Embracing the Most Important Attitude

A couple of major online applications recently released user interface changes. Some of the changes are major and some are minor, but the bottom line is that the familiar software interface changed.

I don’t have to tell you what applications they are. Whenever you read this article, such change will be happening.

I get frustrated when this type of change happens…

…but not for the reasons you might think.

My “genetic disposition”

I am almost genetically predisposed to be annoyed with chronic complainers.

I try not to do that. I try to give everyone a fair and objective shake, but honestly, when incoming questions are 95% complaining and 5% actual question, I have a very hard time motivating myself to take on the issue.

I know, I know — I picked the wrong industry to work in. With the exception of politics, no other industry gets more vocal and active complaints than technology.

Particularly when things change.

I just see it every single day and it makes me very sad and frustrated.


Because it doesn’t have to be this way if folks approached technology — and for that matter, life itself — a little differently.

Some people HATE change

I read somewhere that there are people who use push-button telephones only because rotary dial phones are no longer available.

You may laugh, but it’s more accurate than we might like to believe.

Some people who simply hate change. I hear from these people often. And “hate,” as ugly a word as it is, is not strong enough in some cases.

In my opinion, being change-averse puts you at a serious disadvantage when it comes to technology.

Like it or not, change happens

The world keeps changing, and it’s not going to stop. Period.

No matter how uncomfortable it may make you, or how much you complain and rail against it, things are going to change.

The only thing that will never, ever change is the fact that things keep changing.

Given that change is absolutely, totally, and completely unavoidable, you have exactly two choices:

  • Get angry and bitter and convince yourself that the change-makers are responsible for all sorts of assorted evils in the world.
  • Accept change. Embrace it. Learn from it. Exploit it. See how it’s made the world a much better place. Enjoy it, even.

Now, given those two possibilities, which will lead to a happier, more positive experience?

Which will you choose? (And have no doubt about this: it is a choice.)

Why embrace change?

Besides making you happier, there’s a very practical reason for embracing (or at least accepting) change.

In the nearly 15 years I’ve been doing this, it’s become very clear to me that given the same computer, situation, and problem, the person who is frustrated by the changes that he or she sees as being foisted upon them has a much more difficult time using their machines and resolving problems. The only difference is that attitude they bring to the table.

Let me put it more clearly: if you hate change, you will have a more difficult time with the exact same issues than a person who accepts it.

People who use technology the most effectively are the folks who not only accept change, but even look forward to it. These are people who are curious. They are interested in learning what more technology can do for them and how they can best leverage the latest and greatest to make their lives more effective, efficient, and fun.

On the other hand, the more frustrated and resistant you are to the changes you face, the harder you make it on yourself. By choosing to be upset, you choose to make your experience more difficult.

Change is accepted elsewhere

I find it puzzling that many who complain about changing technologies quietly accept major changes in their motor vehicle from year to year, model to model, and between brands.

If the radio controls are completely different in your new car, why aren’t you as upset about that as you are about various user interface changes in an operating system update? It’s arguable that the controls on your radio present a much more significant safety issue as you fumble to change a station while you barrel down the freeway.

The radio is just one example. The changes we easily accept in motor vehicles and many other aspects of our lives are often much greater than what we find when we upgrade our software — yet there’s little or no outrage in comparison.

Find where the new knobs are, change the station, and move on with your life.

Like you do in your car.

Change isn’t made with malicious intent

I often hear from folks who are utterly convinced that whatever change they encounter is created for the express purpose of angering them, or for some other dark, conspiratorial intent.

Folks, pissing off your customers is just bad business …

… and don’t doubt for one second that this is all about business.

Hardware and software vendors are in a constant competitive battle, and you don’t stay competitive by standing still. In fact, halting innovation and change is a fast track to failure.

Companies remain competitive by continually striving to make their product better: better than the previous version and better than the competition.

And that means making changes.

Newer isn’t always better

You’ll get no argument from me that frequently the changes made in pursuit of “better” are anything but.

That doesn’t mean that all change is bad. It simply means that change wasn’t useful.

The companies that produce these products constantly research and test and come up with ways that they truly believe make their product better.

Sometimes, the idea turns out to be wrong. Sometimes, the execution of a good idea fails.

And yet for every change that failed, more changes — significantly more — have improved the products we use every day and come to take for granted.

Change isn’t just about you

One of the common claims I get is, “Everyone hates this change.”

No. Just… no.

Maybe many people you talk to do, and certainly all the people who join you in the “complain about this product” discussion forum do, but that’s hardly a representative sample of “everyone.” People who aren’t experiencing a problem don’t flock to the same places you do.

It’s true that “You can’t please everyone,” and nowhere is that truer than when it comes to technological change.

Perhaps it was simply your turn not to be pleased.

Perhaps the testing performed on the product indicated that the majority of people liked that change that you and your friends hate.

Once again, you get to choose your response: get angry and bitter — or accept that the change exists and decide how to move forward. And, yes, your response absolutely could involve a change of your own: choose a completely different product that meets your needs and desires better.

Which leads me to the point I want you to walk away with.

You can’t control change, but you can choose your response

Change is inevitable in life, particularly when it comes to computers and technology.

So, when faced with an unexpected change of some sort — be it in your formerly-favorite application or the operating system you’ve used for years — what are you going to do?

Get grumpy and annoyed?

Or accept that change is a necessary part of the innovation that has led to this amazing world we live in? And in that acceptance, decide whether it’s change you can learn from, change you can live with, change you need to avoid and work around, or change you can’t accept and must walk away from.

Even if you choose the latter, extreme solution, if you do it out of a rational evaluation rather than an angry reaction, you’ll end up in a significantly better place.

Give change a chance. You don’t need to accept every change, but if you can accept its inevitability, you’ll have a much better time of it.

In fact, you might even have fun.

Originally published as Embracing the Most Important Attitude on Ask Leo!