Yesterday, my friend and I were talking about the way people explain things to others. Some go into long and involved highly descriptive explanations complete with diagrams and gesturing while others provide quick snappy answers that barely hold enough information with which to identify the original question.
After a few minutes, my friend reminisced about the first time he asked Lewis about computers. Lewis was 10 years old at the time and quite proficient in the area of computers, having built a working computer from obsolete parts just a few months prior to this event happening.
Neither of us remembers what the question was however my friend recollected how, after asking the question, he watched Lewis’ reaction. He mulled the problem over in his mind very carefully and formulated an answer and just as he was about to speak, he hit the brakes, so to speak.
He looked at my friend and you could almost hear the gears and shafts shifting as the answer he was ready to deliver was taken down a few notches from “excellent grasp of the subject material” to “novice” level. For a moment, it reminded me of the noise Dr. Who’s TARDIS makes as it fires up to leave on another adventure (which, according to River Song is because the Doctor doesn’t release the brake when he takes off).
A couple of years later, my friend had another question for Lewis and again it was about computers. This time, Lewis contemplated the many variables involved and just as he was about to answer, he said, “The quick answer to your question is ‘no.’ If you want the long answer, I’ll just start talking and you stop me when you’ve had enough.”
Not long after that, this same friend was having difficulty with a program on his computer and once again, Lewis was tapped for insight into resolving the problem. Lewis asked outright, “Do you want a patch or do you want to fix the problem?”
“What’s the difference?”
“Well, the patch will fix the problem right now but you’re going to need a patch for the patch eventually.” He paused. “Or you could just re-install the program and that will take care of the missing registry file but that’s going to take time.”
About a month ago, my friend called Lewis up on the phone with a problem that needed answering. He was in the process of installing hardware on to a computer that was somewhat out-dated and he was having difficulties to that end. Lewis listened intently as my friend described what he was trying to do, what he had done and what the end results were. After giving the situation some thought, Lewis asked, “Do you want the quick answer or the right answer?”
By the end of the conversation with my friend, I realized that Lewis has honed the way in which he answers other people’s important questions. He realizes that sometimes people want an answer right now and that’s fine because he can provide that “right now ” kind of answer. But all told, Lewis would rather provide the “right” answer over the “right now” answer because, when all is said and done, the “right” answer is the answer that’s going to yield the best results.