When Things Just Start Working Again

Several times this week something that was not working magically started working again through no intervention of mine.

I find this to be very frustrating.

I would almost rather something stay broken than magically fix itself.

First, I enjoy fixing things. I’m an engineer, a tinkerer, and I get great satisfaction out of debugging/troubleshooting/fixing things. It is such a great feeling when you figure it out and it works again.

And second, when something fixes itself, you don’t know what did the trick and if it breaks again, you won’t be able to easily fix it.

For the same reasons, when we call an expert to fix something, I always ask them what broke and how they fixed it so I can do that the next time. It isn’t that I actually want to fix it next time, but I certainly want to be able to if I have to.

I know plenty of people in my life who don’t feel this way. They just want things to work and don’t really care why or how they do.

But I am not wired up that way.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. David A. Frankel

    So funny, same here. Plumbers, electricians and cable guys end up staying 30 minutes extra at my house giving me the tutorial…..usually they don’t mind because you are showing interest in their craft.

  2. CJ

    I’m a natural problem solver. There is almost nothing more satisfying to me than solving problems but I feel the opposite as you on this one. My motto: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That goes for the magically fixed as well. I applaud and quickly dismiss things that start working magically. Better to spend my cycles elsewhere where I can get more value.

    1. Peter J. Mills

      I agree. Better to be focused. “Orr was an eccentric midget, a freakish, likable dwarf with a smutty mind and a thousand valuable skills that would keep him in a low income group all his life.” – Catch-22, Joseph Heller

  3. jason wright

    I’ll take the magic after i’ve tried to work it out but failed, but at 30,000 ft i’ll just go straight to the magic.

    1. Mitch Arth

      At 30k feet, your praying for PFM and hoping Murphy does not show up!

  4. falicon

    Ditto.Honestly if something “magically” fixes itself…I tend to spend a bunch of time trying to re-break it so I know specifically what broke it, why it broke…all just so I can try to re-fix/understand it myself….and yes…I understand that sounds like how crazy people spend their time…but I can’t help it.

  5. ForDiscussion

    There is corollary to “when things just start working again” that goes “problems that go way on their own, often come back on their own.” I couldn’t agree more. I love learning how things work. It is very rewarding to accumulate bits of knowledge and see how they fit together over time…contributing to a greater understanding the world of things that we interact with. There are so many brilliant innovations baked into the products that we use everyday. The past week was all about appreciation for the compressor that makes air conditioning possible. I’m guessing in time you’ll find out why it (whatever it was) started working again.

  6. Mitch Arth

    There is an old acronym that goes way back to the early days of building the internet. When something broke and fixed itself, thats called PFM (Pure F^#king Magic). It drives me nuts, so much so that i will spend hours and sometimes days trying to replicate the failure. Need the answer as to why…

  7. Tom Labus

    I wouldn’t mind if congress started working again!

    1. JLM

      .Haha, that is funny as Hell, Tom. I’m still laughing.I agree more with you than you do with yourself, amigo.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  8. sigmaalgebra

    Fred, there’s an explanation:When I was in college, I had a summer job in a laboratory of a good Ph.D. physicist turned bio-medical researcher, and for broken things he had a theory, not entirely just a joke: He said that there were Little Blue Men. They could move through wires, wood, metal, etc. and were the cause of the problems. But they didn’t want to be seen, worked hard not to be seen, and, really, thus, never have been seen.So, when we start to fix something and dig into the internals, the Little Blue Men fear being seen, run away down wires or whatever, and then, with the little guys gone, the problem goes away and we can’t figure out what was wrong or how we fixed it!So, Fred, if you will just believe in this guy’s theory about the Little Blue Men, then you have an explanation for the problems and solutions you have seen!!!

  9. Thierry Ascarez

    It is this post that is frustrating Fred, even though it is not the point, we all want to know what was it that was broken :)?

    1. fredwilson

      little things. exactly the kinds of little things that irritate when they don’t work

      1. kenberger

        A major example for me is Google Translate (on Mac Chrome and on Pixel). It sometimes just works and sometimes just doesn’t, which really keeps it from being the magic trick it should be.There is probably better language tech out there, but not as natively embedded.I’m >90% on the road amidst foreign languages, so this is a critical reliance of mine.

      2. Chimpwithcans

        Not “The Internet” then? 😉

  10. William Mougayar

    Same here. Nodding thru it. Mechanical things tend to be that way. Temperature, humidity, wear and tear, friction, rust, dust, etc have an effect.

  11. awaldstein

    I was raised that we had to fix anything.First car, learned to fix it.My dad made the boys head out on junk pickup days at gather, take apart and sort pieces of stuff from toasters to TVs to radios. Then build stuff with the parts.Built houses to support family in the early days.For software stuff, yup, that is still me.Hardware not at all anymore that a lot of it is ingrained and just sticks around.

    1. fredwilson

      great training for life

      1. awaldstein

        yup, a terrific father from a different generation of adults

    2. Donna Brewington White

      My dad, very similar. I cannot ever remember calling a plumber or any type of home repair person growing up. I thought that was normal.I was able to do much more than the average person around the house or with my car in terms of minor repairs and replacing things, but over time I began to let the professionals take over.My husband has no idea how handy I am and I intend to keep it that way. 😉

      1. awaldstein

        very funny!

  12. Emil Sotirov

    When I was a child and something in our family car would stop working as intended, my father (who was a psychiatrist) would say – let’s wait, it will fix itself eventually – and, strangely enough, was right in a significant enough % of cases to make this proposition something more than a joke.

  13. Donna Brewington White

    I know this is a bit different, but I have a problem with the saying attributed to Einstein about the definition of insanity being trying the same method or approach and expecting different outcomes.I have actually had different outcomes.Yet, in every day life, I still for the most part subscribe to “Einstein’s” thinking — because magic is unpredictable and you can’t depend upon it.