Cable Woes: When your World Goes Dark

Bullet Proof Consulting

I had a cable and connectivity scare this week and want to share with you some of the lessons learned. Especially if you work from home-–either as an entrepreneur, solo entrepreneur or even an employee, this is for you.

My internet was down for the entire day

NOTHING. No internet, no landline, no WiFi. NOTHING. Even my cell phone (on another carrier) was near useless. It took me a few hours to realize the intermittent on/off was not because of my equipment. The cable company’s website noted there were outages in my neighbourhood. The estimated time of completion was late afternoon.

WOW! An entire day without connectivity. I had booked an online 5-hour conference, as well as several appointments and had a few things scheduled to be released by email. Everything was suddenly in a state of turmoil because there was no ‘juice’ to drive the processes.

In the eighties, there was a movie series called Mad Max. (The hero was a younger Mel Gibson.) I remember watching all the movies and marvelling at the lengths people would go to to find, conserve and protect gasoline and food. And it was THAT movie series that played in my brain as I struggled to come to grips with not being connected.

Most of us have bought the hype that working in the cloud is the bestest, most productive way to spend our workdays. And for the most part, it is. We only need a secure connection, we don’t need to fuss with backups, and we can hook up our laptops, cell phones, iPods and such pretty much from anywhere we choose.

Except, on the days, we can’t

In my frustration, I decided to go for a walk and let off some steam. A few kilometres in, there was the cable company’s repairman pulled over to the side of the road tinkering with the cable box. We started chatting. It seems there was a fault in the fibre cable itself. Finding that fault was proving difficult. There was no answer to my”‘when will you be done?” question.

Did you know the fibre cables buried in the ground are NOT in a logical straight line? Instead, they are routed in circles and overlapping circles to cover a large area. And the fibre cable seeking missiles are accurate – to within a kilometre or two. In other words, the repair people get an approximate location of where the fault might be, plus or minus a kilometre. It is then up to them to painstakingly find the fault by hand. Oh, and the actual fibre is as fine or finer than one of your hairs.

The total outage area was about eleven miles square. It had taken two guys the better part of the day, chasing the circling and looping of the cable to narrow down where the fault was. Precisely one hour after the original expected completion time, they GOT to the right spot on the fibre. They still needed to FIX the fault. And were not anxious to quote the time to do that.

Here are the lessons I learned

1. Using the cloud is exactly like using gasoline or food. Great when it’s abundant; awful when it gets rationed or removed.
2. The old-fashioned way of doing things still works.
3. When the guy (or girl) trying to fix the problem explains how complicated the process and the solution are, our ability to empathize and calm down expands exponentially.
4. Paying $60 for replay recordings is a brilliant move when we really, really, really, want to watch or learn something.
5. “Free” as a loss-leader has sunk to a ‘free for all.’ The idea of paying for value has strengthened. When we believe we need to see/do/feel something, we WILL pay for it. This means our marketing messages need to be stronger and on point.
6. Our concept of ‘busy’ should change. We need to embrace impact — which is all about productivity and efficiency, and outcomes. We fill our days, agendas, and calendars with a lot of busyness. Yet, when forced to make choices, we can carefully scrutinize and differentiate between essential and fluff.

How DO you cope when you lose connectivity?

The usual method is to find a nearby secure WiFi and take your laptop and phone to said spot. Where I live, we are still in emergency lockdown. So venturing out is not an option. Anything secure is just not open right now.

The next method is to use your backup files on your hard drive. Yeah, I know, nobody likes to back up to their hard drive – cuz the cloud is ginormous and does it automatically. Confession: using my laptop hard drive got me somewhat to the ‘impact’ stage. It’s not difficult when you don’t have ALL your operating programs and apps in the cloud.

The final method is to itemize everything you were supposed to do and get reasonable about what can be done. My to-do list resided on my hard drive, so I squirrelled away at what was urgent and accomplishable. And made notes for the rest to do tomorrow. I was also amazed to see that my strange way of prioritizing work into chunks – and getting the chunks done ahead of time – left me in reasonable shape.

Of course, you could also draw up a standard operating procedure manual of the primary stuff you typically do and then itemize them as MUST, should, and nice to complete. Give the manual to your business partner or trusted colleague, or business friend. Then lean on them to help you accomplish the MUSTS. If you are like me, this will make you feel less than competent or less than professional. However, I encourage you to get over yourself. It is far better to disappoint ourselves than our customers.

In summary

For me, technology has always been and will remain just a tool. Powerful? Absolutely! Infallible? NO WAY! When we drive our cars, we humans must stay in control and make sure we have an alternative for the day the car doesn’t want to start. So too, the same with technology. I am not saying it is easy and nor will it be frequent. However, we both know the odds of it happening are high. Our best defence AND offence is to be somewhat prepared.

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