Working Some New Muscles

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

– Winston Churchill

Ever work out at the gym and do something a bit different than you’re accustomed to? Let’s say you usually run the treadmill but decide to go ahead and do something completely different. The workout goes fine but then the next day you wake up and you are in serious pain (despite how good a shape you’re in).

Since picking up the Macbook Pro, I’m feeling that same kind of pain. As I “override” my Windows habits and usage patterns I’ve gathered over the years, I’m really feeling that pain. Key combinations. Standard window icons and their representations. Certain applications that have evolved from useful to absolutely necessary. All taken away from me with this switch. And yet, with this newfound “trainee” status comes an opportunity to get better.

Putting aside whether the Mac world is better or worse than Windows, one thing is definite: they’re different. Macs and OSX are not what I’m accustomed to. And I have to say, while the pain is rough these days (I’m still badly crossing up in a few places and I still cringe because I just can’t find a C: drive) I can really tell that all this change is…healthy. Challenging the patterns we become experts in is a great means of building new strengths – and dimensions to our thinking – that we all can use every so often.

When we get good at something, we love doing it over and over. There’s an innate satisfaction with doing things well. The actions take on the characteristics of feeling intuitive and second nature. So when we’re challenged with something foreign; something we’re not experts in, we’ll often recoil and avoid it. That’s a bad move.

While it’s great to build those mental muscles to prime form, there are many others that are being neglected. There are few things that are presented to us in our everyday experiences that require us to really consciously think. Everything around us is streamlined. We don’t remember phone numbers any more because our mobile phones do that for us. We don’t bother counting change because charge cards and credit cards do all the math. It takes three clicks to buy something on Amazon – without a single keystroke. We all fall into these routines that make us feel accomplished and comfortable.

Changing computer operating systems is by no means a valiant endeavor. It’s just a computer. But I happen to spend hours a day making a living on it. So to replace the primary tool in my workday with something markedly different – the experience is undoubtedly new and a bit jarring to me. It doesn’t feel good to be a novice, but the payoff in the long term is worthwhile. One thing I’m realizing is that I’m not replacing my Windows knowledge. I’m just adding to it.

So at the next chance you get to change something you’re comfortable with: do it. It’s a bit scary at first, and you won’t feel good about yourself at first, but over time your entire brain will be better toned…and not just one portion of it.

6 Comments Working Some New Muscles

  1. Max

    Man… That’s true. I’m a developper and I work with the “evil” Windows. I tried changing to Linux (Ubuntu for those interested) and I can tell you that I worked a lot to understand the new OS. It’s really mind challenging. I think that everyone should at least try to jump the fence (OS talking of course). You’re used to a Mac? Try Linux or Windows! Used to Windows? Try a Mac or Linux!
    I don’t say that any OS is better but it’s better to see around and to compare. Things are better on certain OS than others and you can’t learn those things and you can’t improve yourself if you dont dive in.

  2. Rich Ziade

    It still is kind of painful…umm I would say at this point, I’m not more productive.
    We use subversion here and TortoiseSVN (a GREAT Windows client) has no Mac equivalent (not even close). Mapping drives on a network is kinda funky and I’m still not all there with the keyboard.
    I honestly don’t know if it’s better just yet. They do a lot of things smarter on OSX and it FEELS better but the verdict is still out..

  3. Ro

    Very insightful. I think an interesting conversation would be to discuss on what OS is cognitively easier to pick up. If all things were equal and (I know it’s improbable, but humour me) which would be adapted to quicker…


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