Ode to a Luddite

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“The problem’s plain to see,

Too much technology.”

Styx Mr. Roboto

The other day I was asked to take a logic test by a Board I was trying to do some work with.  This team had a technology for matching people based on not just looks and personality but also intelligence, and they wanted to make sure I met their standards not just of what I had learned technically but also my capacity for rational thought and problem solving.  “And you can even use pen and paper” the one shrink proudly proclaimed.

How many of us would be paralyzed by the inability to use our computer programs or calculators to solve a problem?  I’m not going to go all “grumpy old man” and say “back in my day we solved problems with an abacus and were lucky when they invented papyrus” but I will echo my mom: have the skill and then tools only make it easier, but you can still get the job done without them if need be.

“Put your faith in learning, not technology.” Robert Greene Mastery

There is a belief now that because all of the world’s information is available at our fingertips most of the time, that we do not need to remember the basics like not mixing bathroom chemicals because chlorine bleach and ammonia produces a toxic gas.  Every week there is a headline “XYZ Employee Dies Cleaning Bathroom”.  Or that water expands when it freezes.  These consequences are more extreme than not being able to do long division by hand. But are symptoms of the same disease.

Mental laziness.  Dependence on external things instead of internal ones.

Instead of looking for a shortcut, learn to love the journey with all of its difficulties because you’ll be physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger for what comes ahead.  Even though we almost always have a calculator with us, the ability to remember the Pythagorean Theorem and apply the concept to pull a stuck vehicle out of the mud is an application of truly understanding the concepts as opposed to passing some test and then forgetting the information, as is too prevalent today.

The capacity to think and problem solve is more important than the ability to regurgitate facts on command.  The ability to see the relationships between issues or events is more important than recall.  Yes, you need to have many of the facts like Legos to assemble a creation, but a Lego Master does not need every esoteric piece known because they understand what they are doing well enough to improvise.

Look at how you go about working with clients.  Have you become like the Lego Master (or martial arts one), that understands the basic building blocks of their craft, practiced putting pieces together and taking them apart and redoing it over and over again so that you have complete understanding not only of your fundamentals but how parts interrelate and combine with a vision of the final output, the solution?  Or did you just follow the enclosed directions once and stick it on a shelf to collect dust, just like your college diploma?  Are you trying to increase your understanding which consequentially decreases your dependence on your tools?

The great samurai ronin Miyamoto Musashi defeated an opponent using an oar instead of a sword, because he had truly mastered his craft and was not dependent upon the katana as a tool but rather used his blade as an extension of his mind and body and training.  Are you dependent upon your tools, or are you maser of them?

Don’t let your tools become crutches.

Oh, and that logic test?  Aced it, and in fact showed them some issues that they didn’t realize they had with the questions so that they could improve the test.  Plus showed them a few things they hadn’t thought about, so even Mastery is subject to scrutiny and improvement.  And those who truly seek Mastery understand that they are never done, that their skills can be constantly honed, and new tools are merely better ways to enhance the world. 

Master yourself, and your tools become essentially irrelevant.

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