Part Two: Downgrade For A Better Kid Connection

Note: This article ran in the Centre Daily Times on October 19, 2011, part two of a three part series. It has been modified from its original version. Part one is here and Part three is here.

Costly decisions always seem better in theory. The moment of action proves if you’ve got the grit to follow through. I had decided to get rid of my iPhone because it was affecting my relationship with my kids. But I wasn’t prepared for how it would beg to stay. My body would tingle in its absence.

One day after work, I went to the AT&T store to get a new phone. “Hi,” I said. “I want to downgrade my smartphone. I don’t want email or Internet anymore.”

The clerk looked at me surprised. I imagined she was thinking of how big a moron I am. No one downgrades anymore, everyone upgrades. How many customers come in asking to downgrade? Probably none. But in a friendly, unfazed voice she said, “You want to downgrade? OK, sir, no problem.”

She walked me to a wall of phones, away from the iPhones. I suddenly felt like I’ve left Fifth Avenue for Skid Row. The aura of Apple was gone. The pulsing lights faded. The fireworks ran out. There was no angel choir to greet me. So this is what a downgrade felt like.

I chose a phone that does the things I want it to do: take pictures, play music, send text messages. Oh, and make phone calls. That would be useful in a phone. Then the clerk asked for my iPhone. “Really, you have to take it?” I asked. “I have to import your contacts to the new phone,” she said.

I hand it over so the transfusion can take place. After a few minutes, she handed it back. But it’s not the same phone as before. My precious phone lost its connection to the world; it no longer had a signal. I started to panic.

Anxious thoughts flooded my mind. My heart pounded and my palms got sweaty. I felt like I lost something important.

I looked at my new phone. It looked stupid and already I hated it. I picked it up. What am I supposed to do with this, I said to myself. Call someone? I don’t want to call someone, I want to check email. I want to check Facebook. I want to check my website stats. Dumb phone.

I left the store and drove home. At the stoplight I reached for my phone. Then I remembered I can’t do anything with it, at least not anything I would want to do. I tossed it back on the seat. What if someone has emailed me or someone’s status is so clever I have to top it? The gravity of my actions slammed into me. I’m not connected anymore. However will I cope?

I thought about returning to the store. What will it cost to undo my decision? Should I get a different clerk? How do I get the hoopla back?

But I was hungry for dinner, so I drove home. I walked through the door and my kids hollered and ran over to hug me. Then I remember why I did it: to improve my kid connection, the one that matters.

Chris believes we're all looking for purpose and joy at work. He's the Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc., where he helps employees to succeed. He's also a Certified Professional Life Coach and a Certified Gallup Strengths Coach. He loves to coach people, write, and speak around the topics of engagement, coaching, strengths, and growth. He blogs often at ChrisHeinz.com.

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