Inspiring the Tired, the Worn Out ... the IT Pro

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I was in a large bookstore the other day and was amazed at the number of titles in the ubiquitous ''Chicken Soup'' series. What began in 1993 as a single collection of treacly feel-good stories meant to lift readers' spirits has turned into an entire library of treacly feel-good stories meant to lift readers' spirits, with more than 90 million copies of Chicken Soup books sold in but a dozen years.

There's Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul, for the Teacher's Soul, the Nurse's Soul, the Teenager's Soul, the Ocean Lover's Soul, the College Soul, the Prisoner's Soul. They even have Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul. On the Chicken Soup Web site, I counted more than 100 different titles already published, with many others simmering on the stove (last cooking metaphor, I promise).

Nowhere, though, did I find a Chicken Soup book for the IT Professional. This is a stunning oversight, a rare missed opportunity by the Chicken Soup empire to wring yet more dollars from a gullible and emotionally needy public... that is, to provide messages of inspiration and support to an invaluable segment of our workforce.

So consider this my open proposal to the creators of Chicken Soup. Be assured that the uplifting IT stories told below are 100 percent unverifiable.

Recognize Your Gift

Bill worked on the IT Help Desk of a major computer manufacturer. His was a challenging job, guiding confused and sometimes irate customers through troubleshooting procedures he had long memorized from rote, but they, in their infinite ignorance, were unable to grasp. Truth be told, Bill's job had made him a hard and bitter cynic, a misanthrope. He had developed a thinly veiled contempt for the very people he was supposed to be helping, and he came to resent what he considered to be their repetitive, inane questions.

Until the day Mary called.

While biding time for a couple of hours during an XP reboot, Mary, detecting a note of tension in Bill's anguished moan, did something no customer had ever done: She asked Bill how he was doing. Overwhelmed by this pro forma expression of empathy, Bill broke down and told Mary he felt like his life was going nowhere and that he was working in a thankless, unfulfilling job.

''That's just not true!'' said Mary, who explained that she was a single mom on a shoestring budget. Mary said she couldn't possibly afford a new computer, never mind a new dll or whatever. Worse, the computer she owned -- the very one she was asking Bill to fix -- contained the big presentation she was sure would earn her a promotion at work and finally enable her to buy a home for her struggling family.

''So stop thinking that what you do has no meaning,'' Mary said. ''The fact is, Bill, you have the power to improve people's lives. You've been given a gift!''

For Bill, it was an epiphany. He realized his job is important -- that he literally can change lives, right there from the Help Desk cubicle he shares with four other colleagues! Bill vowed from that moment on to treat each caller as if she was the most important person in the world. And to Bill, they would be.

The next day, Bill's job was outsourced to Bangalore, but he never forgot Mary's words of inspiration.

One Nation, One Network

Back in the '60s, when TCP/IP was but a gleam in the eyes of U.S. military researchers eager to build a computer network that could survive a nuclear attack, there worked in the Stanford University computer department a young engineer named Kennedy who reported to a supervisor named Lincoln. At the same time, some 3,000 miles away, a programmer working in the MIT computer lab -- a fellow by name of Lincoln -- toiled under the watchful gaze of his supervisor, a man named Kennedy.

Think about it.


There once was a sysop from Nantucket -- oops, sorry. That one's for an IT poetry anthology.


Wait, Chicken Soup editors, I've got more! Here are some other chapter ideas for the book:

  • 'Repeat'?! I Thought You Said 'Delete'!
  • The Well-Tempered Rack Server
  • Google This!
  • Network-Crashing Malware Brought Our Team Together... One Last Time
  • There Is No 'Un-Send' Button
  • All of the stories above are guaranteed to provide many minutes of reading.

    I know the Chicken Soup formula calls for your fans to submit their own uplifting stories (i.e. do all the work) while you ''tend to the gritty details'' (i.e. count the profits) of running a business. So on your behalf I offer to collect all stories of inspiration submitted by IT professionals. See you on the best-seller list!

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