1. It's only wood.

This is from a story I read about five years ago, and I can't find the source, but it does as follows: a guy wants planter boxes for his garden, so he goes to the shop to buy some. They don't have them in the right size, so he asks a shop worker if they do. Puzzled, the shop worker says "but it's only wood: we can just cut you some planks to the right length, and you can nail them together."

IT is an area that things can appear overly complex: we have multiple systems, talking to eachother in different ways, put together by different people. It's easy to see the IT system as a whole, and not as the planks of wood that make up the box. All problems can be broken down into small enough components, a process called compartmentalisation, that all the operator is doing is auditing for success for failure of one simple thing.

2. Work the problem.

This compliments the 'it's only wood' strategy, and comes (I think) from NASA. Every complex problem is made of small pieces, possibly made of wooden planks, and by continuing to calmly work the problem, instead of abandoning it in a panic, one gets to a solution.

3. What's time to a pig?

This is a story told to me by a smart man who I was lucky enough to work with, Wes Brown. He hails from Kentucky, and when he tells his story, his accent gets a strong twang. A lot of people tell this story, but I don't think any as well as him. It goes thus:

A person is walking down a road, and they see a farmer lifting a pig up to a tree to eat an apple. For each apple, the farmer lifts the pig up to the apple again, and lowers the pig down. Our traveller watches several iterations of this cycle, and asks the farmer "wouldn't it save time to knock the apples out of the tree, and let the pig eat them once they've fallen?" The farmer answers "sure, but what's time to a pig?"

What I take from this story is that sometimes we are the pig, sometimes the farmer, and sometimes the traveller. Life as that pig, at that moment, is pretty good (although the pig might prefer a scaffold to ascend to get the apples, but I digress). Sometimes one is the farmer, accomplishing a mindless task that could be accomplished more efficiently, but benefiting another being. Finally, sometimes one is the traveller, questioning a well-meaning, established but inefficient process, without judgement.