have to set for the quality of some aspects of service I provide. But I’m one man supporting well over 500 computer workstations. That means a whole lot of "vanilla" and not much in the way of sprinkles, whipped cream, and cherries. Some things are the way they are because I’ve made a conscious decision to make them that way. Sometimes with a good reason, sometimes "just because". But a LOT of things are simply at "default" because no one has ever asked or suggested that they be changed. They way I see it, if it isn’t broken then I’m not going to fix it. And in the computer support game, no news is GOOD news. No reports of things NOT working means that everything IS working.
Apparently not. I continue to be dismayed as I interact with the people who use the systems I maintain at how much CRAP they put up with but NEVER BRING TO MY ATTENTION. My systems are NOT perfect. I know that. But I can only be so proactive. I can’t test every SMARTboard on campus once a week. I can’t log in to every workstation to make sure everything’s working. But there ARE people using all of these systems every day, and it continues to astound me that they run into problems–no matter how trivial–that they never report. It frustrates me because I take pride in my work.
But everyone on this campus knows that CTS is responsible for the computers on this campus. And most who use the computers in classrooms know that *I* am directly responsible for the computers in those classrooms. While it still pains me to know that there are deficiencies in my Systems as I struggle to address the ones I know about, I have had to decide that the ones I don’t know about are simply not important if no one else bothers to bring them to my attention. I know it goes on. I overhear some of it myself. I get some of it second-hand, and some of that from alleged sources that surprise me because I expect more from those people.
I’m under no assumption that anyone but myself reads this. I know I WRITE it only for myself. But if, someday, this blog-thing acquires any sort of popularity and actually gets read by any of you who actually use the Systems I build and maintain, take this to heart and do BOTH of us a favor and report the problems you experience, no matter how small. My job is to make teaching with technology on this campus as painless and seamless as possible. Doing so successfully requires as much of your input as I can get, because I am NOT a teacher! So don’t just shake your head with frustration. Complain all you want in the break room or at the lunch table with your peers. But in the name of all that is good and holy, do NOT assume that I already am aware of the problem you just experienced or that I am working on it!
I would much rather get 10 calls about the same problem than NO calls at all. I can’t fix it if I don’t know it’s broken!