It’s Not You

Despite spending several thousand dollars on email software each year, I still talk to their customer support all the time. It’s a good tool, but, like any piece of tech, it has its problems.

Sometimes, I spend hours trying to make a certain automation work, and I get frustrated. “Why isn’t there a feature for this? Can’t I build a workaround?” Eventually, I realize: “Oh! I can just talk to support about this.” Often, they’re able to help, perhaps by adding some code in the backend or pointing me to a plugin I don’t know about — and inevitably, I’ll wish I hadn’t fiddled with everything by myself for so long.

In an interview, former Apple chief designer Jony Ive made a remarkable observation:

“If you eat something that tastes awful, you assume the food is bad. But when you use a product that you can’t use, you don’t assume it’s the product. You assume it’s you.”

Of course, operating a complex piece of machinery correctly isn’t the same as shoveling spoonfuls of soup into your mouth, but while we shouldn’t give up immediately when our technology doesn’t work, perhaps we should also have higher expectations.

How many times have you heard someone say, “Ahh, I’m just too stupid to use this thing. I’ve given up on it.”? How often have you felt that way yourself? Well, chances are, it is not you. It is the product — and while it often takes a long time for newer, better products to arrive, they’ll get here a lot faster if we make our voices heard.

The more you use something, the more apparent its flaws will become to you. Unless you’re building the superior alternative yourself, don’t hog that knowledge. Don’t dismiss it either. Share it! Let people know. Usually, they’ll be happy to hear from someone who cares enough to point out a flaw they can fix.

The next time sesame won’t open, don’t assume you forgot the password. Assume the door is stuck, and then call the mechanic to find out what’s really going on.