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Don't Get Gun Shy

| February 7, 2017

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading, “Don’t Get Gun Shy”, is an essay by Lizz Duke, Senior Systems Analyst and member of the ServiceLink Team at NYU.  The essay first appeared as a program reflection in November 2016.
I got my first job as a teenager at the Pathmark supermarket near my house.  I started there as a cashier and longed to move to the Service Center, which was where the makeup and other high-end items were sold.  After making inquiries, I was able to transfer to this position I so coveted.  It was also the area of the store that had a credit card machine.  It was a rare thing for people to use a credit card, so my manager gave me some cursory instruction on the machine and left it at that.
Things were going well for me in my new position until one day someone came to me with a credit card.  Unfortunately, even though I was trained, I had never actually used the machine and it was late at night, so no one was there to help me.  I went ahead with the transaction, but the following day when I arrived at the Service Center my manager, her manager, and the manager of the store were all there waiting for me.  It turns out that I did not run it through correctly and the card was never charged for the merchandise.  The store manager tried and tried to somehow manipulate the credit card machine into putting the charge through, but nothing was working.  I stood there helpless watching with my heart in my throat hoping that it would work.  He finally gave up, turned to me and put a hand on my shoulder.  I was certain that he was going to fire me on the spot, but instead he said to me, “Don’t get gun shy.”  He showed me what I did wrong and encouraged me to continue doing the great work I was doing.
I worked there very successfully for five years and even after I graduated from university and had an offer for a “real job,” it was hard for me to leave.  To this day, whenever I make a mistake or I am afraid to do something that I have failed at before, I tell myself not to get gun shy* and I think of that store manager at Pathmark and how he changed my life.  He taught me a valuable lesson:  It is okay to fail and to push fear aside and keep going.
Lizz’s manager’s advice and the lesson she learned are really good.  “Don’t get gun shy!”  It’s OK to fail and to push fear aside and keep going.
Do make your week a great one!  .  .  .  jim
*  NOTE:  For those not familiar with the term “gun shy,” it’s known to have been in use for about 150 years to mean extremely distrustful or wary, signifying that the person is overcautious.  
Jim Bruce is a Senior Fellow and Executive Coach at MOR Associates, and Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus, and CIO, Emeritus, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.