Are You Missing Clues or Degrading Gracefully?

I just picked up my brand new glasses. I’ve had the old glasses for several years and it was time for new glasses. I missed the early clues that it was time. Let me rewind the circumstances a bit.

I’m nearsighted. Since I am of a certain age, I also have presbyopia, a typical condition where people have more trouble focusing on close objects. That means I have been wearing bifocals for about 15 years. (I wear the progressive kind of glasses, where there is a sweet spot for near, middle, and far distances. I  move my head to see through the correct part of my glasses. We almost all have presbyopia as we age. If you are young, just wait. If you are over 40, you’ll be here soon enough.)

About a year ago, I changed the font on my computer. The regular font was too small for me to see. I was leaning into my computer to see, not sitting properly at all.

About six months ago, I started to take off my glasses to see my phone. It didn’t matter where I put the phone—near, not-so-near, far—I could not see the screen with my glasses on.

About a month later, I started to take my glasses off to read with my iPad, Kindle, or a print book.

A few weeks ago, I started walking around the house with my glasses off. I was more comfortable with them off than I was with them on. Since I am quite near-sighted, this surprised me. What was I doing, walking around the house with no glasses??

Note the time elapsing here. It took me at least three months to realize I needed new glasses. I might call this “degrading gracefully.” You might call this “missing clues.” You would be correct!

The clue-missing happens to all of us at some point. That’s because we are wonderfully human beings.

I bet I’m not the only one to miss clues. I bet you do, too. The question is where? What prevents you from seeing clues that something is changing?

In our projects, if we don’t measure on a trend line, we miss clues. Single data points are interesting, but not sufficient for understanding what’s going on. Notice that I had single-point data points all along.

Trend line measurement means you need to measure the same thing over time to see if the line goes up or down. You need to know what to measure. It can be a challenge.

I did not measure my eyesight in quantitative ways. I did “measure” it in qualitative ways. When my eyesight got bad enough, I finally said, “Oh, time for new glasses!”

When we “degrade gracefully,” we miss the idea that something could be wrong in our system. It doesn’t matter if the system is us as humans, in our project, in our organizations. Whatever it is, when we accept graceful degradation, we miss clues.

Our mental models can prevent us from seeing clues. The more we know something “can’t be true” the longer we are likely to miss clues.

I’m happy now. I have my new glasses and I can see everything: my computer, my devices, my books. I am wearing my glasses again all the time, which I am sure is much safer than me wandering around the house without them.

Dear adaptable problem solvers, that is the question this week: Are you missing clues or degrading gracefully?

8 thoughts on “Are You Missing Clues or Degrading Gracefully?

  1. Jim Grey

    Funny you should bring this up as I’m going through the same right now. I wear contacts and use drug-store readers. That’s worked okay for the past year, but things have degraded now to the point where my desktop computer screen is noticeably harder to read, and I can read my phone either with no contacts in or with my contacts and my readers, but not comfortably with my contacts alone.

    Age-related vision changes can be gradual. As a naturally adaptive species, we just adjust and adjust. But as a naturally pattern-recognizing species, at some point we recognize a number of adjustments we’ve made, and correlate them to a single root cause. At that point our psychology takes over: do we resist the changes because we are afraid of aging, or hate going to the optometrist, or don’t want to spend the money on new glasses? Or do we finally recognize the reality and call the optometrist?

    I still haven’t called the optometrist.

    1. johanna Post author

      ROTFLOL. Call the optometrist.

      Hmm, I wonder if part of the issue is that we adapt to small changes so well, we don’t notice them? I think that’s what happened with me, and possibly what is happening with you. It’s not just missing clues, it’s that we adapt to changing conditions. Darn, wish I’d thought of that before hitting publish :-)

  2. netmouser

    Yup. Know that feeling. I had perfect eyesight until around 50. Now I have the eyes of a fly.

    It began at an eye exam. I read the handheld eye chart – aa, ff, ll, mm … then in sudden surprise, I said to the technician that I saw double. It was with both eyes. This was referred to as ghosts. Each eye has a second fainter image to the side of the main one. Cheap drug store reading glasses fixed this.

    A decade later, my eye “features” had increased. I have 5 kinds of double vision. Some are ghosts, i.e., astigmatism – uneven spots on the surface of the cornea.

    Distance grew fuzzier, caused by a second set of ghosts. These long-distance ghosts were different – each eye had a second image on top of the main one, half way up. This lessening of focus caused my lazy eye from childhood to became more active with one eye floating away when watching TV, especially when tired – so, another kind of double vision.

    My eyes also focus on different spots. As I turn my head, my eyes separate in a fixed pattern, and I see double. This is better when sitting on the right side of a theater when my eye focus comes together. One eye is dominant, but they have equally good vision. If one eye’s view is blocked, the other eye can take the focus. If I’m driving, depending on which side of the road a sign is on, either eye can take the focus and read, I can switch back and forth, but mostly it is not something I think about, to me it is normal and either eye has clear vision. If this had become frequent when I was young, I read that one eye might tune out and lose vision as a way of adapting. Instead, I have what I think of as more flexibility than the average person!

    Most recently I noticed, when watching TV, my long distance developed a third set of ghosts – these was now a second image next to the main image. This is when I decided to investigate prescription glasses. Until then, I just accepted my slightly fuzzy world.

    As weird as it may sound, cheap $14 drug store glasses fix it all. For close-up, where only one set of ghosts is an issue, I now need the highest power I find at the drug store, 3.25 Foster Grants – very stylish styles and colors. For long distance, where I have the eyes of a fly, I only need drug store glasses with the strength of 150. I bought prescription glasses using all the numbers on the prescription, but did not see any difference, the drug store glasses are just fine. I bought new slip-on sunglasses for them and, damn, I look cool.

    Here is why it was good to see an eye doctor, at least in my case. What this all also means is that my doctor’s bill is mostly paid by Medicare, which does not cover appointments for routine eye exams. I am billed a small amount for the refraction exam. And my newest eye doctor laughed when I showed her my most recent prescription. She said it has not changed, but I can buy and try the drug store glasses at the 150 power. Like an idiot, I had kept thinking I needed the full prescription with all those other little numbers, and I probably never will. She did send me to a specialist (a children’s eye doctor when these issues like lazy eye usually occur) and he evaluated if there was any disease or other underlying process of concern, and there isn’t. And again, Medicare pays for that visit. My doctor also gave me a beautiful chart – a very colorful graph showing all the astigmatism. Colors change from blues and greens to yellows and reds depending on the amount of change in surface of the cornea. I might hang that on my wall.

    1. johanna Post author

      I am not yet at the point where I can use drugstore glasses. I pay a fortune for my lenses. (My father, in his late 80’s is. There is hope for me, yet.) Love the idea of the astigmatism chart.

      Who is that behind those Foster Grants?

      1. netmouser

        Reading at Wiki, Foster Grant is made by a USA company, owned by a French company as of 2010. Their very attractive sane-priced drug store line of glasses I find at Walgreen’s and Walmart (and maybe other stores).

        I recall 60 Minutes did a report on the Italian company Luxottica that makes all those “brands” of frames for different fashioner designer companies, also for doctor’s offices, and they are behind all those expensive retail stores (Lens Crafters, Pearl Vision, Sunhut, etc.). They are the reason prescription glasses are so crazy expensive – its the frames. Competing are other cheaper places including Walmart and Costco (#1 in Consumer Reports).
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxottica

        When I bought my prescription glasses, I ignored the retail part of the (most) eye doctor’s office. I instead used the prescription to buy glasses over the internet. I think Warby Parker is now #1. Their website has a feature to photo you (via your computer’s web camera) and size your frames. You pick out a style. They mail you up to 5 different frames that you choose at a time (with plain glass) that you try on at home. All this is free. You can go to one of their few locations if you want. The glasses are very low priced. Outstanding customer service. They made an error on my invoice, I told them and they gave me $25 off the price, so I think they were about $85 – for someone with the eyes of a fly.

        Drug store sunglasses at Walgreen, CVS and others include a great brand: Solar Shield, only $14, and they clip on to your regular glasses. They come in different shapes and sizes, a chart next to the rack. Like I say, I feel very cool.
        http://www.walgreens.com/store/c/solar-shield-fits-over-metal-polarized-54-rec-1-clip-on-sunglasses/ID=prod2875472-product

  3. Ale Feltes

    What a great analogy! I have a labe for something similar that happens in programming. “IT Stockholm syndrome”, or “IT capture-bonding”.
    When you adopt a new technology (new is not always better) because it promises that will help you solve customers requests faster and you realize along the way how painful it can be to twist and adapt patterns to this technology, you find workaround after workaround after workaround till you reach to a plateau effect.
    You are a hostage to this technology, but having spending so much time with it, what it used to be painful you had started to like, and there will be cases where you even defend your captor.
    There’s more out there, you just can’t see it, you’re missing the clues, you’ve been IT-Stockholmed.

    1. johanna Post author

      Ale, I had not heard of IT-Stockholmed. Yes, that is precisely the problem! I laughed out loud at your comment. Thanks.

  4. Pingback: What’s Imperfect? – Create An Adaptable Life

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