Is Your Discomfort Zone Expanding With The Universe?

John Ramsey Miller

I suppose it’s no surprise that young people still don’t want to hear what the older people have to say. There is an ancient saying that goes: “Young men think old men are fools. Old men know young men are.” I’ve been thinking lately that maybe this is one time when the young know more about certain things than we do and we might look to them for assistance. I figure I know a lot more about some things than the youngsters know, but it’s possible that what I don’t know, that they do, is more important right now to survival in the “new” world.

A couple of weeks back, my brother left his new iPad on the coffee table. He back came into the room to find my six-year-old granddaughter playing a game on it. She had never seen an iPad, but she turned it on, and was playing a game on it. Kids are not intimidated by technology the way most of us (guys and gals of a certain age) are. I have to admit that I am feeling sort of lost in the technology department, and am not yet seizing the “new” opportunities everybody is talking about. Well, I don’t have a book ready yet. I’m thinking about it and measuring myself for the new world, but I have more questions than answers. My kids get it and they see what is invisible to me.

The problem I have in this new exciting world is one of visualization. Back when I was in advertising [If memory serves correctly after thirty years] I remember a story that David Rubinstein told me. Rubenstein Bros. is one of the finest men’s clothing stores in New Orleans and has been in business for half a million years. David told me that when he and his brother, Andre, took over the store, they decided to change the advertising mix, from a system of ads in the newspaper, to adding radio spots. They recorded a commercial and when they played it for their father, he asked them what it cost to make. When they told him he was flabbergasted. “It lasted no time, I don’t remember what it said, and it cost more money than I have in my pocket!” With an newspaper ad, it was there in your hand. You could read it as many times as you liked, admire the art, and act on it or not. With radio, it was words in the air, and they were gone as soon as the ad stopped. If you heard part of it, you could not replay it.

I used to laugh at that story, but from a different angle than I see it now. Back then, I thought the old man was pathetically outdated, which perhaps he was. But something in the air was …in the air and didn’t actually exist. And it was advertising money he thought should be used on something proven, something he understood and was tried and true. The times were changing, the old model was dying, and his sons saw that they needed more and different in a changing market. The people they wanted to bring into the store, were young people who listened to music. The sons grew the business by leaps and bounds because they went with the new ways, going after the up and comers. But as we get older don’t feel comfortable with change we can’t see how to use in the old way. Now I understand that we are all locked in our habits, wanting the things that worked when, to work forever. My problem is that it’s all about comfort zones. None of us want to be left behind gnawing on a dinosaur bone while others are feasting on some kind of new-fangled, ding-dong tofu burgers with sprouts.

The old model for any enterprise is going to become crippled, but still working for a while before it fails entirely, but probably not for long. Our world is changing, and it calls for new eyes and open minds.

I am having trouble embracing what seems to me no more substantial than air. I’ll be okay. I know that. I have always trusted my instincts. I can write stories, and I can get the kids to make sure they are put in the air where they need to be so people can find and read them.

I know it really doesn’t matter to people whether I jump on the tech wagon, or watch it go by with others riding on it. I figure I’ll just bring in the kids.


10 thoughts on “Is Your Discomfort Zone Expanding With The Universe?

  1. Oh, John, I think you’re indeed a kindred soul. While those around me (especially my wife) leap forward into the uncharted waters of improved technology, I sometimes find myself hesitating with my finger over the “enter” key, wondering if my computer is going to self-destruct when I change something.
    My mantra has become that of obsessive-compulsive TV detective Adrian Monk: I don’t mind change. I just don’t like being around when it happens.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Well put, John. We just need to embrace the 80-20 rule (80% assurance is enough to move forward) more closely, though it may now be a 70-30 rule. For those of us closer to grandparenthood than to parenthood, it sometimes seems like the 50-50 rule.

  3. My wife teaches special needs children. She uses the tablet I got her for Christmas as a teaching tool. Some of her students have significant difficulties learning things the traditional way but they can sit down with a tablet or computer and blaze on down the road.

    I am at the stage where there is more sand at the bottom of the hourglass than otherwise but I still wonder what I’ll see that is new and wonderful — and otherwise — before the last grain falls.

  4. When we gave my parents a microwave, they seriously thought it was a waste of money. They swore they’d never use it. HA! We remind them of that everytime they use it, which is daily. That microwave was the obstacle they had to get over in their minds. Since they accepted it and used it, they now have no problems with techy stuff. I hear them using terms like “text your brother” “check out her facebook page. I hear she has a photo of her new boyfriend” & “google it”.

    Technology is changing exponentially, but maybe embracing it is finding your microwave obstacle, John.

  5. Technology is a major stressor. It even impacts my work. Example from work yesterday–they assigned all my docs blackberries for, among other things, receiving pages when their pt is ready (I work for a team of psychologists and psychiatrists).

    One of them handed me their Blackberry because it wasn’t receiving pages. Well I have the same old ancient cell phone I’ve had for 10 years–no bells no whistles. Only blackberries I know are the kind you eat. And IT Dept is housed at Main campus, well away from us.

    THank goodness, I was able to find some tech savvy person at work who fixed the problem, but I was clueless. It’s embarassing not to be up on the technology but what can ya do?

    Technology is not only rapidly changing but much of it very expensive. I just can’t play in those tech toy circles.

    BK Jackson

  6. Tech is my living. I’m an IT guy by day. Phones blackberries, android, laptops, desktops, servers, internet, Linux, Windows, WiFi, LAN/WAN, VLiM, ScObIRm Arrays, you name it I have to do it. You know its bad when I even make stuff up like those last two names. It’s in my blood. Grandpa was an inventor. Even though we lived in the boonies he was using some sorta high tech stuff. Even had the first pc in the town.

    That being said, I’d rather not use it at all. If it were up to me, I’d just as soon go back to Jeremiah Johnson style, at least that’s what I tell myself as I type this on my Android, via a 3G connection to internet.

  7. I love tech!

    Happiness is tech.

    Happiness is not having to retype a 500-page manuscript. Again.

    Happiness is downloading a book from Google Books that I could not have ever looked at in physical form without traveling across the continent, after I’d written for (and received) permission from a specific university’s rare book library, and then only with paper and pencil (no cameras, no copying).

    Happiness is carrying around hundreds of books with less burden than a trade paperback.

    A beautiful day away from home? An extra hour after lunch to sit in the sunshine? Now I can decide – then and there – whether to read a smashing good novel or settle in for a bit of research reading. Or maybe a conversation with a friend repiqued my interest and I can go back and finish up that non-fiction book on how the brain works.

    (And, on a different tack – happiness is digital photography, and not having a cupboard full of darkroom chemicals, not to mention printing out the exact image I want – no more, no less. Oh, yes, I do love technology!)

  8. Tech is what allows me to live in the very small town of my choosing while being connected to the world.

    I run an online business that does not have a physical storefront and most of my friends are in different states. Tech prevents loneliness and isolation.

    Now, that said, I don’t jump at every new thing. First, I can’t afford it and second, I’m not the beta type. What is on my desk is what was hot last year after the upgrades and patches are done! Heck, my phone is still stupid, but I plan on smartening it up when my contract renews in February.

    My brother is partly disabled and housebound. Tech is his connection and lifeline. He has embraced the role of crusty curmudgeon on several political blogs and loves it. It helps keep him healthy and vital despite his illness. I plan on being the best connected old biddy in the nursing home in another 50 years or so.

    I like the microwave comment. However, on the flip side. Back in the dinosaur days of computers in school, we weren’t allowed to touch one until we understood the basics of DOS and how programming language worked. This had value. So, just like a teacher who won’t allow calculators until the kids know their times tables, I think the basics should still be taught the old-fashioned way and then let tech streamline it.

    Here’s to the future! Terri

  9. I think technology is amazing. I just have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have to be as fast and responsive as my computer! Slowing down to a human-paced life is the hardest part.

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