What I learned about life from working in IT: part 2

Fixing computers for a living means that you spend your whole day problem solving. It’s insanely frustrating because you’re expected to be able to answer any question about any hardware or software problem there could ever be. Even if you went to school to study computers, 2 years later most of that information will be obsolete. So you have to constantly relearn your trade…and not get paid for your self-taught education. But no matter how much you teach your self you’ll never be able to memorize every error code, every symptom, and every solution to every problem that could possibly happen with every operating system, every 3rd party software, every motherboard, every hard drive, every video card, every DVD drive, every peripheral device, every switch, every router, every server, etc. It’s just fucking impossible. But, you don’t have to. In fact, you’d be surprised how much you don’t have to know about computers and still be able to make a living fixing them…as long as you know how to think logically…which most people don’t. If they did then most computer technicians would be out of a job.

The first rule about thinking logically is that if you want an exact answer you need to ask an exact question. When a user’s monitor goes blank they freak out and ask questions like, “Why is this happening to me?” “Why now?” “What the hell is wrong with this piece of shit?” etc. None of these questions are going to provide useful answers. So they call a computer tech who asks questions that cut to the heart of the issue such as, “What’s broken? What was the last thing you did before it broke? Does it have power? Are the connections loose? If we replace this piece will the problem go away or is the problem originating somewhere else?”

When I first started fixing computers I’d freak out every time I got a call about a problem I didn’t know how to fix. I’d ask myself questions like, “What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do?” Eventually I stopped freaking out and learned to look at a computer with the cool air of a mysterious, wandering gunslinger. I’d take my time and break down the problem systematically starting by gathering all the facts, eliminating variables, and testing solutions one at a time until the problem was solved. And throughout the whole process I’d keep in mind that if you’re not asking exact questions you won’t get exact answers.

Eventually I found that this method of problem solving worked equally well in real life. My friends who had the most problems in their lives were the ones who sat around asking themselves, “Why is this happening to me?” “Why is life unfair?” These are the people who when you try to offer them solutions to their problems they argue with you and bark excuses at you for why nothing will work.

The people who have the least problems in life are the ones who size up their problems like a gunslinger sizing up an opponent. They know that the causes and the solutions of any problem can be deduced by analyzing the variables in the problem. And the degree of success you have in deducing the causes and the solutions to a problem depends on how specific and articulate the questions you ask are. Thus they don’t wast any time freaking out or getting emotional about the problems in their lives. They simply go into analytical mode and start asking questions.

So if you find yourself getting emotional about a problem or one of your friends comes complaining to you about their problem the first question you need to ask your self or your friend is, “What questions have you asked?”

What I learned about life from working in IT: Part 1

What I learned about life from working in IT: Part 3

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