“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
I hated reading. No, I am not contradicting my previous blog post. What I mean is that I only used to read fiction books and encyclopedias (yes, I know, it’s a bit strange). Now I have been reading self-improvement books, and the reason I find them so fascinating is the “self” part, meaning that I can try the techniques the authors recommend to my own life, and after some time, I can see if it works for me. I am my own guinea pig in my life experiments. Today I want to share something new that I tried myself, in the hope that it may help others.
This past week had been intense, work wise, I was traveling overseas for business and had a pending issue that had been nagging me for several days. The worst part is that this problem is related to a product that is well outside my comfort zone: it is software related (I am not a software engineer), it is an older equipment (I never received proper training for it), it is not widely used (but our customer likes it), and very few people are experienced with it (who do I ask?). So I have a few good excuses at my disposal if things get too hairy, so I could easily “mentally quit”.
I did what I usually do when trying to do troubleshooting, which consists of reading manuals, bulletins and then asking people who know more than I if they have ever encountered a similar problem. Reading the manual is easy, but asking people for help feels uncomfortable to me, especially in an industry in which the more you know, the higher up you are perceived in the technological ladder. The phrase “I don’t know” is never mentioned by other engineers. Most responses are filled with links to support sites and much technical jargon. But I decided to humble myself and ask for help, not advice, directly help. I mentioned I did not have experience with this older product and I would appreciate assistance.
It was overwhelming the quick and appropriate advice I received! Several questions I had about the problem were resolved and suggestions were offered. Do not be afraid or proud of asking people for help! If you have done your due diligence beforehand, good people will help. They will know if you tried your best to look for the solution (ask good questions), instead of going the lazy route. Also, if someone needs help, you should be the first one to step up, pass on the knowledge and experience, or even offer suggestions. Likewise, if you don’t know, just say so, and do not be worried about judgement from your peers. Life is not about who is better, but how we all can lift each other up.
Filled with a bit of added confidence, I decided to tackle the problem in a different way that I usually do it, and more importantly, putting into practice some of the tools that I had read from experts.
Have an intention and visualize: this morning I got up and I told myself that I would not wait until Monday to try to solve the problem. No, I said to myself that today I, Rene, would solve this problem. I visualized myself working on the problem, reading websites about it, and finally completing the task. I did not see myself just completing the goal, but also going through the steps and effort of getting there.
Think logically and unemotionally: going thru the effort means that the path to accomplishing a worthwhile goal is not all rosy. There will be disappointments along the way, and we should be prepared to handle them, both mentally and with possible action plans. In my own situation, I told myself “If step A does not work, how can I proceed? Check in website 1A”. Sometimes emotions overrule our logical thinking and we let projects stall for another day. So when the first inevitable hurdle happened, it had been considered, and I was able to overcome it by not behaving emotionally.
Take breaks: this is something I have argued about with friends, and don’t really understand how it works, but it has been suggested by many authors that while you go for a walk or wash dishes, etc, the mind is working in the background on the problem at hand. So when something was not working today, I took a step back and did something unrelated around the house. While doing this, an idea popped into my head, and I went back to the problem and I jumped another hurdle!
Don’t give up: our mind is always trying to protect us, so one thing it does is when you have done good work, it will tell you something along these lines: “Rene, you have done great up to now, so you deserve to take a break, go eat ice cream and we can continue later.” When this happens, we should realize 1) that later really means never, and most importantly, that 2) we must be very close to figuring out the solution, so don’t give up now! This I did not realize until I fully understood the quote mentioned at the top of this blog. That is why I included it.
At this specific moment, I tried another approach, and voila, the final hurdle was completed and the finish line was in front of me!!! Wahoo!!! After a few hours of hard and dedicated labor, I had finally completed this task, something which felt very unrealistic and almost impossible to accomplish, three hours prior. Overcoming hurdles which seem impossible at any given time, is all about having a plan of action and sticking to it, even when things become difficult (and they will). Believe in advice, believe in good people, and most importantly, believe in yourself!