Thursday, June 28, 2012

Blind Spots

Everyone has blind spots: gaps in awareness. You see something over and over, but you never connect it to anything significant. You may even notice that you've seen it over and over. However, like cows in a field you pass every day as you drive to work, it doesn't really exist because it doesn't mean anything to you.

I have gazillions of blind spots. 

Every once in a while, I'll attach significance to a blind-spot's occupant and POW! The missing connection is made, the patterns take form, and where there was nothing, there is something.

Standing in the shower this morning I had just such an experience. I was thinking about my friend Pete and something he said as he packed up to leave after rehearsal last night. 

Over the course of the evening Pete and I had chatted about new work he'd taken on. Over the past couple of weeks, Pete's been writing software to control custom devices used in movie production. This is really cool because Pete's a hardware guy, not a software guy and for a long time he's wanted to get into writing code but he's struggled with it.

Pete and I had spent time together learning how to write software for a Mac, but Pete's drive to do so had waned.  So I was really glad to hear that he was back to writing code.

Okay, here's the blind-spot part. As Pete left, he said something like, "You know, I'm just more comfortable writing code for devices than for computers."

I acknowledged Pete's statement and believed I understood it. Writing software that gets downloaded into devices is quite different from writing applications for computers. To start, there's no visual interface; the software never directly interacts with people. The languages used are purer; they're not layered with all sorts of tools and libraries that, although designed to make programming easier, more often than not get in the way. Pete's statement made sense to me.

Then, standing in the shower this morning I thought, "What's 'comfort' got to do with it?"

Pete had said, "I'm just more 'comfortable' writing code for devices than computers."

My mind bridged the open circuit. The connection was made. A blind spot was revealed. Here's my revelation.

People let their senses of comfort
influence what they do and don't do.

Wow! For me, it was like finding the bad bulb in a string of Italian christmas lights. You replace it with a good one and the entire string lights up. 

For years I've heard people bring up discomfort in the context of not wanting to do something or wanting to do something only in a certain way. When someone said something like, "I don't feel comfortable singing into a microphone" or "I don't feel comfortable doing story problems", I'd 'get' that she didn't want to do it or that he preferred a different way of doing it. However, I'd never attach any significance to the word "comfortable"; she might as well have said, "I don't 'want' to..."

Seeing the blind spot, this sounds a little silly, but it just never occurred to me that feeling discomfort was a reason. 

So there I am standing in the shower contemplating my revelation, an archive of past statements of discomfort pouring through my mind. I notice that my battery-powered Oral-B is starting to run out of juice and that the bathroom has become so thick with steam that I can't see the shower wall.

I towel off, throw on some clothes and start typing.

I see the pattern now. I see that people use discomfort to demotivate themselves. 

I still don't really "get" it, but I "see" it.

I'm not sure which is more interesting to me: that I'd never connected the two (discomfort and demotivation) or that the two are connected.


Happy Thursday,

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