Holistic Technology:
Helpful Tips for Facing Your Machine
(Mar. 29, 1999)

Holistic Tech Tip #1: Check The Power

If your computer–or any machine, really–refuses to turn on, check to make sure that it’s plugged in and turned on. Not once, not twice, but three times. And don’t just glance at the plug. Really check. Wiggle the plug; check the power strip. Make sure the power settings mean what you think they do (in younger and more foolish days, I managed to interpret the 1-and-0 switch on a printer as “closed” and “open”, leading me to believe that 0 was the correct setting).

The reason for all this rigmarole is that, should you fail to remedy the problem on your own and be forced to call for assistance, there are few things so embarrassing as being told that you simply failed to plug the darn thing in. You will probably then blame the machine for your embarrassment, which will just add to the burden of your misotechny, and we’re trying to avoid that here. On the other hand, should you discover that, in fact, the machine was not plugged in, you will have the satisfaction and empowerment of having fixed the problem yourself, and will be able to say “Silly me; I forgot to plug it in”. You will feel better about yourself and your machine, and you’ll have more confidence that you can solve your own technological problems. Even if the power supply isn’t the problem, at least now you can rule out one possibility.

Holistic Life Tip #1: Calling For Help Doesn’t Mean You’re Dumb

Even if you do find yourself in the above-mentioned situation of calling your technical support person only to find that you didn’t plug the machine in correctly, you should know that you shouldn’t feel stupid. The reason that you ask a more knowledgeable person to help you with a machine, nine times out of ten, is not that something needs to be done that you couldn’t do yourself. It’s that knowledge helps you pare down the options.

You, the less knowledgeable user, are faced with a situation where things don’t work, and you don’t know why. For all you know, anything could be wrong. Even if you’ve checked something, you don’t have enough confidence in your own diagnostic abilities to rule it out. Furthermore, you have no confidence that the problem isn’t with some part of the machine you aren’t even aware of. This prevents you from being at all systematic about attempting to solve the technical problem, and probably makes the psychological problem worse. The negative feelings associated with things not working have not alleviated, and are now compounded by the frustration of failure.

The expert, whom we shall call Dave, on the other hand, can look at a part of the machine and say with confidence that part of the machine is not the source of the problem. His experience enables him to tell what sorts of problems usually cause the symptoms you’re experiencing. He probably doesn’t know what’s wrong. But he is much better equipped to narrow down the options and try to solve the problem systematically. So even though the problem was just a silly power cord which you could have fixed in a second, Dave was much more likely to discover that problem than you. You’re not stupid, merely inexpert.