A Lightbulb Goes Off
I was pretty excited over the weekend to get a zippier cable modem. This one had blue lights instead of green. It looked fast and somehow evil. Webpages loaded half a second faster. Recruiter.com popped up like lightning; birds chirped and all was right in the world.
Bird don’t usually chirp over lightning fast Internet, but I live in a strange part of the forest.
Anyway, my bliss was interrupted when the connection crashed. Of course, it was ten minutes after the cable-guy pulled out of our driveway. “DNS server error,” my browser warned. “We can’t find the problem,” Windows network diagnostic tool blushingly admitted. “Maybe you could, like, contact your ISP or check your modem or something?”
Dutifully, I went to the room with the cable modem, flicked on the light, and performed the only technical routine in my knowledge – I unplugged the modem and router, said Mississippi a few times and then plugged them back in. When I went back to the computer, there it was again – the web, in all its unfettered glory, blazing through sites as fast as it burns spare time. My technical aptitude was unquestionable; I was happy once again.
A little while later, down it went again. This time, I moaned. All was lost. It was no simple update from the cable company downloading and needing a reset. No, this was a serious matter. This was complex: a matter for professionals.
But I am no professional. Down to the room I went once again.
This time, when I plugged the modem back in, no blue lights appeared. There was no power to the modem. Aha!
The outlet was tied in to the light switch!
I had not solved the problem before – I had just been turning the modem on when I turned on the light to enter the room. My kids were in fact the guilty culprits, having turned the lights off again when they left the room.
Following my natural propensity for band-aid solutions, I immediately hung a small Post-it note with the simple words, “Do not turn me off” on the light switch.
A few minutes later upon seeing the Post-it note, my wife informed me that I was an idiot. Only the bottom outlet was in fact tied to the light switch, so we did not have to leave the lights on forever and ever. Were it not for her tearing off my band-aid fix, that Post-it note would still be there and the lights would, no doubt, still be burning.
When you’re really involved in a new company, or any big project, your mind get physically filled with a constant mist of anticipation, worry, and thoughtfulness. Getting lost in one’s thoughts is no cliche, it’s a physical reality. We become better workers. We are focused, productive, and dutiful. We have inspired thoughts about ethereal things. But there is a cost. We become distracted and can’t think about the easy solutions. We learn more about other people’s worlds but forget more of our own. Our companies and projects slowly become a greater part of our lives and occupy a greater portion of our minds. We make less mistakes in business and more in real life.
One of the quirks of the English language is that saying a light bulb “goes off” means the same thing as saying that the light bulb “goes on.” It seems so too with our minds – for as each idea sparks, another seems to go dark. We become smarter and dumber at the same time. We sacrifice common sense and awareness for intelligence and accomplishment.
One thing is for certain – the older and busier we get, the greater the opportunities are to laugh at ourselves. It’s a good trade-off, I think.