Power User

Most people are familiar with the definition or periphrastic idea of what it means to be a power user. A power user is a person of experience in any particular field. Not quite an expert, but someone who knows shortcuts and is able to understand on a very intimate and knowledgeable fashion of how something works.

Right now I am reading, “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.” It is a book that talks about this motorcycle tour that a group of friends take across the country. It goes back and forth in between describing the landscape sceneries, caring for a motorcycle while on the road, and the approaches the riders have towards their machines. It becomes very clear that the main character would be your typical “Power user” motorcycle mechanic and the main character dives even deeper on a philosophical level to figure out why his friend John feels so differently about his bike than he does. The power user considers knowledge about how a bike works and knowing what to do when something goes wrong as a crucial part of ownership while the other, when faced with an issue, shows a sense of disconnect and misunderstanding when things go wrong. The power user tries to help him figure things out and to get him interested in caring for his bike but he has been fighting this same uphill battle for their entire friendship of many many years.

This book can be transposed to many different fields including that of cycling which is why I would recommend this to anyone else who has a hobby; especially cyclists. Whether you ride mountain, road, track/ fixed gear, or a beach cruiser, there are a lot of similarities that can be observed and a lot can be learned when reading about these two different philosophies about something two people have a passion for.

The reason I brought this up is because Over the past six months, I have noticed a lot of people I know have mistaken me for a power user on multiple levels. Whether it is from work, cycling, or the party I went to on Tuesday evening. People (myself included) like to think they’re experts on subjects, or that their opinions weigh just as much as that of an expert’s. Not only that but they presume that you too have established this state of elevated knowledge and are surprisingly disappointed in you when they find out you are not.

One of the first examples I can think of is that of competitive cycling. It doesn’t matter how big or small of a mistake someone has made, there will always be someone there to lecture that other person (whether they ask for advice or not) from a power user’s perspective. I’ve heard this many many times from hundreds of different people, and what grinds my gears the most is the attitude they have that implies, “You didn’t know that? It’s so clearly obvious that holding ctrl and shift while entering J will get you to the destination you want.” This can make someone feel really isolated and like they’ve missed out on something in life. It seems like whoever is nearest you knows a shortcut to whatever problem you’re faced with that you don’t and should feel ashamed that you didn’t know. If you want a first hand experience at  these type of people, just go to a bike race and watch the racer talk to a teammate, a friend, or a significant other once their race is over. This isn’t the most appropriate time to share how you would have done things had you been in that person’s shoes. Mainly because that person never asked you for your opinion in the first place. Sometimes people need others to just be a wall, to shut up, listen and acknowledge what they have to say.

Another field I have seen this in most recently has been the work setting. Ever since I finished my two weeks of training after I transitioned to the dispatch job title, I feel as though I have been mistaken for a power user, and get chastised as a result. One of the supervisors even admitted that she gets caught up in her work and tends to forget just how much shes shared and how much she expects the person she is training to know. Not only supervisors, but my hormonal boss, and a few co-workers of mine. I will be the first to admit that I have made a handful of mistakes when starting out with this new gig. I have my good weeks, and my not so good weeks. When this first started, I was treated as if I should have already known how to correct an issue that had come up whether it be related to scheduling, or juggling getting people to punch out on time, or making sure they take the required time of for lunches. At first the mistakes that were made were very broad, generalized, and vague. One mistake lead to my boss threatening that I find another job if I don’t shape up.

Recently, arising issues have been addressed in more specific detail, and solutions have been explained as a result. As seriously as I take the principle of having a job, this has become most helpful despite my co-workers and boss’s expectations of me that I believe were set a little to high given the time spent working. Once specific issues have been addressed, I can figure out the best course of action to prevent that from happening again. It just makes things more stressful on me when you work with people who don’t know how to be concise about their criticisms (and when english is the second language for your Russian boss.) If I had things my way, I would address the issue with the least amount of words possible, expect some type of feedback acknowledging mistakes made and hearing a proposed solution and be done with it. My goal would be to try and include as little emotion as possible. As many of you may know that logical thinking can become clouded when emotions set in to the subject matter. Many people have a lot of difficulty being told this and changing their ways. My dad, the creature of habit is a perfect example.

Once he is finished addressing an issue with me or anyone else (which he covers at the start of his talks, a thing I enjoy) he spends double if not longer talking about his feelings of anger and frustration and trying to figure out himself why things turned out the way they did, all while raising his voice louder and louder. This tends to cloud and dilute the main point that was mentioned at the beginning of the conversation. There needs to be a time gap in between addressing issues, and sharing emotional feedback between people. That way both aspects can be treated with the same amount of attention and focus as opposed to emotionally fatiguing by the end of what has blossomed from a discussion into a full blown argument.

People should take some time out and really identify what it is they hope to accomplish in talking with another person. I like to make it a point to address my main point in almost all conversations I have with others. That way the message of, “I don’t know whether you would like me to shut up and listen, or to give some feedback, or advice to your issue” is clearly identifiable. Words just like actions are very important and should be formulated with a purpose, or made clear that they have no functional purpose so miscommunications can be avoided. I feel like an english teacher telling students to point out their topic sentences and main points on their papers, only this time it’s conversations.

That has been getting under my skin these past few weeks at work and in my personal life. The introvert in me must be making itself more known than before. My concerns make sense in my head and I hope that I was able to shed a little more light and understanding to others that may be reading this. This was supposed to mainly address the concept of power users, but ended up branching off into other tangents involving grammar. The point is still there and is not lost.

Maybe I’m just overthinking the entire situation and these points aren’t really as serious as I have made them out to be. Only time will tell.



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