FIX THE PROBLEM EARLY – A LESSON FROM BROKEN HEADPHONES

Anybody who follows wilfredbain.com knows that any occurrence can be a ‘teachable moment’ no matter how seemingly random it may be. The most recent teachable moment: broken headphones. 

Several weeks ago, I went to listen to a song on my computer and put my earphones on. Much to my displeasure, I could only hear the music through one ear. As songs on YouTube sometimes play through one ear, I had to confirm that my earphones were in fact damaged – they were. At this point, it seemed that I would, at minimum, need a soldering iron and time to repair my earphones – of which I had neither. 

I became annoyed. What good are earphones when you can only hear your favorite song in one ear? 

The reason for my annoyance, however, was not that the earpiece was damaged, but that I could have easily and quickly fixed it with glue when it first came apart. I, ever the procrastinator however, figured I had all the time in the world to fix it eventually.  While I did recognize the problem, it seemed simple enough to repair – I could just do it later.  

But I never fixed the earpiece and the wires became increasingly frayed over time due to them constantly being exposed. Had I addressed the issue when it first arose, I could have saved my earphones. I would then be able to hear everything in both ears. 

THE BIGGER LESSON: 

The simple lesson is that had I repaired my earphones when they first showed signs of damage, I would still have use of them now. The bigger lesson was that in life, this same principle applies and problems should be addressed as early. 

Think of the many issues we have in our lives that have been allowed to fester until they became big monsters. Consider the example of owning a car. If one day, your car makes an unusual sound, you can rest assured that if left unchecked, it will be an expensive fix in the future. It would, however, be much cheaper to address as soon as possible as opposed to waiting until you have no other choice. 

This also applies to relationships as well. How many friendships have been damaged due to persons not addressing issues when they initially arose? Think of the many marriages that have failed because persons ignored issues early on, failed to communicate and allowed the issues to persist until they caused irreparable damage. 

The same applies in the professional sphere. I once read an article on management styles and how some managers identify and quickly eliminate disruptive employees. It was a tactic called “kill the dogs early”. The rationale was that those managers understood the long-term negative impact of those employees on staff performance and company morale – therefore it needed to be addressed quickly. By firing the disruptive employees early, the managers essentially performed two important actions – they eliminated the disruptive elements and at the same time they reinforced the organization’s standards to existing staff. 

So, while my broken earphones may have been a relatively small loss, they presented me with a great life lesson and a powerful teachable moment. Whether it’s earphones, relationship or career issues; fix the problem early.  

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