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Lessons from the Genius Bar

It was late afternoon when I noticed the Internet wasn’t working properly on my computer.

I’ve checked the usual suspects: Are my kids downloading video games that are slowing the Internet? Is there a network problem in my neighbourhood?

I went downstairs and found everybody with a decent level of Internet consumption: one on Netflix and the other on the Playstation. I looked at my mobile and saw that the network was working fine.

I went upstart, opened Safari, and googled: “why is my Mac slowing down”

I read something about the activity monitor, and after a couple of minutes of randomly clicking here and there, I found where it was and clicked on it.

And then it happened.

The mini-techno colourful disk appeared on my screen, turning its beautiful colours in an alarming way.

I’m not tech-savvy, but I do know that this circle means trouble.

So I did what a tech pro does: I switched off the computer.

Only to find out there was no response when I tried to switch it back again.

I could feel my heart pumping with the thought that my computer might have crashed forever.

This time I went onto my iPhone to google “what to do when your Mac crashes”.

I tried all the tricks I could find that made sense to me, but nothing worked.

So I called the Apple Store in my town, and the next day in the morning, I was sitting at the Genius Bar, feeling like I was in the hospital waiting for the results of my health check.

I’m really bad at waiting.

I’m the kind of person who, if I see a long queue, I turn around.

I could feel all the thoughts gathering in my head: What about if my computer’s died? Have I saved all my work? Should I get a new Mac? How long will it take to get a new one? Which model should I buy? I don’t have any clue. Should I call one of my tech friends to ask for advice on what Mac I should buy? Do I have any urgent work to do on the computer? Can I get a computer until they deliver the new one? Where is the info about Apple Care? Shit, do I still have Apple Care?

When the guy from the Genius Bar eventually came and asked me what the problem was, I nearly said: “ I want a new Mac”.

Only I didn’t.

Instead, I engaged in a two-hour conversation that saved me time and money.

It is not my nature to discuss a problem for two hours. Like many self-declared perfectionists, I suffer from dichotomous thinking.

A perfectionist is not a person obsessed with order or cleaning standards.

When I told my mum I was a perfectionist, she smiled, looking at my messy desk. So I gave her the “perfect” definition of a perfectionist: a person who permanently lives in the gap between what it is and what it could be. We always want to change something, improve it or make it better. We live in the land of “what is next”.

And perfectionists tend to define a situation in black or white. Either you got the contract or you didn’t; either he loves you or doesn’t; either you are doing your job well, or you don’t.

I work with many perfectionists and I can tell you that most of the work is about staying in the grey area. For example, choosing to be present rather than solve the problem quickly.

And you can train yourself to do this in your daily life, too.

When you do the dishes, cook or get into all the activities that parents routinely have to do. You can choose the grey area, the uncomfortable space where things are not necessarily resolved but rather observed.

Lately, I’ve decided to bring my perfectionist mind into experiencing my frivolous wardrobe problem: “I have too many clothes and nothing at the same time” while resisting the quick and effective alternative of giving most of my clothes to a friend or to a charity shop.

The white shirt I used to wear for teaching at the School of Law, the jumper my mother gave me for my birthday that I never wear because I’m waiting for the perfect occasion, the dress I think I can only wear with tights of a certain colour, the earrings that haven’t seen the light of day for the last ten years.

I’m looking at each of these garments with new eyes to discover whether there’s something I can do with it beyond putting it in a box.

So when facing the Genius Bar guy, instead of going straight into buying a new computer, I explained my problem.

Funnily enough, I soon realised that he had the same problem as me.

In under 30 minutes he’d suggested replacing the battery, erasing my hard drive ,and resetting it to factory settings.

“Here we have somebody wanting to give all her clothes to charity”, I thought.

For the next two hours, all I did was ask questions.

And I asked so many questions that he eventually arrived at the real problem. Some software that hadn’t shown up when he was making the diagnosis was causing all the trouble.

Two hours later I left the Apple Store with my computer in my bag, feeling glad that I’d stayed with the problem long enough to find the right solution.

Sometimes efficacy and speed are not the best methods for finding the best solutions.

Staying with a problem requires practice, patience, looking with fresh eyes, and changing the narrative of speed for one of creativity and openness.

How are you ensuring that you can stay with a problem long enough? What are your daily practice to create an open mindset? What is a simple way to practice patience and openness in your life?

When you sacrifice creativity and openness for speed, what happens?


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