Getting Burned: What You Should Do When It Happens

Some people have to learn the hard way.

I had a situation where I was working with a young Systems Analyst who was ambitious but a bit naive as to the field of information systems.  Nonetheless he wanted to boldly tackle a major systems project for his company and asked me for advice.  I encouraged him to first study the parts of the business the system would serve, specify the end-user information requirements, and produce an overall system blueprint.  “No, no, no, I’ve already got it worked out in my head,” he told me and started programming.  Although he was very proficient in how to write program code, his software didn’t adequately serve the needs of his users and his project failed miserably.

Regardless of how you try to coach someone, I find it disheartening that a lot of people have to burn their fingers before they learn something.  Maybe this has something to do with the cockiness of youth whereby there is a great temptation to leap before you look.  It seems impetuousness has a lot to do with this, particularly for those who yearn to make a name for themselves.  It’s one thing to have an academic knowledge of a subject, quite another to have practical experience.

When you try to use logic to persuade people, they want to argue with you.  2 + 2 is no longer 4, but 5 instead, or it’s no longer black and white but some shade of gray.  When you use examples and case histories to illustrate your point, they believe it is an obsolete analogy to the subject at hand.  Frankly, the people who tend to get burned are those who know just enough about a subject to be dangerous, and they will argue you to the ground simply because they are combative and want to wear you out.  This leads me to believe there is a fine line between intelligence and stupidity.

I guess what I finally learned is there are certain people who need to get burned and learn the hard way.  Consequently, I find I no longer argue as vehemently as before and let people make their own mistakes as long as it doesn’t affect me personally.  I’ll still be willing to offer my advice, but I’m just not going to try to shove it down anyone’s throat.

In closing, I am reminded of the old story of two bulls, one old and one young, who were standing on a hill overlooking a herd of cattle.  Being a bit impetuous, the young bull said to his elder, “How about we charge down the hill, snort loudly, and make love to a couple of cows?”  The old bull replied, “I have a better idea; let’s quietly sneak down the back of this hill, slip around from behind, and get the whole herd.”

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a freelance writer and management consultant located in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. As an avid writer and speaker, Tim discusses everything from business and management, to politics and morality, to systems and technology, and our ever changing world.