Technological Heart Attack

March 18, 2007 by
Filed under: Agility, Leadership 

Whirr-click…whirr-click…barely perceptible. I wouldn’t have noticed it at all, except for the fact that I was starting to wonder whether my computer was going to wake up at all.

Apparently not. Even armed with a half dozen magical boot sequences, there was no way that this computer was going to respond. Sort of like kids who have been up too late the night before, only with less talking back and complaining.

OK. Mind into overdrive. I had a full day training session the next day, I had a number of other documents in progress, and this was not the time to be playing around with a rebuild of a computer. Things were not starting well.

The bad start on the day turned even worse. The incremental backups that I thought I had been diligent about were soon found to be incomplete, and the PowerPoint that I had produced for the next day had vanished off the face of the earth. The service department took a look at the computer and determined that it was probably a hard-disk problem (…thanks for the insight, Einstein…), but they were out of stock, and weren’t sure when they were getting more.

Throw on top of that my slide down a muddy hill on my backside as I went to pick up my son that afternoon, and I was in no mood to deal with anything else that evening.

My son and I goofed around a bit, I went to bed early rather than sitting in front of the computer until much later, and slept quite soundly.
Despite the hassles from the day before, I woke up feeling serene. Rather than racing around the house, I calmly sat down with my coffee and reflected on what I was going to do that day. With paper and pencil, I probably generated as much material in an hour as I had done in action-packed, technologically-filled days. How to recover from this challenge, what to do for the day’s training, and a flurry of other ideas and solutions to nagging problems.

I went into the day’s training without the safety net of PowerPoint and a data projector. At one point I could have pulled up Excel to demonstrate a point, but chose to go to the whiteboard instead. I actually enjoyed the session immensely. Participants agreed that it was refreshing to focus on each other, and the training became more relevant and beneficial for all.
Maybe there’s something to this.

I had heard before that when people race around at breakneck speed, something akin to a heart attack can be nature’s message to slow down. I know that I was running at a pace over the past few months that was clearly not sustainable, and it was always ‘in a couple of weeks’ that I would slow down.

Many people I spoke with were remarking about how crazy the pace of business has been getting for them as well. It was with a perverse sense of pride that we would discuss the number of balls we would be keeping in the air, even though I know that we’re not really juggling. Maybe this is Moore’s Law of Technological Insanity, doubling the pace every 18 months or so.

Looking at my own situation again, I’m taking this as a wake up call and an opportunity. My schedule is relatively flexible over the next couple of weeks, so it is a great chance to reconnect with people that I have been too busy to make time for in the recent past. I remember how relaxed I felt the morning after the hard-disk failure, when there was no way I could just dive onto the computer and get busy. I could actually achieve things without the latest Intel processors supporting me like some dual-core crutch.

I’ve learned that I can achieve in a work environment the same sort of serenity that I have experienced out in nature in the past. In the zone. It is something worth embracing proactively, before a technological heart-attack forces the situation. Technology has its place, to be sure, but it needs to be carefully (and consciously) balanced with common sense and rich human interaction.

I know the pace will pick up again, and I know that I have lost a couple of files forever. Maybe these lost files will help me remember the lessons of all this. I’m sure a new monthly reminder in my online task list to step back and consider my pace will help as well.

I’ll shore up my backup strategy, I’ll monitor my pace. Today, though, I’ll make some fresh waffles and take the kids out to a movie. – JB

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