First, Do No Harm….

This is a vital part of the Hippocratic Oath as I understand it. How does that apply to an IT trainer/consultant? It seems to be a lesson I’ve only just recently taken to heart.

One of my shortcomings, has been for a very long time, this angrily, impatient guy who has the ability to lash out at the most inappropriate times. For instance, I might be working with a client. Someone who’s actually paying me. One of two things might unleash this Mr. Hyde. The first might be the project is not going well. I’m having difficulty completing the task I’ve been hired to do. The client, or someone else present, asks a simple question, such as “How’s it going?” Rather than simply say, “Not so well,” or “I’m facing a bit of a challenge here,” that person is likely to get a snippy answer or, in many cases, even worse, a look saying, “Get away from me now! Leave me alone!” The second scenario might be the client asking me a few questions about other things they need done, and I haven’t completed the first one yet. Same likely response. The end result is not good. I can immediately tell I’ve insulted someone or at the very least hurt their feelings. Neither of which is how I really want to be seen. I’ve been working on this for at least 10 years. Getting better, but still don’t have it whipped.

How does the title of this blog come into play? Well, a couple of days ago it was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I don’t usually go to the synagogue on this day. I choose to do something else which I believe will be valuable to both me and the persons around me. For the last couple of years, I’ve met with my friend Bruce. He’s a very wise man; I think it’s important to have wise women and men in my life.

We were talking about ways in which my Mr. Hyde has a tendency to show up. Bruce, is also a Warrior, that is he’s done the New Warrior Training, and we’ve spent quite a bit of time together in that forum. Bruce asked me where in that part of my life I’m best. I knew he meant times when I’ve facilitated another person through a process to help them heal an event from their life which may be kicking them in the head after many years. We often refer to this as Carpet Work, because it’s usually done on a carpet. The carpet is just a symbol of a safe place to do the work. I really believe one of my heavenly gifts is to act as a facilitator of this work.

Bruce went on to say, when I’m ‘on the carpet’, no matter what’s happening, I maintain the ability to guide the person I’m working with through their work. I don’t get flustered if it’s not going the way I ‘think’ it should. I don’t get flustered if someone else in the area starts asking me a bunch of questions or is making a bunch of suggestions. My goal, in this moment, is to help this person get resolution on whatever they happen to be working on. Most importantly, I work very hard to do no harm.

The next question Bruce asked me, a feather could have knocked me down. “What’s keeping you from bringing that guy, the one on the carpet, to the rest of your life, especially your work?” I almost started to cry.

“I’m afraid in my work, when I’m getting paid, someone will see me as incompetent if it’s not going well. I’m afraid I’ll be ridiculed.” For the other scenario I’ve mentioned, someone asking me a lot of questions, that’s about my challenges around multi-tasking. I’m usually not very good at it. Solving one problem at a time works best for me. So, when someone is asking me a lot of other questions, my concentration on the current problem becomes diminished. Again, I think I’ll appear incompetent if I don’t get each problem solved in the order begun.

My wise friend continued. “When Mr. Hyde wants to come out, become the guy on the carpet. Step back. Ask yourself, “What would he do?” Would he get angry or belittling?” I knew the answer was no. It was an ah-ha moment. Now, if only I could put it into practice. And, I did, the very next day.

I was working with a client. A fellow I’ve worked with many times before. He asks a lot of questions while I’m working. And, this particular job was one I hadn’t really done before. I’d also done something I don’t usually do: I’d quoted him a flat rate for the project.

While I was working, he started asking questions. First, do no harm; that’s all I wanted to remember. Sometimes, I would stop what I was doing and ask him if he wanted me to stop the first problem to deal with the newer problem his question propagated. He  always said, “No, let’s solve this other one first.” Sometimes I would stop after he stopped and I’d tell him I hadn’t really heard what he said because I had been concentrating on the first problem. Would he mind repeating what he’d said. He did. Do no harm. It was working.

Finally, we got to a place in the project where I was about to do some physical work with his laptop. I was going to replace his hard drive. For a lot of folks who do what I do, that’s no big deal. For me, I hadn’t really done it before on this computer model. I was nervous.

I’d watched a good video on the subject. I’d made notes. I started. Much of what the video showed was spot on. Some of it had some minor detail differences. But, when I got down to taking the old hard drive out, there was, for me, a big difference. The video had said there might be some tape on the hard drive cable. Just peel it away the video said.  It turned out, the cable, what they call a ribbon cable (very, very thin and easy to break) was  actually attached to the top of the hard drive with an adhesive. Whatever happens, do no harm. At worst, I’d have to buy the guy a new cable. It all worked out beautifully. I stayed calm. Replaced the drive. Put everything back together. Started the computer up. At first, it choked. I thought from the clues the computer was giving I might have not seated the memory chips correctly. Re-seated them. Perfect! And, even when the guy came in and said, “How’s it going?” I said to myself, do no harm. And, I didn’t.

At the end of that day. I felt great. Mr. Hyde stayed at home. The client had asked me how much he owed. I told him I’d quoted him a flat rate but it had taken twice as long. I was good with whatever amount he felt was fair. He paid the full amount! (He’s really one of the nicest clients I have.)

How Am I Changing?: When I don’t allow the fear to ‘control’ me, life is good. I’m blessed and so is everyone around me.