The batteries are in backwards

Try, try again is not always the best advice.

by Keith Hughey

It seems Amy had recently called a local handyman who was well known to her to do a few repairs around her home.  Among the three or four things she wanted him to fix was a ceiling fan that no longer responded to the remote control.  She explained to him that the remote had stopped working.  Figuring it was the batteries, she replaced them.  Still, the fan wouldn’t respond.  So because she really liked the convenience of the remote control, she was really hoping he could repair whatever was broken.

The handyman pressed the remote a couple of times and just as Amy had said, no response.  He then opened the back cover on the remote.  In short order he said, “Amy, here’s your problem.  The batteries are in backwards.”  He proceeded to reverse the batteries, close the cover, press the remote, and, Voila!  It worked again!

Sometimes, we all find ourselves in situations where the solution to a problem is as simple as taking a different approach. Like in turning the batteries around.

But sometimes, old habits and conventional thinking can get in the way.  For instance, we’ve all heard the old expression, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Generally, that pearl of wisdom is offered when someone has failed in their first attempt.  So some well-meaning, possibly self-appointed, coach/teacher offers some reassuring words of encouragement in much the same vein as similar admonitions like, “get back on the horse” or as found in the lyrics of the old Jerome Kern tune that advised another generation to, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”  Who could possibly argue that there aren’t times when such advice is perfectly reasonable?

However, in the wrong circumstance, following that conventional path holds not only an unsatisfactory end but also the very real risk of injury if one is beating one’s head against a wall or otherwise climbing for a second or third time into the saddle of a horse that hasn’t been trained to take a rider.  You see, there are situations where the persistent application of what is an old solution simply cannot and will not work.  Einstein may have said it best with his warning, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Nonetheless, we humans are prone to try and try again.  At times to no avail, only to later discover that the batteries were indeed in backwards.  In those times and settings, changing things up – i.e., a new solution set is what is called for rather than continuing to push and push on the button of the remote.  Persistence is good.  Insistence on the same old tired solutions, not so much.

So the next time your remote control or a million other things won’t work anymore, and you’ve tried and tried again, consider taking a different course, like turning the batteries around.

Keith Hughey is an independent management consultant. Find him at or visit  his website at

One thought on “The batteries are in backwards”

  1. I was just thinking along these exact lines regarding how to break down brick walls in genealogy research when I was interrupted by an email, that led to a post, where I randomly clicked one of the many topics and wound up here at this article…the universe speaks! You have done a great job expressing this simple…and yet apparently not so simple…truth.

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From The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas

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