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When I started with computers, I had to type commands into the computer to get it to do what I wanted. My first DOS computer had no mouse. The screen had two colors: green and white. 

Today, computers have mice and complex graphics, and there is no need to learn programming to use one. You can even talk to your computer like they did in Star Trek. Technology gets easier to use each year. 

Even though it’s easier than it used to be, it can feel difficult to master technology. Sometimes you still need help. For many authors, the biggest obstacle keeping them from writing, publishing, or marketing is the technology. 

Authors who lack technical sophistication often get pulled into overpriced schemes like hybrid publishing and struggle to find success. 

In this article, you will learn how to have far fewer tech headaches. 

What is technology?

Before we get to the modern technical tips, let’s examine an ancient technology that is so fundamental that every human on the planet uses it daily: fire

Early humans ate only what they could gather, but they could eat very few plants straight from the ground. Fire allowed humans to eat foods we couldn’t eat before. It allowed us to live in places that were previously uninhabitable for humans. Fire allowed us to build better buildings out of bricks of fired clay. Those permanent structures became cities and civilizations. 

Today, if you turn on a light bulb or drive a car, you do so because somewhere a fire is burning in a power plant. 

But fire is also one of the most destructive forces on earth. Whole cities can be destroyed by fire. Fire is a good servant but an evil master. In the same way, all technologies can be good servants or evil masters.

You must learn how to master technology rather than being its servant.

A Technology Story

My mother grew up with technology but didn’t grow up with computers. She never had a computer class, and when computers appeared in her house, there was no guru to teach her. She learned everything the hard way. 

What do I mean by the hard way? I mean that she had an abusive relationship with her computer. 

She had that feeling of walking on eggshells, fearful of doing or clicking something that might prompt a violent or intimidating error from the computer. She had no confidence or psychological energy to deal with the computer. My mom was trapped in an abusive relationship with her computer. 

If you feel that way with your computer, just realize you’re not the only one. 

She also had the challenge of using Windows 95, which was notorious for its unhelpful help feature. When she needed help, she turned to the primary people in her life: her children. 

Children derive a lot of security from knowing that their parents have the answers, and while that feeling fades as we age, it never goes away. 

It is psychologically difficult when the roles are reversed, and the child becomes the parent’s caretaker. While that role reversal is difficult for adults who have to care for ailing parents, it is impossible for children. That’s why children often respond with impatience and anger when their parents ask them for help. It is too psychologically difficult for the child to be the parent’s mentor. 

If your child has been impatient or angry with you when you’ve asked for help with technology, you may have assumed you are stupid or taken on the identity of being a “tech idiot,” but both assumptions are toxic self-talk. 

The reality is that you’re not a tech idiot; you just had the wrong mentor. 

Stop asking your children for help with technology. 

Don’t ask your son to build your website or your daughter to design your book cover. It’s like asking them for money. 

It’s unnatural for water to flow uphill. Your children are the worst possible people to ask for help because they’re your own children. 

What should you do instead? Learn how to learn technology. The way to learn and master technology is to become like a child.

How to Learn Technology Like a Child

Children often seem to know more about technology than their parents, so parents often look to their children for help. But how is it possible that child with just a few short years of technology use knows more about mastering technology than their literate and educated parents?

My own children tend to be self-destructive idiots. I love my kids to pieces, but I feel like I save their lives on a regular basis. Just this morning, my two sons came up with a new way of putting their lives in danger. There is a reason we don’t let children sign contracts or get married. 

But while children may be ignorant, they are quick learners, and that is what makes the difference. 

There are two keys to their technical mastery that you can put into practice today. Once you know these keys, you can use them to become a quick learner, too. 

How do I become like a child and enter the kingdom of technology?

Rekindle a sense of childlike wonder. 

Children don’t view learning as something to suffer through but as something to be enjoyed. Sadly, very early on, they’re forced into an institutional educational system that beats this love of learning out of them with impersonal standardization and memorization. However, even children who are institutionalized early have several years to enjoy wonder-driven learning. 

The sense of childlike wonder is incredibly powerful, and if you reawaken it, you may find that mastering technology becomes much easier. 

But a few things get in the way of an adult’s childlike wonder.

We take ourselves too seriously.

Adults tend to take their work and themselves too seriously. We’re too hurried to learn. But that approach to life is like being in such a hurry to chop down a tree that you don’t take time to sharpen your ax. It is foolishness. Time invested in education is rarely wasted. 

We get destination fever. 

Adults are often so focused on the end goal that everything else seems like an obstacle. I encourage you to enjoy the journey. Authors who make it in this business are those who learn to enjoy writing, editing, publishing, marketing, and learning technology. If you only care about “being published,” you will burn out before you find the success you seek. 

We fail to enjoy the journey.

child with calculator learning to master technology

In this photo, I had just handed my 20-month-old daughter a calculator. 

See the expression of delight on her face over a calculator? I had that same delight over my dad’s calculator when I was young, and the feeling never left. Calculators still seem magical. At 20 months old, my daughter didn’t know her numbers but was pushing buttons and experiencing childlike wonder.

Children are insatiably curious.

One of my sons was curious about how things taste and went on a crusade to taste everything he could. He wanted to drink our coffee and eat dust bunnies under the couch. In fact, he was more interested in the food under the couch than on his plate. He already knew how a Cheerio on his plate tasted, but what about a Cheerio covered in dust? There was only one way to find out!

When you hand a child, a piece of technology, the first thing they do is fiddle with it. They want to know what the buttons do, so they push them to find out.  

Fiddling and experimenting are the best ways to learn. 

Fiddling and experimenting are the best ways to learn. 

Thomas Umstattd, Jr.

The desire to push buttons dies in some people as they grow old. Some people become too timid to push the button unless they already know what it does, and once that shift happens, you stop learning technology and ultimately fail to master it. 

Fear of pushing buttons becomes a trap. Tragically, people who fall into that trap fear they will break the technology. As a result, they live in ignorance, which generates more technical problems over time than they would have had if they had just learned to push the button. 

Fear can become a chain of ignorance that binds you to failure, but you can break the chain. 

There are two kinds of people in this world: people who rent a car and don’t push any buttons if they don’t know exactly what it does, and people who can’t leave the parking lot of the rental car company until they’ve pushed every button on the dash. Become that second kind of person. Next time you rent a car, don’t leave the parking lot until you’ve pushed all the buttons. 

It’s not only more fun to live with someone who pushes the buttons, but it’s also the only way to tech savviness. 

Tech-savvy people treat the manual as an optional safety net, not a how-to book. I’m not saying you should throw away the manual, but I am saying not to rely on it so much. You will learn faster if you fiddle your way to understanding. 

Manuals are a crutch for tech-timid people. Relying on the manual keeps you from mastering technology. You don’t learn technology by reading a manual any more than you learn to ride a bike by reading a book about it. The only way to learn is to do. 

Fiddle with your phone.

Open your phone, find the settings icon, and start fiddling with the settings. Push the buttons to learn what they do. Spend at least 10 minutes toggling things on and off. 

After 10 minutes of fiddling, you’ll know more about how to use your phone, and you might want to keep some of the changes you made. 

Feel free to leave a comment on this episode’s thread at AuthorMedia.social about the one feature that most delighted you. Pretend you are a kid on the playscape telling another kid about a cool thing you found. 

If the idea of pushing a button scares you, you may be tempted to stop listening right now because you feel fear in your heart. 

How can you find the courage to push the button?

I suggest four methods to help you find the courage to push the button. You don’t have to implement all four, but consider trying one that seems most doable to you.

Focus on the Power

The first method is to focus on the power. Focus on how fun it will be to know what the button does. Once you know, you’ll have power over your life and world. Power is a great feeling. 

Switch Fears

One fear can displace another. This is the most common technique for authors who have the fear commonly known as writer’s block. 

Writer’s block is just another name for fear. To combat writer’s block, you need a tool called a deadline. A deadline with consequences magically makes writer’s block go away. Your fear of missing the deadline will outweigh your fear of writing.

The longer you write, you’ll gain more confidence and boldness. 

Courage is doing the right thing while feeling afraid. Boldness is not feeling the fear at all. Over time, courage can turn into boldness. 

Love

Would you face a scary guy in a back alley? Probably not, but what if he was threatening your child? A small mother will challenge a big criminal out of love for her child. The better you love your reader, the less fear you will experience. More love means less fear. In fact, it is said that “Perfect love casts out fear.” 

None of us can love perfectly, but it is something to aspire to. 

Know Your Mission

If love as a motivation sounds squishy, call it knowing your mission. During World War II, the French coast was heavily defended. On D-Day, the Allies invaded several places along the French coast. Most were beaches, but between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach was the Pointe du Hoc cliff. To take those beaches, someone needed to take the cliff by climbing it. 

Rudder’s Rangers were assigned to the job. Before them loomed a 10-story cliff they would have to climb while being shot at by the German troops above them. 

Where did they find the courage to climb that cliff? They knew the importance of their mission. Pointe du Hoc overlooked both beaches the Americans would be landing on. The German artillery on top of the cliff could fire down on either beach. If this hill was not taken, the whole landing could fail. 

Their courage came from knowing their mission. They knew why the scary job had to be done. More than that, they knew that every person they liberated was one less person under Adolf Hitler’s tyrannical control. 

They also knew they were not in it alone. Behind them, the free world was rooting for their success. Additionally, the Navy made life on top of the cliff unpleasant for the Germans. High above them, the Air Force was dropping bomb after bomb. 

You are not alone. You have people in your corner rooting for you and helping you. 

Do it Scared 

Sometimes, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing scared. It’s okay to do something while you’re still afraid; sometimes that’s the only way forward. 

In fact, it’s the essence of courage. The anticipation is often worse than the action itself. German grenades were landing at the bottom of the cliff, so climbing the cliff was safer than standing at the bottom. 

Sometimes, action is like hot tea. It’s too hot to touch but not too hot to drink. Embrace it, and do the hard thing regardless of how you feel. 

Tech Mastery Tips

Ask Google

The one tip to rule them all is to ask Google. Google will answer 80% of your technical questions. Type your question into Google or Bing and watch yourself master technology!

Often, I get emails from authors asking questions they could have asked Google. If they had just typed that exact question into Google, they would have received an immediate answer rather than waiting for me to reply.

Type in your question as if you were talking to a human being. It’s quite effective. 

I also have a private Google search engine that searches over 400 episodes on my Novel Marketing website and more than 100 episodes on the Christian Publishing Show website. You can find that search engine at PickThomasBrain.com.

When you call tech support, they usually type your question into Google. I know because when I graduated from college, I worked as tech support. I would listen to the caller’s question, type it into Google, and read the answer. They would say, “Thank you!” and I would send them a bill. 

When I got tired of doing that, I taught people how to Google their own questions. If you get an error code on your computer, type the error code into Google, and you’ll get some help. 

Whatever your technical problem, type the problem into Google’s search bar, and you’ll find that somebody else had the same problem and others have provided the answer. 

Invest in Community

You will improve your technology mastery by helping others. Teaching is one of the best ways to learn. It’s nice to have a place to post questions and get help from others. 

If you’re looking for a community, check out AuthorMedia.social. It’s a free social network I provide as a gift to my listeners. There are spaces for your questions on publishing, marketing, promotion, craft, and websites, and we even have a job board. Whether you’re looking to hire somebody or looking for work, you can find leads for free at AuthorMedia.social.

The key to getting a lot out of a community is being more committed to answering questions than asking questions. The more you sow, the more you will reap.

Invest in Personal Tech Support

Hire someone (not your child) to answer your questions. It’s usually best for authors to hire a savvy indie author, but for general questions, The Geek Squad at Best Buy can support everything from your TV to phone and dishwasher to dryer. Sometimes, paying for professional help is a good investment.

Persist

Seth Godin talks about “The Dip,” where more effort first leads to more results. But after a while, we hit “the dip,” where more effort leads to fewer results. For authors, “the dip” might be when you get your first harsh but true criticism. It might be the moment you think your website is almost finished but discover it’s broken in fundamental ways.

Regardless of career choice, every person has to go through the dip.

If you persist past that dip, it gets better. You can do this. Remember you were made in God’s image, and he has given you everything you need to do everything he has called you to do. The ancients called it grace. Grace is the power of God to do God’s will in the present. God’s giving us his power is truly unmerited favor. 

Maybe you don’t believe in Jesus and think this religious talk isn’t helpful. If so, remember this same truth put a different way: Our attitude influences how we interact with computers. If we expect them to cause us trouble, we will spend less time fiddling with them, which will prevent us from learning about computers and ultimately cause us to have more trouble with them.

A sorry attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your attitude also influences the people around you. No one likes to be around a grumpy complainer. Exhibit a positive attitude, and others will want to help you. You’ll also like yourself better with a better attitude. 

Now, I’m not saying to paste a smile over how terrible you feel. But there is an ancient technique that is scientifically proven to make you feel better and improve your attitude. It’s called gratitude. 

Replace Complaining with Thankfulness

“I hate having to promote my book online,” becomes “I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to tell the whole world about my book from the comfort of my own home.” 

“I don’t know how to use my dumb computer,” becomes “I’m glad I have a computer when so many people can’t afford one and would love to be figuring out these technical questions.”

If you want to start feeling better immediately, post a comment in the thread for this episode at AuthorMedia.social about something related to technology that you’re thankful for. Post as many as you’d like. The more you write, the better you’ll feel. Gratitude will dramatically shift your perspective. 

4 Ways to Reduce Tech Stress

Prepare for Disaster 

We live in a broken world, and disasters will strike at the worst possible moment. 

For example, your hard drive will crash. It’s a technical inevitability. The inside of a hard drive is home to a disc that spins at 7,200 revolutions per minute. It spins every moment your computer is running, and given enough spins, it will fail. 

Even if you have a solid-state drive, you’re not out of the weeds. Those also inevitably fail but for different reasons.

To prepare for disaster, set up automatic backups. Any backup system that requires you to take any action whatsoever is no backup system at all. The one time you forget to back it up will be the time it fails. 

Every tech guru in the world agrees that backups are needed because of how unreliable drives are in the long run. It’s part of doing business. 

If you’re running a Mac, I recommend Time Machine. There’s a version for PC called File History. Both will back up your computer to a local hard drive you plug in via USB. It’s very fast and pretty inexpensive. You can get a good USB hard drive for $100-$200 to back up your computer to a hard drive.

But a hard drive can’t protect you from fires, floods, and felons. If your house catches on fire and your computer burns, so will the hard drive. 

The rule of thumb for backups is 3, 2, 1. Have three copies of your file in at least two locations: one on your computer, one on your hard drive backup, and one in the cloud. Whatever is affecting your computer probably won’t affect the cloud, so your files are safe in the cloud even if you have a fire. 

I use Dropbox for online backups because it backs up my files to the cloud and copies files from my laptop to my desktop. 

Any file I edit in my shared Dropbox folder is automatically synced to my other computer. I can share specific folders with my podcast editor, for instance. Dropbox makes sharing large files very easy. I can also edit a presentation on my desktop and then open my laptop to see the most recent version. 

Dropbox also has a scanning app that lets me quickly scan documents from my phone to send to my accountant. 

There are cheaper alternatives, like Backblaze, but in my experience, Dropbox is the best. 

Read the Whole Page

Reading all the text on a web page or email is unbelievably effective. I learned the power of this tip back when I was doing tech support right out of college. Sometimes, people would call me while I was in the car. I couldn’t look at what they were seeing, so I would ask them to “Read me what’s on the page.”

They would start reading, and I’d typically have to say, “No, no, no. Start at the beginning of the page. Start at the top of the page. Read me what you see.”  Often, that fixed the problem because once they opened their eyes and looked at the whole page, they realized the answer had been right in front of them the whole time. 

Panic keeps you from seeing the whole page clearly and creates a kind of tunnel vision where you can only see a few inches around the cursor. Often, the answer is right there in front of you. Take a deep breath and read the whole page. 

The world’s top tech support issue is “I can’t log in.” The solution to that problem is almost always on the page where it says, “Forgot your password?” or “Can’t log in?” If you click either of those buttons, you can solve your problem yourself. 

Sometimes, the answer is behind a help button. At the end of most help articles, they’ll ask, “Was this article helpful?” If enough people give a thumbs down, the company that wrote the article will improve it. Since thousands of people give feedback, help articles are typically quite helpful. 

Use a Password Manager

If a hacker wanted to hack your computer, he would look up your password in the data from one of the big data breaches. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Adobe have all been hacked. Hackers publicly post passwords for all the users. So another hacker would look up your email address, find your password, and then start logging into your accounts with the password you used more than once. 

Since most people only have a handful of passwords or one they tend to reuse, it’s not hard for hackers to get into more than one of your accounts. They can get into your bank, reset your social media passwords, email all your friends through Facebook Messenger, and worse. 

If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s probably only a matter of time. 

How can you protect yourself when these huge companies are getting hacked? You can use a different password for every website. Use your digital keys like you use keys in real life. You have a separate key for your house, car, and lockbox. In your online life, you want to use a different password for every single website. 

I was once notified by my bank that they had been hacked, so they asked me to reset my password. Fortunately, I had never reused that password, so once I reset it, the hackers had a key that opened no locks. I was immediately safe. 

It’s impossible to remember thousands of passwords, especially those password and username combinations. This is a major source of stress. The solution is to store your passwords in an encrypted vault. It’s much more secure than keeping them in your head or on a piece of paper by your desk. 

I recommend  1Password (Affiliate Link), an excellent encrypted password vault. You can get it on a Mac or PC and on your phone. It allows you to have unique passwords everywhere, and it will remember them for you. You’ll have only one super-duper password to unlock 1Password, where all your other passwords are stored.  

Don’t Repeat the Same Action More Than Twice

Doing the same thing repeatedly, doesn’t work and can lead to some silly tech superstitions. If it doesn’t work the second time, just type your problem into Google, and you’ll almost always find the answer. 

Let’s take a trip back to the 18th century when most people only had one pair of clothes. Clothes were incredibly expensive because they were made by hand. Then, in 1775, Sir Richard Arkwright invented the cotton spinning machine. 

This technology dramatically increased workers’ productivity, allowing one worker to do the job of many. You can think of it as the ChatGPT of the 18th century. 

Workers opposed this new technology because they felt it threatened their livelihoods. They even destroyed one of Arkwright’s mills in an anti-technology riot in 1779. The protesting workers were led by a man named Ned Ludd, and they came to be known as Luddites. The term is still in use today.

Here’s an interesting fact: the British Parliament investigated the impact of Arkwright’s invention on the British economy. Before his invention, approximately 7,900 people in the United Kingdom worked in textiles. After his labor-saving invention, 320,000 people worked in the industry.

This phenomenon is often the case. The spreadsheet, which everyone thought would put accountants out of work in the 1980s, created more accounting jobs, just like the textile machine. New technology allowed England to make textiles cheaper and faster, which created more jobs.

People started buying a second shirt and a third pair of pants. Additionally, ships from all over the world came to buy England’s inexpensive, high-quality fabric. England’s economy boomed due to this new technology, which helped trigger the Industrial Revolution. Because England overcame their fear of new technology, we now live in a world where most of us can afford a closet full of clothes.

The moral of the story and my encouragement for you is to master technology and use it for good. Or, put another way, master technology so you can use it for good. Now, get out there and be a force for good with your newfound technological power. 

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Joy Cleveland, author of To Call My Own

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