Ask Leo! #476 – Holiday Issue – Embracing the Most Important Attitude

NOTE: Today's issue is a special edition prepared prior to the holidays so that Leo and his staff could have some time off. This issue contains a complete, single article that is destined to be added to the "best of" list. Next week's issue will be similar, and we'll return to our normal publication schedule with issue #478 on the January 14th, 2014.

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Embracing the Most Important Attitude

Today, a couple of major online applications released user interface changes. Some of the changes are major, some are minor, but the bottom line is that what people were using yesterday is no longer available today.

I don't have to tell you what applications those might be. Whatever they are today, there will almost certainly be other commonly used applications that change when you read this article in the future.

I get frustrated when this type of change happens.

But not for the reasons that you might think.

My "genetic disposition"

I am almost genetically predisposed to get annoyed with chronic complainers.

I try very hard not to do that. I try to give everyone a fair and objective shake, but honestly - when questions come in that are 95% complaining and moaning and maybe 5% actual question, I have a very hard time motivating myself to take on the issue.

I know, I know. I picked the wrong industry to work in. With the exception of politics, no other industry has more vocal and active complaining going on than in the technology industry.

Particularly when things change.

I just see it every single day and it just makes me very, very sad and frustrated.

Why?

Because it doesn't have to be this way if folks approached technology - and for that matter life itself - a little differently.

Change is comingSome people HATE change

I read somewhere that there are people who use push-button telephones only because rotary dial phones are no longer available.

While the author said that partly in jest to make a point, it's unfortunately more accurate than we might like to believe.

There are people who simply hate change. And "hate," as ugly a word as it is, is in some cases still not strong enough.

In my opinion, being change-averse puts you at a distinct and serious disadvantage when it comes to today's computers and technology.

Like it or not, change happens

The world keeps changing and it's not going to stop. No matter how uncomfortable it may make you or how much you complain and rail against it, things are going to change. Period.

The only thing that will never, ever change is the fact that things will change and keep changing.

Given that change is absolutely, totally, and completely unavoidable, you have exactly two choices:

  • Get angry and bitter and convince yourself that those making change happen are responsible for all sorts of assorted evils in the world.1
  • Accept change. Embrace it. Learn from it. Exploit it. See how it's made the world a much, much better place. Enjoy it, even.

Now, given those two possibilities, think about this way: which will lead to a happier, more positive experience?

You can choose to be grumpy and angry, or you can choose to be accepting and - dare I say it - happy?

Which will you choose? (And have no doubt about this: it is a choice.)

Why embrace change?

Forget simply being happier. There's a very practical reason that embracing or at least accepting change is important.

In the nearly 10 years that I've been doing this, it's become very clear to me that given the same computers, the same situations, and the same problems being faced, the person who is frustrated by the changes that he or she sees as being foisted upon them will have a much more difficult time using their machines and resolving problems. The only difference is that attitude that they bring to the table.

Let me put it more clearly: if you hate change you will have a more difficult time with the exact same issues than a person who is more accepting of change.

People who use technology the most effectively and are the least hindered by it are the folks who not only accept change, but even look forward to it. These are people who are curious, who are interested in learning what more technology can do for them, and how they can best leverage the latest and greatest to make their lives more effective, efficient, and fun.

On the other hand, the more frustrated and resistant you are to the changes you're facing, the harder you're making it on yourself. Remember, I said this is a choice, and by choosing to be upset, you are choosing to make your experience more difficult.

Change is accepted elsewhere

What I find puzzling is that many of these people who complain about changing computer software and other technologies are more than willing to quietly accept often major changes in their motor vehicle from year to year, model to model, and between brands.

If the radio controls are completely different in your new car, why aren't you as upset about that as you are about various user interface changes in an operating system update? There's an argument that the controls on your radio present a much more significant safety issue as you fumble to change a station while you barrel down the freeway.

The radio's just one example. The changes that we quietly accept in our motor vehicles and in many other aspects of our lives are often much greater and more far-reaching than what we might find when we upgrade our software, yet there's little or no outrage in comparison.

Find where the new knobs are, change the station, and move on with your life.

Like you do in your car.

Change isn't made with malicious intent

I often hear from folks who are absolutely and utterly convinced that whatever change they've encountered was made for the express purpose of angering them3 or for some other dark, conspiratorial intent.

Folks, pissing off your customers is just bad business. I don't care who you are or how big you are.

And don't doubt for one second that this is all about business.

Companies that don't innovate die. Software that never changes eventually withers away in the face of competitive alternatives that do.

Hardware and software vendors are in a constant competitive battle, and you don't stay competitive by standing still. In fact, halting innovation and change is a fast track to complete and total failure.

You remain competitive by continually striving to make your product better: better than the previous version and better than the competition.

And that means making changes.

Newer isn't always better

You'll get no argument from me that frequently the changes made in pursuit of "better" are anything but.

That doesn't mean that all change is bad. It means simply that that change was wrong.

Nothing more, nothing less.

The companies that produce these products are constantly researching and testing and coming up with ways that they honestly and truly believe make their product better.

Sometimes, they get it wrong. Sometimes, the idea turns out to be wrong. Sometimes, the execution of a good idea fails. Regardless, the net result is something that few people would call better.

And yet for every change that failed, more changes - actually significantly more - have served to truly improve the products that we use every single day and even eventually come to take for granted.

Change isn't just about you

One of the very common variations on the complaint that I get is that "everyone hates this change."

No. Just... no.

Maybe many people you talk to, and certainly all of the people that join you in the "complain about this product" discussion forum, but that's hardly a representative sample of "everyone." People who aren't experiencing a problem don't flock to the same places that you might.

"You can't please everyone," and nowhere is that truer than when it comes to technological change.

Perhaps it was simply your turn not to be pleased.

Perhaps the testing performed on the product indicated that the majority of people actually liked that change that you and your friends hate. Not 100%, but a majority nonetheless.

Once again, you get to choose your response: get angry and bitter - or accept that the change exists and make decisions on what you personally need to do to move forward. And, yes, your response absolutely could involve a change of your own: choosing to use a completely different product that more appropriately meets your needs and desires.

Which really leads me to the bottom line that I want you to walk away with.

Change? No!You can't control change but you can choose your response

Change is inevitable in life and particularly so, when it comes to computers and technology.

There's simply no escaping it.

So when faced with an unexpected change of some sort - be it in your formerly-favorite application or the operating system you've been using for years - what are you going to do?

Get grumpy and annoyed?

Or will you instead accept and understand that change is a necessary part of the decades of innovation that have led us to this amazing world we live in? And in that acceptance, simply and rationally decide whether it's change you can learn from, change you can live with, change you need to avoid and work around, or something that you simply can't accept and must walk away from?

Even if you choose the later, extreme solution, if you do it out of a rational evaluation rather than some angry reaction, you'll end up in a significantly better place.

Give change a chance. You don't need to accept every change, but if you can accept that change is inevitable, you'll have a much better time of it.

In fact, you might even have fun, if you let yourself.

For related links and an opportunity to comment on this article, please visit Embracing the Most Important Attitude out at Ask Leo!.

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*** Thoughts and Comments

If I set all the switches and pushed all the right buttons, this issue of the newsletter will be heading your way on December 31st - New Year's Eve.

I want to take this opportunity to Thank You for all of your support in 2013, and wish you all the best as we continue the voyage into 2014.

Happy New Year everyone!

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom
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