Chasing Symptoms

A few of my family members decided to upgrade dad’s Kindle to an iPad. Christmas morning he opened his gift and received his new toy. My nephew started it for him and then left before he could troubleshoot some problems. Enter me. After promising dad his iPad would be simple to use since he already used an iPhone I had to figure out why it was, in fact, not as simple to use as we promised. Most of his apps transferred from his phone with no problem except his contacts. His contact list on his iPad was blank. Since the actual tech experts were nowhere near, I had to step up the plate and figure out the problem. What happened to his contact list?

I went online and googled the problem. Four suggestions popped up and I followed them exactly. One by one. None of them worked. I struggled for two hours and went through the list more than once. No matter what I did I could not get his contact list to transfer to his iPad. Patience is not one of my inherent virtues and I grew frustrated. Again and again, I tried to download his contacts from the cloud but I couldn’t get it to work.

Finally, I discovered his iPhone contact list was actually only on his phone. For whatever reason, it had never uploaded to the cloud. So, the steps I had been following actually had been working. It’s just there was never any information stored in the cloud to download to the iPad. Once I figured out the actual problem I uploaded his contact list to the cloud and then, voila, I downloaded his contacts to his iPad. No problem once I discovered the root of the problem.

This experience got me thinking about how often we spend time and even money trying to solve a problem by chasing the symptom instead of the actual cause. The adage does say the squeaky wheel gets the grease and it could be applied in this case. Our focus is naturally drawn to what gets our attention. The symptom should be a pointer directing us to what is wrong but all too often we focus on the symptom instead of digging into the root.

It all comes back to the why. What is the why behind the symptom? Before applying an endless amount of grease on the wheel maybe tip the wagon upside down and see why that wheel always needs grease. Why is that particular wheel the one that always needs oil?

It’s not easy, at least for me, to realize I may need to dig deeper. It may be uncomfortable at times especially when I’m tired and all I want is to make the squeaking stop. But there are times when finding the root of the problem will be the worthwhile fix.

I suppose that’s the great secret in life. Knowing when to tip the wagon over and when to just oil the dang wheel. A secret I’m still working on.

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