“I think I’m an Apple person. Yep, I’ve decided it. I’m switching out everything.”
This was my husband, about a month ago.
My PC-using, iPhone-carrying husband, tired of multiple brands and multiple systems, decided that he would no longer be using anything that was more than one degree away from Steve Jobs. Everything needed to “match.” He sounded like a close relative of Justin Long in those commercials from the early 2000s.
Also my husband about a month ago:
“I’m think I’m a PC person. Yep, I’ve decided it. No Apple for me”
No, that’s not a typo. After going all-in on the Apple ecosystem, my MacBook-using, iPhone-carrying husband decided he was tired of learning new keyboard functions and computer basics after a lifetime of PC use. But, of course, everything needed to “match.”
Goodbye iPhone, hello Pixel.
Goodbye Justin Long, hello PC Man.
Confusing, I know (less so if you know he’s a Gemini, but that’s a whole other conversation). And, admittedly, a very privileged back-and-forth to even be having — one we definitely wouldn’t have been having years ago when we both worked for larger corporations and didn’t rely SO heavily on our own devices. We’re both pretty conservative with our spending, and cringe whenever we see the price tag on a new computer or phone (even the refurbished ones). Some people have to pay rent on office space to run their company, some people have to buy school supplies or specific outfits. Tech is our main business investment, and an investment worth making — especially now that so much of the work we used to do in-person is now virtual.
Jeremy is a brand + business strategist, which means he spends his days growing businesses by hland on who they are, what they stand for, and how that manifests out there in the world. This is both an asset and a roadblock. While it makes him hyper self-aware and inquisitive by nature, it can also lead him down roads he might not have traveled otherwise.
“What’s your favorite movie?” isn’t just a small-talk ice breaker — it’s a way to tell someone else exactly who you are and what you value.
“How do you want your hair cut?” isn’t just about what flatters your face shape or what feels practical/on-trend/whatever you’re going for — it’s about what you want to say before you even open your mouth.
In his quest to “streamline” his technology, Jeremy — my insightful, inquisitive Gemini husband — wasn’t just deciding on a computer or phone.
He was deciding on an identity.
(Or so he thought.)
The whole “your phone/computer/headphones/tablet/whatever is your identity” thing is the exact narrative those early Mac vs. PC Guy were capitalizing on. According to the commercials, if you were a Mac person, you were cool, laid back, young. PC Guy? All business. No fun. Awkward. (cue the dramatic music) Outdated.
Of course, this isn’t true at all. Or rather, the truth of it depends on YOU, the consumer, and your experience. But the idea of a defined and streamlined narrative is so alluring…so aspirational…a lot of us will go to great lengths to make it happen. So muchso, that we’ll even trade in what we love for the promise of a vague “better.”
Self-help culture has us obsessed with the big shifts and life overhauls. Do a quick internet search or bookstore browse of mainstream self-help hits and you’ll see phrases like find your calling, unlock your true purpose, and change your life.
All of which imply that you’ve got to leave one thing behind in order to access the other.
The better, brighter, other.
Is that sometimes true? Sure. Sometimes you do need to quit the job, leave the relationship, pack up the house, delete your social media.
But what about all of those other times? The times you actually love your job, are all-in on your relationship, feel so very at home, enjoy “Liking” your friends’ posts…and still, you feel like something is just off?
What about then?
Are you supposed to assume you can’t trust your contentment?
Should you assume that leaving, quitting, packing, deleting are the inevitable answers?
The answer, of course, is no. Just like Jeremy eventually realized, who you are isn’t just about what you do, it’s about how you do it.
He didn’t need the phone in his hand to be a full-on personality trait.
What he DID need, though, was an update to his OS: his operating systems.
The phone-person metaphors are aplenty. I think one of the reasons we’re intrigued by personal computers and cell phones is that they hold so many of our memories. And not just the photos we took at lunch with the fam. We literally use them to help us remember stuff. I know that the second I find out a friend’s birthday, I program it into my calendar. Got an interesting recommendation for a book? Write it in the Notes app or on a desktop “Sticky.” Back everything up to “the cloud” and you’re good to go. If you’re reading this, you’re reading it on a device of some kind — which means that you too have what’s akin to a second brain.
It’s pretty amazing, and yet sometimes I’ve found myself longing for the days of the physical Day Planners and oversized desk calendars. I’ve tried both, multiple times, and while I got a sweet hit of nostalgia as I penciled in my appointments, I ultimately got overwhelmed and had to scrap the analog methods. At first, I left my digital ways behind — but then I realized I still needed to keep my digital calendar up-to-date, so I started to do both. In my quest to simplify, I ended up over-complicating things for myself. So muchso, in fact, that I ironically ended up forgetting things. For me, trying to be a “Day Planner” person actually hurt more than it helped.
Even though something new and shiny (or retro and nostalgic) might seem like the easy swap, it might not be the right decision for you.
What might be right, however, is to do an audit of your lifestyle and habits in the same way you’d look at a phone or computer.
Think of your own personal operating systems (OS). What’s automated? Do you benefit from those automations? Is your “cloud” backup — the mental and emotional resources you can pull from regularly — up-to-date? Do you find yourself crashing every time you perform a certain activity a certain way or at a certain time?
Inspired by Jeremy’s tech saga and a-ha, I’m currently in the middle of my own OS audit. For me, an “OS Update” primarily involves looking at the role “motivation” and “inspiration” play in my day-to-day decisions. I’ll often use these two things as reasons to do or not do certain tasks and activities, so I’ll spend an unnecessary amount of time trying to drum up inspiration. Not only is it inefficient, it’s actually super exhausting. And while I do love the feeling of motivation and inspiration, I’ve found that I love them most when there’s no larger agenda attached (go figure, that’s when all my best ideas come to me anyway). My OS Update involves building the habit of whatever I’d like to do — write, exercise, cook, read — and not waiting for the go-ahead from “motivation.”
I’ve also realized that when it comes to work, I automatically answer questions with responses I would’ve given a year or two ago. Whether it’s stating my rate or responding to a request, I’ve found myself perfunctorily saying things that don’t apply anymore.
I’ve changed. It’s time for my OS to change with me.Life is like a computer or cell phone. Things break and glitch. Sometimes, you need something completely new. But sometimes, you just need to upgrade your operating system. Click To Tweet
So, to come back around to Jeremy: he eventually ended up how he began. A Microsoft computer, an Apple phone, and some kind of copycat brand of AirPod-lookalikes as headphones. (Thank goodness for return policies and trade-in programs.) After a record number of backs and forths, Jeremy got everything set up and synced, and now has it all running on the latest version of software — software he wasn’t using before. It all looks the same as it did at the start, but there’s actually a world of a difference.
Turns out, he just really, really needed everything to work as efficiently as possible.
He didn’t need to choose a whole new identity. He wasn’t Justin Long. He wasn’t PC Guy.
His identity was, and always has been, “efficiency guy.”
It’s easy to assume that if things aren’t working, then you need to scrap everything and start fresh. Whether it’s the movies you love, the way you cut your hair, the coffee you drink, or the phone you carry, there’s a whole world out there that would love for you to define yourself by your associations. It’s easy…too easy…to assume that if you change what’s on the outside, you’ll change, period.
But life doesn’t work like that.
Things break and glitch.
Sometimes, you need something completely new.
But sometimes, you just need to update your operating system.
What might an “OS Update” look like for you? Are there areas in your life where you could use a system refresh/reboot?