Updated: 11.22.2013

Embrace – Don’t Fear – Change

For the last week or so, I have been struggling with what to write about next. I don’t want to bore folks with a series of mindless ramblings that provide no more quality content than some Facebook posts. I honestly hope to publish quality posts that, when appropriate, are supported by research on my part.

On the other hand, I don’t want to wait so long between new entries that people think I have abandoned my own site…

I do have several ideas for upcoming topics that are rattling around and developing inside my brain – hopefully one of them will actually coalesce into something coherent soon. But in the meantime, here is another rambling missive…

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Earlier this week (Tuesday, November 19, 2013,) a Minotaur Rocket was scheduled to be launched from Wallops Island, VA, to deploy a record 29 satellites into orbit. Thanks to clear skies, the Minotaur would be visible from our house during part of its ascent, so my husband and I agreed that we would go on our roof (we have LOTS of trees in our neighborhood) at the appropriate time to watch it.

After getting home from work, I saw that Fraser Cain had posted a link for the streaming, live coverage Ustream channel on Universe Today, which I immediately turned on so that we would know exactly when to venture outside. After a brief delay due to technical problems at a downrange tracking station in NC, the liftoff was finally scheduled for 8:15pm.

About 8:10pm I grabbed my Blackberry Z10 smartphone and brought up the Ustream channel so that I could monitor the launch real time from the roof. My hubby and I each grabbed a flashlight, climbed out one of the bedroom windows, and ascended to the peak where we waited for, and then watched, the Minotaur launch on my phone. Several seconds after liftoff, we stood and turned our attention skyward – we were once again treated to an amazing display of rocket-powered technology beautifully streaking across our nighttime sky.

About a minute after the red/orange trail completely disappeared from view, we climbed back inside and made ourselves some hot chocolate to warm up (it wasn’t exactly August temps out there!) At this point, I held up my Blackberry and jokingly said, “It’s amazing how we EVER MANAGED without THESE!!!!” This led to our discussing the advances in technology that we have witnessed since graduating from high school in the late 1970s, and how so many people we know – peers, elders, and “young’uns” alike – really do fear technology and change. We both agree that we handle new technology far better than a lot of folks do because we EMBRACE it, and don’t fear it.

I jokingly call myself a Geek… but the truth of the matter is that I have always embraced new and emerging technology, and I get excited about the prospect of adding new gadgets to my collection. I have always welcomed the challenges that learning something new presents, and I am proud to say that, with very few exceptions, I have taught myself virtually all of the software and other skills I have used for the last 23+ years as a Technical Writer. And as I look back, it seems I may have always had this desire to teach myself new things – I remember my mom once telling me that she was amazed at my ability to look at something and then figure out how to recreate it just by looking at it and trying different things. And this was WELL before the advent of the internet, let alone Google!

So why is my perspective different from so many of my peers? Did my parents do something specific to encourage this? Honestly, I don’t know the answer, but I suspect they did. When I look at who I am and how I have approached new things, several things jump out at me that I believe have contributed to my acceptance of, and passion for, new technology. I have listed some of these items here:

  • No matter your age, as long as you are breathing, it is never too late to learn something new.
  • Embrace change, don’t fear it.
  • Knowledge is NEVER useless.
  • Believe in your abilities. Never let anyone – especially not YOU – tell you that you can’t learn something. If they do, prove them wrong and get out there and do it.
  • Make it personal. I believe that the best way to learn something is to find a way to use that new knowledge in your everyday life. Anytime there is a new software package I need or want to learn, I devise a project that requires my using that software, and then forge ahead. This approach can be applied to any new skill in life, not just technology. But when motivated by a personal goal, learning is no longer a daunting chore – but something enjoyable, particularly as your project progresses and is ultimately completed.
  • Don’t be afraid to screw up and/or start over. Odds are, it will take several attempts to “get it right.” Try to figure out what didn’t go quite right, and the next time you will improve. One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie National Treasure, and paraphrases Thomas Edison: “I didn’t fail, I found 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb; I only need to find one way to make it work.”
  • Ask for help when you need it. If you don’t know who to ask, use your favorite search engine to find a Wiki page, or a forum. I think you would be surprised just how much help is available “in the cloud” for virtually any subject.
  • Be stubborn – don’t give in when things get tough. Don’t let “the evil technology” get the best of you. Dig in your heels and forge on.
  • Don’t be afraid to temporarily step away when you are seemingly at a brick wall. Sometimes, all it takes is giving your brain a break from trying to solve the problem. You would be surprised how many times, while doing something TOTALLY unrelated, my “lightbulb” goes on, and I have figured out a solution to a problem.
  • Learn how to learn. To me, this is the important lesson that can be learned through formal education. It should never be about passing standardized tests, or making sure that students make a teach look good so they get tenure or a raise. It should be about each child figuring out how to learn – and once that lesson has been learned, it is a skill that will help them get through each and every challenge that will face them throughout their life.

The reality is that ever-advancing technology is a fact of life, and is here to stay. Fearing new technology, or avoiding it by burying one’s head in the sand, is not the answer. So why not embrace all that comes your way, and have fun with it? You might just surprise yourself.

And lest we forget…

President KennedyToday marks the 50th Anniversary of one of the darkest days in our nation’s history – the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. And on this day, we should remember that President Kennedy understood the value of laying down difficult, seemingly impossible goals and challenges designed to shatter the technological status quo. Although I was only four years old when President Kennedy died, his words continue to inspire me:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

I hope that President Kennedy’s words will continue to inspire many future generations of young people to pursue their own difficult goals, not because they are easy, but because they ARE difficult…

 

 

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