Life Lessons From A Hard Drive Failure

On this past Saturday, my laptop failed. It was late enough in the day—and the weekend for that matter—that I couldn’t get help. All kinds of thoughts quickly flooded my mind: What about all that I need to do this weekend? Have I lost everything I’ve created since the last backup (which was about a month ago)? How bad is the damage? How much is this going to cost me?

Two days in the repair shop and a new hard drive later, I just got back my PC. I can’t begin to express how incredibly grateful I am that my files were recovered, even if I need to reinstall some programs and play catch-up on my week. As a backup to my external hard drive is running right now, I’d like to share 5 life lessons I’ve gleaned from this untimely technical mishap.

FlexibilityLesson #1: Remain flexible

I had a busy week all mapped out, including some tasks to be done this past weekend. The untimely demise of my hard drive messed up my plans. Then again, is there ever a good time for these things? Technical failures aside, how often does life present us with unexpected timeouts to which we have to adjust, if only kicking and screaming at times? Some of these timeouts are rather benign—including computer problems, annoying as they are—while others are significant life-changing events—e.g., being laid off from a job, sustaining severe injuries from an accident, or the sudden death of a loved one.

Often times, much of our suffering comes from unmet expectations and foiled hopes and dreams. The more we’re attached to specific pictures our lives must match—including the who’s, when’s and how’s—the more we feel the burn when our reality deviates from those pictures. My most recent computer failure reminded me to remain flexible in order to ride the waves of life. It’s good to have plans and a clear direction, but it’s for our own good to remain flexible in the event of unexpected derailment. If there’s one guarantee in life, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Lesson #2: Do the precise thing we’re too busy to do

How often do we hear that we must do the precise thing we don’t have time to do? I remember that, recently, in the back of my mind, I thought my computer was overdue for a backup. However, I was too busy to interrupt what I was doing to backup my files. Having almost lost what I had created in the past month, I’ll remember that the busier I am, the more there is to be protected. This lesson actually applies to other areas of our lives as well. What are we ignoring by being so busy that we might run the risk of losing or compromising? Health? Relationships?

Lesson #3: Don’t use work as an emotional hideout or distraction

WorkaholismIn modern life, there are perhaps only two legally and socially acceptable forms of addiction: caffeine and work. In fact, in many parts of the U.S., I’d go as far as to say that workaholism is lauded and even expected. For many, work not only funds our livelihood, it also is one of the few areas in our lives over which we have the most control. As a result, we unconsciously resort to busying ourselves with work to distract us from facing what we don’t want to face in our lives.

For a long time, I was in denial about being a workaholic. I couldn’t be one of them! After all, I had a life outside of work and really hated the long hours I used to log during my Corporate America days. However, being a workaholic extends beyond the sheer number of hours worked to how much we source our identity and emotional security from what we do for a paycheck. So, quite reluctantly, I eventually had to concede that I’m a recovering workaholic. That also means that, when I’m not mindful, it’s really easy to crave that old security blanket.

On this past Saturday, I had to run an errand that was surprisingly emotional; I wasn’t prepared for what was stirred within me. When I got home, even though I immediately wrote in my journal to process the experience, I was eager to get to the work I had planned to do over the weekend—except my computer failed. Apparently, the Universe wanted to remind me that I didn’t need to revert back to using work as an emotional safe haven away from what I didn’t want to feel. The synchronicity of the “untimely” computer failure wasn’t lost on me.

Lesson #4: Opportunity or problem: It’s a matter of perspective

PerspectiveTechnical failures stink. However, I also quickly realized that I had a choice in how to react to the situation. I could stew in the frustration of how that messed up what I needed to do, or I could see the time that has been unexpectedly opened up as a cosmic gift. Either way, my original plans weren’t going to be; how would I like to respond? I opted to see the technical mishap as an opportunity. Before the computer failure, I was going to pass on my usual Sunday nature walk because of the work I had planned on doing. But, with my computer on strike, I did that walk and enjoyed a beautiful, sunny fall afternoon out in fresh air at one of my favorite nature spots on earth. I also had the luxury of some extra time to read and to tend to personal projects, and I even leisurely watched some TV that I otherwise wouldn’t have had time to do.

Besides, this experience gave me an opportunity to feel extra gratitude to my big brother, who gave me his unwanted iPad last year. It enabled me to mostly stay on top of email and even somewhat keep up with social networking in the 4 days I was without my computer. Besides, as I continue to hear about the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, my loss of time and productivity is further put into its proper perspective. Perspective is always up to us.

Lesson #5: We may not always have what we want, but we always have what we need

Recently, I’ve been contemplating a lot on how easy it is to take so much for granted. I’m guilty of that for sure, no matter how much I strive to be conscious of the blessings and grace appearing before my eyes every day. With this latest hard drive failure, it made me realize how much easier my laptop has made my life day in and day out. Not having that for 4 days really crystallized that realization. But, even as inconvenient as life was without it, having my PC is a want, not a need by a long shot. It’s a cosmic reminder that even if life doesn’t always include experiences of what we want when we want them, we’re rarely denied what we truly need.

So, there you have it, life lessons gleaned from my hard drive failure, which turns out to be a reminder to keep in perspective my “hard drive” tendency.

Would love to know if any of these 5 life lessons resonates with you. Please share in the comment box below before you leave here today.



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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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Deone Higgs
Deone Higgs

I experienced this very thing a few months back myself, Alice. So, I can relate to the headache that must have been. Although, I'm happy the issue was corrected and that you're back sharing with us your wonderful impressions, lessons, and insights. Thankfully for me, my companion was privy enough to replaced the one in my laptop for me. That was a blessing. Unfortunately, however, I lost a lot of content and images not being in the know about backups, but lesson learned there, for sure. Dropbox has become my new best-friend, alongside, Windows Skydrive. (One can never be too prepared, nor set themselves up to be bitten twice, by the same bug.) I cannot tell you how livid I was with myself for being so careless though. Considering I've never taken any type of courses or anything, I've somehow managed to teach myself a lot, over the last few years. Many of those lessons also showed me, exactly what you've mentioned here - how to use those types of "headaches" as opportunities to better myself. For it's SO TRUE, life gives us the exact timeouts we're in need of having and/or taking. If we don't pay attention to the other hints that it throws our way, that is. One way or the other, the lesson has to get learned. I now prefer to pay attention to life's hints. Another wonderful post on having the right perspective in life, my sister. Thank you for another great sharpening. :) Blessings.

Kumar Gauraw
Kumar Gauraw

Dr. Alice, I related to your post very much and in fact, right after this comment, I am going to take a FULL BACKUP of my hard disk as I am overdue on that as well. Thank you for bringing this incredibly important topic. Napoleon Hill said, "Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit." And reading your post, I quickly realized he was right again! Not just you benefited from this incident, but everybody who came across your article so far, has equally benefited in terms of a reminder of what is important and how to take things in perspective. Thank you for sharing your story. Regards, Kumar

Harleena Singh (@harleenas)
Harleena Singh (@harleenas)

Wonderful lessons Alice! Oh I can so well relate to this as last year this is exactly what happened to me too when my laptop had to go for repairs because it just stopped working - something crashed within. But yes, those days without the Internet taught me so many other things in return - they were blissful days for me! Yes, work is always there and it suffers too, but just as you mentioned, we need to be flexible that if such things happen, don't get perturbed by them. Instead, take these opportunities to build on other things that need your attention, which is exactly what I did. I managed to find time for a lot of overdue cleaning up of the house, cooking dishes that my kids relish, and so much more. Thanks for sharing these wonderful lessons with all of us. :)


Love your post! Such simple lessons that we all need reminders of occasionally, and that we often don't heed until something drastic happens! Yes, we usually do have all that we need, even when we don't have what we want. Luckily I have learned to surrender and to just live in the moment with gratitude for all that I have,


Also a big fan of your third point. I know I have done this and still do it. When I am forced to stop...and sometimes am aware enough to choose to stop, I become immediately aware of how much I have been operating in a fog. So important to make space for awareness. For knowing what is really happening in your life and being open to changes you need to make rather than hiding behind distraction. I can imagine how panicked you must have been but your reflection and lessons learned will serve you well. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and for all the great work you do.


I loved number 3, Alice. Lesson #3: Don’t use work as an emotional hideout or distraction. Never thought of this before but can't help but sense how deeply true this is for so many (myself included). I think back on all the times I've heard men and woman say they "escaped" in work to avoid the problematic marriage or relationship woes. Such powerful insights from a lowly disc drive. I find myself hoping it happens often to you! LOL. Not really but I am glad it happened this time for sure. Thanks again for the wonderful insights! Carl


GREAT post, Doc! Same thing been bouncing around in this one's head recently, must've foreseen this post coming up. Flexibility and "needs" versus "wants" - ah yes, for sure. You mentioned attachment as well as choice in reaction. All so true and manifest in us humans. All we "need" is food, water and shelter, though this one surely enjoys highspeed internet, cell phones and cable tv, though the body will not die due to lack of any or all of these. In a "crisis" (another personal choice), one can say "oh, well..." and being flexible go for a walk or other activity not being appreciated due to work schedule. Or, one may cuss, kick the dog and live in misery the rest of the day. Very nice statement :0)

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