Every Friday morning and afternoon I go to a local library and volunteer with a net tutoring program teaching computers to people who may not have experience working with technology. This morning one of my clients was a man in his late sixties who had recently retired after working fifty years with the same company steel manufacturing company.
I was fascinated by his story because he came from a previous generation where children started working as young as eight (he started working at the age of seven) in order to help their family. After living with his parents in Italy for fifteen years my client went to Australia looking for work and eventually at seventeen got an apprenticeship at the steel manufacturing plant where he worked until a few months ago. The more we talked the more I respected that man who in my opinion is part of a dying breed; people who lived a life full of hard work and character.
Usually when dealing with new clients I ask them if there is anything in particular they would like to learn. Some may be interested in Facebook, or email, uploading pictures, learning how to use Google, and a number of other things. After asking him he looked at me and said “I know nothing about computers” so we spent an hour going over the basics of the internet and how to use Google. At the end after asking if there where any more questions he asked “is it possible for me to understand a computer?”
This man’s lack of knowledge about computers and technology went deeper than just not having a computer of his own. It came from a serious lack of confidence when dealing with technology and ultimately a humiliation over not knowing what to do. Not being able to type properly (he searches for the letter and types with one finger) while all of his friends are comfortable doing it embarrassed him greatly to the point where he refused to use any computers in public for fear people would laugh at him.
I was very happy to explain that many people have the same problems and almost all of my clients have to type with one finger. The problem is since they don’t see other people use the “hunt and peck” method of typing they feel like they are the only ones; “yes yes” he said excitedly, “that’s how I feel” and started laughing. “But you aren’t” I told him and a huge smile came across his face.
It was amazing to me that a man who worked incredibly hard his entire life would be ashamed to type in a library because people may make fun of him. That fear and my experience with him reminded me of just how powerful rejection can be through something like ridicule, humiliation, or embarrassment.
We didn’t talk about it but there was probably a moment in his life where when trying to use a computer or other machine he failed miserably and friends gave him a hard time. And that one moment of humiliation led him to avoid computers altogether so nobody could see that weakness again. It’s true that none of us enjoy dwelling on those humiliating experiences (I certainly don’t) but in each case the important thing to remember is we aren’t the only one.
Our failures like to put us out on an island all by ourselves and make us believe that nobody else has ever done anything so embarrassing. But after taking a step back and looking at the situation properly we will be able to smile….and laugh.