General Pam & Specific Dan – #1LinerWeds

Pam, over at Butterfly Sand offered a Daily Quip yesterday that stuck a nerve. She said:

“The day we stop learning is the day we start dying.”

I agree. Her message isn’t what struck a nerve, but she invoked a most frustrating memory (which, of course, I’m going to share with you now). I’ll try to be brief, but you know how that goes.

Over twenty years ago, I was assigned the task of providing training for our company’s employees, in the hopes of improving the degree to which we could benefit from having given everyone a computer. I tried to convince my boss that I was good at selecting and providing technological solutions, but training was far from my forte. Still, it became my assignment. An assignment at which I failed – multiple times, but not for lack of trying.

We tried in-house training. We tried sending people to off-site training. We tried computer-based, self-paced training.  Fail – fail – fail.

This was a goal on my official goals, and I was getting tired of failing, because most of my coworkers were “too busy” to learn. My boss saddled me with this goal one last time. He gave me a bigger budget and free reign to design a program that would work.  

I enlisted the help of a colleague at a previous employer. We analyzed the situation and developed a program to provide in-house training specifically tailored to our individual needs and designed to accommodate every employee. I’ll spare you most of the details. Suffice it to say that over the course of seven years, we prepared over 65 unique one-hour training sessions that were offered in our conference room and over the Internet and repeated once or twice to accommodate every employee who wished to attend.

One employee chose not to attend. Of the 65 course we offered, he only attended the two on cybersecurity and only because attendance was mandatory. When I asked him what I could do to make him interested, he said “nothing.” His exact words were:

“I am fifty-five years old, and I am done learning.”

He added that he was planning to retire when he turned sixty-two and that he saw no benefit in learning how to better use technology that he was looking forward to abandoning.

This sad memory is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. If you would like to join in on the fun, you can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants.

PS – if you’re looking for the photos, I forgot. They are over here.

69 comments

  1. I was in charge of training for many years. Not one of the favorite part of my HR job except that it did include tuition reimbursement. Now, that was an exhilarating task because people earning degrees were happy people. :-) I’m not a telephone talker after years of conference calls. I avoid it at all costs. My phone is my dictionary, notebook, calendar, research tool, and camera. If I don’t recognize or understand it, I look it up. I love learning although I can’t say I felt the same way in my youth. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We had a couple people who were getting degrees, and they were active participants in our training program. Some even taught some of the course. My biggest frustration was being responsible for training and tech-support. The people who ignored training were also the ones who often needed support. I would point out things like, “you know, we covered this in training last month,” which was never well received.

      I understand the employee’s frustration, too. Many of these were people who never saw a computer until I put one on their desk. In many cases, several of their coworkers had been laid off as we started rolling out new technology and developing new systems.

      The fact that things were always changing is why I decided to keep learning. You never know what skill you might need in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh! my, what a dumb man. I wonder how many other employees had the exact same mindset but never vocalized it? As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” How incredibly frustrating this assignment must’ve been for you.
    Ginger

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was very frustrating, Ginger. Especially when I had to provide tech-support to the people who didn’t want to learn. People had lots of reasons for not learning, but this guy’s was the dumbest. All in all, I think the program was a success. We covered all the topics you could present in an hour (and no one would stay for more than an hour).We published a newsletter for several years – that was fun.

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        1. Despite my comments about dentistry not having have changed since cavemen, I suspect there really was a lot to learn. My dad told me the same thing, and I passed that along to our daughter.

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  3. While frustrating from your end, I can almost understand it. The FAA just implemented a new software platform called SAS that makes the inspector’s jobs 300 times more difficult. Everything was changed and the system is full of redundancies. Reports that used to be filed directly now require multiple steps. The government is notorious for superfluous paperwork but this is a nightmare. Everyone hates it and is struggling to keep up. Of course the government, in all their infinite wisdom, gave little to no training.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Helping people to learn how to use poorly designed software was a task I tried to avoid. It’s why we chose to develop our software in-house rather than try to shove our various square pegs into somebody’s poorly designed series of round holes. When new systems make existing work harder, someone failed (I might be talking about the Block Editor).

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Part of me can understand that man’s reluctance to learn about something he does not enjoy. I can relate. (Block editor anyone?) But I think if I still had all those years to go before I was to retire I would at least make an effort. Giving up so early is a bit confusing to me. I found a way to get what I wanted done, I didn’t give up. Thanks for the shout out Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could understand his frustration, Pam. He had never seen a computer before I put one on his desk. His job changed from one where he wrote reports by hand and submitted them to a typing pool to one where he wrote them on a computer. Those weren’t my decisions, but I implemented the technology that made those decisions possible. Still, once your job changes, and you look around and see that others are gone but you’re still employed, I think it’s time to learn the new game. To ride out the last seven years of your career in stagnation…I just couldn’t.

      This story has been in my drafts folder for a long time. Thanks for providing the nudge I needed to move it forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That IS a sad memory. Poor dumb cluck. Like he would never see a computer or interact with a computer again. It’s like refusing to learn how to drive because your parents are trading in the car.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha – that’s a good analogy. I doubt he had any clue how important computers and other devices (we did training on iPhones and iPads) were going to be. This was a chance to get good training in a simple, no pressure environment. I can honestly say it was his loss.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Question. You were assigned the job of training. How good a job did management do in assigning the rest of the company the job of learning ? Was the message repeated at all levels of management ? And on a regular basis, not just a one time announcement ? Or was it a check mark for management and they moved on to more ‘important’ things. If the resulting message was check this item off and move on it is really not so much of a surprise learning was not a priority. It is like a lot of safety programs. A checkmark with a marginal commitment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was assigned the job of training by a poor, unsupportive manager. However, the CEO was very supportive. He attended every session, and even attended make-up sessions (we called them replays) when he was traveling or had a conflict. Some people didn’t like learning. Some liked appearing to be too busy to attend. Overall, we had about 65% attendance, so I was happy with the results of the final attempt, but there were several recalcitrant folks who skipped more than they attended. One guy retired, but then took a part time teaching position at a university. He told me that, in retrospect, he should have attended my classes.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As someone who FREQUENTLY reads an article about “x”, but will then spend 4 hours learning about “y” — “y” that was mentioned just in passing, had nothing to do with the point of the article, and that I will NEVER in a million years have reason to know about — this person in your story also made me feel quite frustrated. ;P

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I feel bad for him, but perhaps he was just speaking in the context of the work situation. Hopefully he was learning new things outside of work and when he retired. Moving to the desert has forced me to learn lots of new things! :-) I’m also learning French on Duolingo, a free app, although I’m not spending as much time as I should on it. However, since my s-i-l and b-i-l may be moving to Norway, it may not be an issue. Not sure I’m up for learning Norwegian, although she says it’s more like German, which would be ok with me.

    janet

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  9. What a depressing outlook on life! At 55, if one is already planning his/her retirement exit and ending any personal or professional advancement, I say help them out the door without a second thought. Their baggage will become yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow…I can’t imagine not wanting to learn something new. Every day is full of discoveries, which always leads to more discoveries. I have an impossible lineup of things I want to do/learn before that lid is closed. Great post, Dan. I just visited your second post with the photos — you’ve got some amazing shots. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So the guy had 7 years before retirement and he was done learning? What a fool. None of us liked going to training, but I usually came away with one little nugget that just amazed me, and I was sure to tell the presenter. I can only imagine what they saw from the front of the classroom. When our company ownership passed from father to son, there was a mass exodus because son, being so much younger, started implementing a lot of changes and people didn’t like it. I had to change me way of thinking and accept it as a challenge–it worked! Change is always different until you realize that it works. But people left before they realized that. Good post, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Dan – I bet he regrets it now … and as Lois says – change always comes along … excellent reminder to us all – learning begets a longer life (probably) … all the best – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a sad story, Dan. I have been fortunate to have re-invented myself four times. Each required learning the ins and outs of that particular incarnation including some pretty sophisticated technology. I do feel a sense of sadness for those who decide to kick it in.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That was a very sad answer of this guy. There’s only one life line left for this person. Sometimes it’s the grand kids (if he has them) that force a tired mind to learn new things.One of mine, told me every time I saw him about another one I didn’t know. But that was his whole world. It would have been pretty sad if there was nothing to talk about between the two of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ha! I wonder what types of tech he’s using now, cell phone, and/or a computer at home? I wonder if he regrets making that statement and missing out on the free classes? I’m always learning something new and in all probability will for the rest of my life. I hope so anyway I want to grow, and not be left behind! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Even as hard as it was sometimes, having to learn to use technology at work has made it easier to be here on wordpress and to perform other tasks in my personal life. Even the most frustrating lessons, which I no longer have any use for, were good exercise for my brain. That’s what I used to tell myself. You did not fail, Dan. They trusted you a lot to give you that bigger budget and free reign.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. In all the work situations that I have been, from supervising to being one of the crew, I heard excuses like, “Why should I learn new things when they won’t ever pay me more?” This statement is in error on too many points to get into but I think you can imagine what I mean. I feel when you stop learning,your brain will atrophy. I would wilt eventually from the boredom.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What a sad statement the non-learning man made about himself. I did learn when I was a teacher, that you can reach most of the kids most of the time, but not all of the kids all of the time. I guess adults are the same way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m guessing it’s the same people. It was frustrating for me. It must have been harder as a teacher given the relative importance of instruction at that point in their lives.

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  19. This is one of your best one-liners, Dan. We should NEVER want to stop learning. I can’t imagine such a mindset. I would need about 20 lifetimes to soak up everything I want to know.

    Liked by 1 person

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