Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Hate change? Afraid to learn new things? That'll hurt you more than any lack of skills when it comes to technology.

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This is Leo Notenboom for

A few weeks ago I discussed the The one skill you should hone. That skill is web searching, and I remain convinced that it's perhaps the number one skill to help you use your computer more effectively.

But it dawned on me the other day that it's not always about skills. It's often about attitude.

What attitude am I talking about? Well, I'll put it this way. If you desperately wished that computers, software, and other technologies would quit changing then you're not going to be happy with what I'm going to say:

Embrace change.

In my experience the people that are the most comfortable with technology, the people that use it the most effectively and are the least hindered by it are the folks that not only accept change as inevitable, but even look forward to it as it comes along. These are the folks who are curious, who are interested in learning what the technology can do for them, and how they can best leverage the latest and greatest to make their lives more effective, efficient and fun.

I'll contrast this with the many, many people out there who, for example, learn one way of doing something and steadfastly refuse to explore other or newer ways of performing that task more effectively or perhaps in new ways altogether.

"I absolutely believe ... that the results of accepting change are more beneficial than hiding your virtual head in the virtual sand."

The former group understands that technology is a tool to be used and exploited.

The later group? They may not realize it, but they're slaves to the very technology that they refuse to let go of.

The later group will often argue that time spent learning new things, which will also eventually be rendered obsolete, is time wasted and time diverted from actually accomplishing the tasks at hand. And I'll even agree that to a degree. It is possible to waste a lot of time picking up new tools and technologies that you'll never use. However that's no excuse not to focus on areas that will benefit you.

Now, I'll absolutely concede that change can be painful, change can be wasteful, and that not all change is for the good. But I absolutely believe that the pain of progress is worth it, that there is more positive progress than there is negative, and that the results of accepting change are more beneficial than hiding your virtual head in the virtual sand.

Let's face it, Windows 98, Word 2000, parts and support for your 10 year old computer, heck, even parts and support for your 40 year old classic car aren't going to be readily available forever. They may live on as specialty items, antiques or collectibles, but after a time they're just no longer viable as actual, useful, day-to-day tools.

Prepare for it.

Change is inevitable.

I'd love to hear what you think. Visit and enter 11533 in the go to article number box to access the show notes and to leave me a comment. While you're there, browse over 1,100 technical questions and answers on the site.

Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for

Article C3036 - May 27, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Dave B
May 27, 2007 3:48 PM

I'm amazed how many young people (high school age) are as technologically sedentary as their forefathers. My daughter is 16. I recently rebuilt her computer, installing a new processor, more RAM, Windows Vista, and Office 2007. She is grousing like an old hen about the new OS and Office. Its not what Im used to! shes wails. Dont be surprised when a young person, who you deem as technically advanced, bristles at the suggestion of changing their routine to adopt new technology.

Russ Horton
June 1, 2007 6:49 PM

Hello Leo!

Man, your article is the key to life. Either today or 65 years ago when I was born. If you hate change, you'll live a miserable life. The only thing constant in this world is change! Embrace it and live or fight it and die every day!

Thanks for all your good tips. I was a 'computer guru' in another life, but 90% of my technical knowledge is obsolete - my attitude isn't!

Zen Peterson
June 2, 2007 12:11 AM

AMEN! Right on! I am always telling people who ask for my assistance that they own their computer hardware and their software and the way to learn it is to EXPLORE it and make it really their own.

I have often see people who say they did not have time for changing hardware or software. Yes, what we have not works, but there may be something just around the corner which will work BETTER/FASTER.

I could not agree with you more. I wish everyone could see this tip. Be open and learn.

Somewhere in my travels, probably some college class, I heard that the people who are the happiest in life are the folks who are always learning. We, the ones who keep up with the changes, should be ONE HAPPY LOT.

Thanks, Leo, for all the great tips.

Zen Peterson

Bjorn Holberg
June 2, 2007 12:59 AM

In the DOS days I felt very secure with the commandline, and had every thing under control. Come Windows and most everything was pre-defined, but hidden under many menu/windows, so now I've learned to search more to find the commands I want. Changes? At 73 years I find VISTA a great challenge, with all that so far is missing, but am enjoying it. Thanks Leo, learning every week.

John Ellerington
June 4, 2007 1:28 AM

Try explaining the 'embrace change' attitude to those blinkered religious zealots who believe that everything of any importance or significance in life was written down, never to be altered, a couple of millennia or so ago...

Donna McKee
June 5, 2007 3:32 AM

Hi Leo,

Love your great tips and articles.

"The Attitude That Helps", really strikes home, I embrace learning new things, my husband on the other hand, HATES changes and always complains about new and improved techniques and ways that weren't around when he was a kid. He always says..."Maybe I was brought up wrong." I always reply, "No, you weren't brought up wrong, but you have to go with the flow and accept new things and accept Life, cause things are always gonna be new and improved. If you don't accept new things, you might as well be dead, cause if I die first, you're gonna be totally lost and have no clue what to do.

P.S. We're only in our early 50's, I'm a tad Old Fashioned, cause of my upbringing, but he's really lost in the Old Ways. If he had his way, I wouldn't have a phone in my house, and we'd only have 1 vehicle. Times change, and so does Life...Always Enjoy Life...It's a Privledge Denied to Many.

Donna McKee

Charles Berman
June 8, 2007 10:12 PM

I don't see "change" as something to be embraced or rejected, but rather evaluated. Changes for the better are good, but not all changes are for the better. The computer industry is just that -- an industry. In order to keep us spending money on computers, the companies that produce software and hardware have to produce a steady stream of new versions, without regard to whether they are improving their technologies or not.

For me, broadband represents an improvement over dialup internet, because it allows me more easily to do what I want to do with computers. The technology has changed for the better. Flash drives are an improvement over Zip disks, which were an improvement over floppy diskettes. I am indifferent to inventions such as the wireless mouse; they neither help nor hinder nor significantly change in any way my computing experience.

Word 2000, however, is no worse than tomorrow's Microsoft Word. In fact, I think it's no better than Word 97. Word processing on computers has not really improved in ages and ages. New versions only serve to induce consumers into spending considerable amounts of money on products that are no more effective at fulfilling their functions than what they already had Incidentally, I am no partisan of any MS Word version and use OpenOffice personally (a matter of value for money). I could just as easily use Word 6.0 to produce the .RTF files into which I save the papers, drama, fiction, letters, and other writings that I produce.

Embracing change just because it is change can lead to wasted time and wasted money. I evaluate change, ignore or work around those changes that I find to be for the worse, and embrace genuine improvement.

Lee Nelson Guptill
November 25, 2009 9:01 AM

My husband has always worked with computers while I have been an at-home mom. I wonder how much computers have added to my life? An e-mail account that maybe 1 in 100 e-mails are worthy of reading, and your friends never writing back (anymore than they did in the days of snail-mail). Fear of doing anything on-line because of identity theft (1 in 5 now is the last statistic I have read, and I certainly would not take those odds if I were to board a plane!) but basically almost being forced to pay bills on-line. Of course, they say that their website is "secure" - until it gets hacked. Googling anything and getting the worst kind of abusive language because I guess people have to show off, etc, etc, etc. Not finding what you need (for example, going to a store's website to find a store in my area, and it not coming up as being in the area, then having to call a neighbor and finding out that she, indeed, visited that store just last week, and no, it hasn't closed!) When the kids are gone I am considering getting rid of it. The computer to me is just work, work, work and not much pay-off. It has added very, very little to my life. Now, before you tell me that my attidude is bad, I have subscribed to Leo's newsletter religiously; each newsletter has had me walk away with a pot of gold in advice regarding all aspects of computing, and he has saved my gluteus maximus more than once. The computer just hasn't done much in enriching or enhancing my life. And now, with having a computer at home, my husband just sits in front of it every night with the headphones on. We don't see faces anymore, we see computer screens and someone's picture. How is that being social? We don't have friends anymore, we just have computer screens. Brave New World!

Ross Cherednik
June 1, 2010 12:41 PM

Life is change - that cannot ever be changed. What angers me and usually leads to me unsubscribing from a site or service is when they implement change and don't bother to inform me. This is a sure sign that any security I might be depending on is not at all valid, as it can be changed without my knowledge or concent, and I would not even be told about it. I am an ex-user of many services, such as FacBook and the like and will be such until I am accepted by these services as a user weorthy of respect.

Elmer Blythe
June 1, 2010 3:03 PM

Almost everything changes. So, if you are going to stay up with the rest of the world, you'd better embrace change. As one person who has commented has said "The change must be evaluated". In other words you shouldn't accept all change, as the word "embrace" implies, because change for it's own sake is useless. It has to benefit the person who embraces it.

I think it's also very wise not to be the first person on the block to accept change. I would wait for some of the bugs to be corrected first.

Linde Nobre
June 2, 2010 4:23 AM

The important aspect is "technology is a tool". It is not helpful in itself just for being new. It must be the right tool for the right purpose. You won't use a screw driver on a nail. If my tool does exactly what I need, I do not need a new one just because it is available. For example I never needed a virtual pet but my father learned to email at 75 just to bridge the 10000 miles between his and my home.

Mike Wilhelm
June 4, 2010 10:27 PM

Those who are victorious, plan effectively and change decisively. They are like a great river that maintains its course but adjusts its flow. They have form but are formless. They are skilled in both planning and adopting and need not fear a thousand battles; for they win in advance, defeating those that have already lost.

Sun Tzu
The Art Of War

June 7, 2010 6:21 AM

I would take this attitude even one step further. I would say, that the fast pace of change is both a challenge and an opportunity-- for those who will grab it with both hands. Think of it this way: NO ONE, no matter how bad their current skills are, is more than two years' learning behind today's technical experts... and you'll be most of the way there in six months.

Look, I've been in the IT field for over 20 years now-- but do you think my years of work with Windows 3.11 is going matter to anybody now? How about Windows 95? Me? 2000? Come on-- even my years of Windows XP experience is now out the window (pun intended). Do you think that any of us out here working it day-to-day got some sort of "memory upgrade" when Win 7 came out? Heck no! We learned it-- ARE learning it, I should say-- mostly by trying stuff out, secondarily by asking around, searching on line, reading, etc. The same is true of everything else-- software packages, web design, digital photography, EVERYTHING. If you do a full backup before you start, there is NOTHING you can do at the keyboard that can't be un-done tracelessly if it doesn't work out. So DON'T WORRY, shift into solution-thinking and get engaged with the process. The best techies in the world started from zero, and you can too.

Robert George Douglas
June 11, 2010 3:20 AM

Dear Leo,
How right you are - change is inevitable, as I keep telling my generation. However, do have pity on us, because it gets more and more difficult to keep up with, and the difficulty seems to increase in inverse proportion to the speed with which the years 'advance' and the alacrity with which the brain 'retreat's' !!!!
Thanks for all your helpful advice.
Robert George Douglas (b 1930)

Carlos Coquet
July 11, 2010 1:26 PM

Hmmm. Change may be inevitable but that does not mean that anyone has to take it laying down. If enough people complain about something, the clamor may be heard. Tiny things can build up to momentous events. Nixon's presidency ended because a "lowly" janitor noticed duck tape in a door's lock and reported it. That became the Watergate scandal and ended with Richard Nixon's resignation. Speak up and be counted.

July 30, 2011 10:20 AM

my lifelong motto.........Welcome CHANGE. Ask Leo's "The Attitude that Helps" is an insightful article. I wholeheartedly agree with the comment by Chas Berman 06.08.2007..."evaluate" CHANGE. This is a very worthwhile site. THANKS again, Leo ! Trish2040

August 7, 2011 12:28 PM

Rampant change adoption can be good, even fun--if you have the money, time and available brainpower to invest in it. Beyond that, one has to choose what new technology to invest oneself into. Think I ought to move to Windows 7? Great. I'm on SSDI--YOU pay for the computer, new software, Dummies books, etc. Doing so is not an option for me.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" and "Sometimes, nothing beats old school" are valid options. I'm not suggesting Ludditism--just open-minded balance.

December 3, 2011 7:29 PM

Yes change is good otherwise we would not have all that we now enjoy to make life easier. In the computing world however we must try to keep up but it is hard as it changes so quickly and it isn't as easy for some people to learn as it is for others. e.g. some people are naturally good at maths whereas a lot of people really struggle with it even though they are trying to understand it. I think the people who develop all this computer technology find it easy or they wouldn't be doing it and probably can't understand how some people find parts of it so difficult, especially older people who didn't grow up with it. And learning it is pretty time consuming and sometimes stressfull and frustrating. It is great in so many ways though so we blunder along.

December 30, 2012 9:40 AM

So long ass you are willing to operate at some superficial level then yes, bring on the change!

I read last night that in order to become proficient with a musical instrument to the professional level of a symphony orchestra, you will invest 10,000 hrs to do so. Now imagine how frustrating that becomes if included in that mastery, cavalier changes in the way tempo or perhaps tuning is employed would impact that perfecting.

One of the best books I've ever read pointing to this is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The chapter on gumption is really all you need to read. It speaks legions to this matter.

You are forgetting, Leo, that humans operate at a certain pace, far slower than what can be incorporated with the pace of change wrought by computers. We are not, as much as some would wish us or insist we are, multi-tasking. Brain science points to that.

I want to master my tools not have my tools master me. There is plenty of change involved there, and once mastered, plenty of change involved in using them at the master's level.

Just ask any musician who is confronted by having to play Mozart then Schoenberg!

It's not about stupid. It's about gumption.

Just ask any XP user.

tom weddick
December 31, 2012 8:41 AM

I am 92. I wish I had been able to read your articles when I was 18 ! Students nowadays don't realise how lucky they are and should thank you for giving them advice and knowledge that they will need in these forthcoming days of austerity.
Regards Tom W (UK)

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