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Living in the Real World is Hard Work

Way to state the obvious, huh? Let me elaborate. Something I notice often these days, maybe because I have children of elementary school age who spend WAY too much time glued to a laptop or iPad screen, is the big difference between how quickly and easily things can be done and undone in the digital world versus the physical world. In the digital world one can design anything (a desk, a policy, a network) fairly quickly. And in the digital world nearly any mistake can be undone, usually with a single click or keyboard shortcut, which makes it easier to take risks and try things you’ve never tried. Got the chamfer angle wrong on that 3D tabletop? Undo. Picked the wrong evasion tactic in that shooter game and got your head taken off? Start over!

In the real world nearly anything can be built as well, and nearly anything can be undone, but “do” and “undo” takes a lot of work, and sometimes a lot of time. Say the wrong thing to a client or co-worker? An apology is a nice start, but it could take weeks, or months, or even years (you must have said something really bad!) to rebuild the trust. That table that took you 2 hours to design on the computer might take you 40 or 60 hours to construct and finish.

What I see in my kids I also see in adults that spend nearly all day every day on a computer, and that’s a frustration with the real world. It may have only taken you 8 hours of writing, editing, and consensus building to write that policy, but it’s going to take weeks of communicating, training, reminding, and sometimes enforcing before the policy is fully entrenched.

So remember this when taking something through the transition from existing virtually in the digital world to existing in the physical world. You are going to need a plan (you have to get your permits before you start buying paint and carpet). And you are gonna need patience, because it’s gonna take time. Most of all it takes persistence, because there are going to be unforeseen obstacles along the way and getting past those obstacles is going to be way harder in the real world than in the digital world. Planning, patience, and persistence, the 3 Ps of taking your ideas from the virtual world to the physical world.

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