Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

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    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
  • October 2005
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You’re never too old…

Posted by Michael Brown on October 19, 2005

Almost everyone’s heard the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Well, that generalization isn’t always the case. My Dad is a perfect example of that. Dad’s in his early-sixties with no formal post-secondary training. He did receive trade specific training and some computer training during his career, and he also received some time management training using paper day-planner binder systems. Well, Dad bought a Palm handheld from me earlier this year to replace his day-planner, and he’s been using it to manage both his and Mom’s schedules ever since. Dad didn’t receive any formal training on the Palm from me (although I have given him tips and tricks now and then); he’s pretty much taught himself how to use it, because he enjoys doing it that way. Similarly, Dad’s been getting into digital photography/digital darkroom as a hobby, and he’s been learning it on his own and through special-interest classes.

What differentiates Dad from the old cliche is that he knows learning is a life-long process. Dad is self-taught in many respects; he wants to do something, therefore he learns how to do it. He’ll read books, take classes, watch instructional videos, talk to people, and then he’ll put his hand to it. And even though both his sons are computer experts, he only calls us for help with his when he’s exhausted all his possibilities for solving the problem himself. Dad knows that you learn more by doing it yourself, and even by fixing your own mistakes, than you do if someone else solves your problems for you. He’s not afraid to ask questions; as the old saying goes “the only dumb question is the one left unasked”. Similarly, he’s not afraid to get formal training to learn something; it’s just that sometimes it’s more fun to do it yourself.

The thing is, Dad isn’t alone. I follow trends in the handheld industry, and there are a lot of older people adopting handheld computing into their lifestyle. Doctors and nurses, fields where learning is a life-long skill requirement, are big adopters of handhelds. They realize that handhelds, coupled with medical references and related software, are valuable tools for their work and personal lives. In some cases, these people are picking up handhelds after years or decades of working in their field. A handheld is an effective health care tool, and it’s great to see these people using technology that will help them help others. I have a lot of respect for healthcare professionals; they work under conditions that many others simply could not – or would not – deal with.

So, the next time you tell yourself that “I’m too old for this” or “this is too complicated for me to use”, don’t sell yourself short. Learning is a life-long skill that we have to practice in order to cope with change. Change, as I’ve written about before, isn’t easy, but it is a fact of life these days. We’ve seen more change in the last 100 years than humanity has seen in the last millennium, and that trend looks to be continuing. Our ability – and willingness – to learn new things is one way to handle this continual state of change we find ourselves in, and it empowers you to have more control over your future and your ability to deal with all this change. Change can be good, even though it may not be easy, and learning is closely related to change. The best way to handle it is to envision the outcome; what will I be able to do/accomplish once I’ve learned this, and how will it better my life or the lives of those around me? When you know what it is you want to accomplish, it becomes a lot easier to persevere through the process.

So, I’m dedicating this blog to my Dad, who has taught me many things over the course of my lifetime, but more than he realizes. I hope to have the same kind of influence (as a role model) for my kids, as he has been to me. Learning new things can be a challenge, but it can be a rewarding one. Dad initially got the Palm for fun as much as for a life management tool; now it’s become a valuable tool in managing his and Mom’s schedules, especially now that Mom is going through chemotherapy and has numerous treatments and doctor’s visits to keep track of. Next time, I’ll be writing about attitude and learning, which is something my Mom has really exemplified over the course of my life.

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