How 80's technology taught us to solve problems.
We live in the age of the always-on phone that automatically connect to wifi, access to all the songs ever written and the always-on, virus-free MacBook. We’re lucky to be part of a world where technology works perfectly.
It wasn’t always that way, though. Those of us who grew up in the 80's know a very different reality when it comes to technology.
We were our family’s IT department.
We know how to perfectly blow into a Nintendo game, and push power just right so it doesn’t oscillate on and off. “The secret is to lick the cartridge…” “Ewnoo! The secret is to bounce it up and down.” We had to know how to debug and fragment a hard drive. We certainly know how to deal with a TV that’s lost its cable connection, a fussy tape player, a hungry VCR and a noisy, clicking, beeping, screaming, dial-up modem.
The first step in home IT is always the same.
Turn it off and turn it on again. Control+Alt+Delete. Reset. It usually does the trick. And if it doesn’t, well, then try resetting it again. Troubleshooting 101: The reset button solves all.
The reset button is how our generation has learned to deal with technology problems. And it’s ultimately how we older Millennials deal with our real-life problems as well.
Let me explain.
Even before internet dating, our generation learned to date from Seinfeld, Friends, Sex and the City, and How I Met Your Mother. These examples of dating in our 20s and into our 30s introduced (or reflected) a kind of superficiality that wasn’t previously as discussed.
It wasn’t a big deal to break up with someone because they were a close talker or a virgin. We could end a serious relationship because someone wanted to pursue their own passions or couldn’t handle failure. It was totally acceptable to stay in a relationship just for the sex or because they bought us things, or cut it off if they were bad in bed or didn’t get us presents. We learned about where not to pick up partners and break-up etiquette (not via Post-it or text).
And when there’s not angels singing and heated making out right away– when we don’t feel an immediate spark or when things get a little boring–that’s it. We’re out.
The relationship is broken.
And the way to fix it?
Turn it off and try it again.
Resetting is ending a relationship when it’s not perfect. Swipe left.
We’re hungry for perfection in relationships, without really stopping to define what that means or if it’s even possible.
So at the first sign of something not working in a relationship and we are quick to hit reset and just move on to start a new relationship without really stopping to debug.
In 2013, I burned out at work. After 10 years of living in LA, I packed up my things to travel and figure out whatever comes next. It’s an increasingly common theme: burning out or quitting without another job lined up.
Resetting your career is a way many Millennials are dealing with this quarter life crisis. Our generation is projected to hold an average of 5 careers in our lifetime. Not jobs, but fully retrained, forging a different path, abandoning your network to start a new one full-on careers.
We’re not working in sustainable ways. If we were to fast forward 20 or 30 years and you were working the same pace and schedule as now, would you be happy? Could you even do it?
Burning out is common and with it comes the rethinking of our former goals and selves. My 8 year old self wanted to be in movies. But does my 33 year old self want to put up with the rejection? My parents wanted me to be an accountant but am I cut out for the monotony? I put a decade of my life and 6 figures of debt to go into design, but what do I do if it’s not fulfilling to me anymore?
My friends have taken courses on the side to transition into becoming a coach. Or spent 3 months in Bali getting yoga teaching certification. Or used their social media channels as a way to build brand partnerships and sell products.
The stakes are much lower today than they were when our parents were our age. Hitting reset on our career is not suicide and doesn’t always mean going back to entry-level pay.
So we hit reset on our careers and start over in a new field or new city or new industry, hoping it will be a smoother, more fulfilling experience.
As I type this, my computer is painfully slow. It’s trying to manage all my open tabs and playing music and all the other tasks it’s working on. This compounding and layering of cached information builds up like plaque in arteries and slows down the flow.
That same build-up happens in dieting and health trends. Eat whatever you want and don’t think about it, and then go on a cleanse. Cut out all carbs. Liquid diet. Juice only. Extreme workout routine. Crossfit. Marathon training.
The only way our generation knows how to fix something is to completely stop and start over.
It’s difficult for me to decide whether or not this is a good trend. On the one hand, I totally get it. We want things to work perfectly. We want things to be right.
So why put up with anything broken? Why date someone who’s going to be anything less than perfect? Or stay in a career that is unfulfilling? Or find a health plan that won’t make me skinny and ripped?
The startup mentality suggests that we pivot when things don’t work. In business, this stop-and-start-over method, when you’ve learned from your mistakes and you’re starting over at a more advantageous place, is what experience is built on.
There are huge advantages to resetting our lives when they don’t work.
What’s the Alternative?
80’s technology was great because it was so simple. Well, seemed simple to us as the family IT department. Just reset and it’s fixed. But that didn’t always fix everything.
If you had a virus. Resetting didn’t work.
If you had a connection issue. Resetting didn’t work.
If you didn’t have power. Resetting didn’t work.
Is your virus in your relationships related to the relationship you have with your siblings, parents, or last partner? It’s not going to go away with a reset.
Is your job feeling deflating because you’re not connected to the kind of work you do or the people you work with? Resetting won’t always help a connection issue.
Is your health suffering because you don’t have power over your urges? Finding new ways to energize yourself and motivate your self-control doesn’t appear as soon as you reset.
Most problems require trouble-shooting. Real life problem-solving is about digging into the error messages you keep getting and looking for the source of the issue. Committing to working through the problem, sitting in the discomfort of something not working in order to find your way to a smarter way of operating.
The error might show up again but at least you’ve dealt with it and know how to work past it this time. But if you just reset, you haven’t broadened your knowledge or learned anything.
Resetting is almost always the easiest solution to get out of a problem.
But it’s not always the best solution for fixing it.
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