I hate technology.  I’m not a Luddite; I don’t want to smash every Ipad, PC, and smartphone I see.  Rather, I hate technology when it doesn’t work.  Because technology follows Murphy’s law: what can go wrong, will go wrong, especially when there are a hundred people waiting for your stinkin’ projector to turn on or your YouTube video to download.  It’s as if the Universe has a sense of humor, and wants to keep you humble.

Inevitably, your computer will freeze when you are late for a meeting.  Your phone will die when someone is waiting on the other end for you to call.   Old school technology is not immune to Murphy’s law either: your car will have a flat tire when you need to be on a plane in twenty minutes.

It’s not the adversity that gets us, it’s our response to adversity.  For me, technology has a special place in my heart, and it pushes my buttons around hard work and performance (both core values of mine).  When our buttons get pushed, typically the buttons tied to our core values, we tend to have a strong emotional reaction.  When technology goes wrong, I get mad fast, and have a hard time calming down.  It’s like putting a car in a ditch, and trying to yank the wheel hard enough to get it back on the road but not so hard you fly across the road and wind up in some farmer’s field, or worse, in the middle of on-coming traffic.

One great opportunity we have as leaders is recognizing what puts our car in the ditch, and finding ways of getting it back on the road, with as few casualties as possible.

A second great opportunity we have as leaders is recognizing what puts others’ cars in the ditch, and finding ways of helping them get back on the road.

A friend of mine is sweet and caring and will do everything she can to help.  Borrow something without asking, and her car will careen right off the road.   She turns from mild mannered to raging bull in a heartbeat.  If I’m the guilty party (which often seems to be the case) I can help her calm down by taking responsibility, apologizing, maybe groveling a bit, and saying how much it helped me.  Better yet, if I value the relationship, I will recognize what puts her in the ditch and STOP DOING IT.

It seems simple, but not putting others in the ditch requires that we pay attention to their buttons, and adapt our behavior.  It means being a little bit less selfish and a little more others focused.  As Ric Elias describes it, “I no longer want to be right, I choose to be happy.”

Take a few days, and pay attention to what puts others in the ditch.  For me, it’s technology gone wrong.  For my friend, it’s taking things without asking.  For others it could be honesty or empathy or taking responsibility or not putting an empty milk carton back in the fridge.  Once you recognize what puts them in the ditch, see if you can help them get their car back on the road.

And if you are the one putting them in the ditch . . . stop it.   It’s not worth it, even if you are right and even if it’s fun.



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

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