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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Mistakes were made! And I made them!

This post has two stories.

I. How I dropped my phone and what I learned from that.
II. How I messed up an ice-cream label.
just click here to jump directly to the main part of this piece.

How I dropped my phone and what I learned from that.
There is a statement always make to all my students in all my classes and more than once.

“Everybody makes mistakes; mistakes are inevitable and unavoidable; there is no shame in making a mistake; the same is in insisting that you are right when even you know - you're not. The only way to learn is through mistakes – you make it, you find it, you correct it, and you don’t make it anymore (hopefully)”.

Of course, this statement includes yours truly - I am not infallible, I make mistakes, I just hide them like everybody else.

With this exception.

This story is about several (!) stupid (!!) mistakes I made recently, but it has a lesson in the end.

I try to travel to Russia about once a year, usually when Summer II ends, stay there for a couple of weeks, and come back before the fall semester begins.

It's a long flight, several airports, makes me tired. But this story begins 10 minutes before I finally got to my home. They say, the last mile is always the hardest. And there's a reason for that because often when we feel like we are almost home we let our guard down and we make stupid mistakes.

And that is exactly what happened.

I was so happy to see my Uber ride approaching me – ten more minutes and I'm home! - so I let my mind jump around. I was checking my phone to confirm I see the right ride, checking my luggage, reaching to a trunk, opening a door, and I did it all at once, and here it is! -  I dropped my phone.

Well, I let it to slip out of my palm.

Same thing.

My one-and-a-half-year-old but almost like new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 falls on the ground.

And it cracks the glass.

When I saw it, I felt anger in myself – with myself – how stupid of me to drop my beloved and way-too-expensive phone (a compulsive Christmas mistake, and I only did it because I have been using Galaxy notes since the Note 2, then Note 5, and I love a built-in stylus – do you hear it, Apple? I need a stylus)!

Even now, every time when I think about it, I see in slow motion my phone falling down on the ground, and I feel the same feeling of anger and stupidity.

What an idiot! Get so easily distracted by a car!

Anyway, the good news was - I didn't break the screen; it was just the screen glass; and it wasn't broken too much – just a relatively small crack on the edge. But I immediately decided to replace it.

That crack was a monument to my stupidity. I couldn’t bear to see it every day.

So, I found on the Internet (of course) a replacement glass and quickly purchased it.

And that was my second mistake (third, if we start counting from the act of buying the phone).

Even more stupid than the first one.

You see, if you're not sure how to install or replace some element of your device, search first for how to install it, and only then make a decision to buy it or not.

I did it all backwards.

First, I decided to buy a replacement glass, and then I started to search for how to change it.

And very quickly I've learned that the answer to question “how to replace the Galaxy Note 8 glass?” is you - can't!

I’ve read many stories about people who tried to do it at home, and failed. Again, and again.

There is a procedure that would allow to do it, but it involves special equipment. And no professional store would replace this glass – they would only replace the glass with the screen, because that is the only way they can do it, and that would cost about $340.

Nowadays, one can buy two good unlocked Android phones for that money. So – forget it.

But the new glass was here, I paid for it, and now the fact that I could not use it was another reminder of my stupidity.

So, I placed it on the top of the broken glass, like a protective shield. I use a phone case, and that case holds the second glass pretty strongly. And this “solution” worked for me.

Or so I thought.

In reality, that was another mistake.

The glass on a glass made a sandwich that was too thick for using a touchscreen with my fingers.

When I used a stylus, it worked fine, though. But now I had to use the stylus all the time!

Taking it out and then placing it back every time I needed to use it was very annoying. So, I decided to keep the stylus somewhere on my body.

And – of course – I lost it.

Once I just noticed – it’s gone!

I had no idea how could that happen.

The good thing – I used my memory and retraced my steps for the day and eventually recovered my stylus. But after that I took my second glass of the phone.

I finally came to a peace with the fact that I have a crack on it (no, I ‘m not). And I decided, that if I wanted to cover my screen with some protective material, all I needed is just to get a standard protective shield and place it.

And so I did.

If only I did it BEFORE I dropped my phone.

And that is the lesson – always get a protective shield to your phone right after you got the phone.

Maybe, there are some other lessons in this story, but that’s up to you if you find them or not.

How I messed up an ice-cream label.

Monday, February 24, 2020

When I drink my coffee, I like adding a spoon of ice-cream – it is like adding cream and sugar at the same time, plus it makes it not so hot (exactly the way I like it – it’s called “French-like coffee).

For that, I buy this

You can find Kemps products in many stores, but this type I was able to find only in Market Basket.

I like it because it has the smallest amount of calories per serving – at least among all types of ice-cream I have seen so far.

When people see me adding ice-cream, I always tell them: “This one is the best, it has only 70 calories per serving, you cannot find any better!”

The other day I decided to refill my supply of ice-cream. It took me a half an hour to drive to the nearest Market Basket. When I arrived I went straight to the ice-cream freezers. I located my brand, got it out of the freezer, and looked at the calories – the force of habit. And instead of small digits saying 70, I saw two large digits saying 90.

I got confused. I put it back and searched around. They all were the same.

I already got used to the idea that eventually many good products got replaced by cheaper and less quality versions (I talked about it before, for example, here). So, I decided that the time finally came for my ice-cream to face the same faith. I still bought it, though.

At home I decided to share my frustration on Twitter. I sent this picture with one question “Why???”

When I checked twitter next time, I found four reactions to this tweet (at least at that time).
One sarcastic. 

One very emotional. 

And two people simply said – the serving size is also different (so 50 % of emotional responses v. 50 % of rational responses, which is a pretty good ratio for Twitter).

And there it was – the answer that I missed in the first place!

I acknowledged my mistake, thanked the respondents, and twitted what I learned.

Later in a day I wrote this piece.

I did it because it was a good illustration on the psychology of human perception.

My long history with this ice-cream, i.e. finding it, buying it, telling people about the magic number – 70(!) – changed the way I looked at it. When I looked at the new label this is what I saw

Everything else was outside of my attention area.

And then, my observations of good products being replaced by not so good blocked my mind, prevented it from searching for another possible explanation.

Hence – the erroneous tweet.

But as I tell my students, everyone makes mistakes, the question is what do we do about them.

When I teach, sometimes I make a mistake on purpose. But sometimes I make an actual mistake. When that happens, and a student finds it, I always say: “I could have said I made this mistake on purpose, because I do that. But in this case that was an actual mistake, thank you for paying attention, and let’s try to learn something from it.”

In physics, there is an algorithm that helps to design a solution to a problem one needs to solve. There is a psychological part of the algorithm that does not depend on physics or any other subject but has a universal application. It says, in part, “Convert your “defeat” into a key to a solution”. Meaning, find what went wrong and why, and try to … well, read the algorithm.

This piece is to present an example of this approach. A mistake was made, and I made it. And I converted it into a lesson to myself, and maybe even to a couple of more readers.

What lesson? 

For starters, when you act on emotions, take a pause and check your first intention.

And of course, this is another one from many examples that proves that our brain plays tricks on us – all the time! Our brain can deform or even decline information from entering our consciousness, and then we act only on the part of the important information. Hence, we have to be aware of it.

Note: if the first reaction isnt always the right reaction, maybe the first impression isnt always the right impression?

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