How is Geekery Like Bank Robbery?

Technology as a hobby, a passion, is all-consuming.

Maybe you have it, or you know someone who does. If so, you know the symptoms.

  • Inability to eat, sleep or evacuate until a problem is solved.
  • Excessive irritability.
  • Talking to oneself.
  • Yelling, fist-shaking at computer monitor.
  • Giddiness upon problem solution.
  • Annoying self-satisfaction after problem solution.

Chet (@oraclenerd) has this. I noticed a tweet from him late this evening; his phone was on the fritz. I replied asking for details, but didn’t expect a response, it being after 1 AM in Florida. A few minutes later this:

Add to the symptom list above “Describing a fix as breaking something more”.

I know this feeling myself. Whenever I take on a geeky project (e.g. building a VM, installing something complex, rebuilding a machine/phone, upgrading a machine/phone), I block out lots of time because I know from experience I can’t rest when a project is unfinished.

And if for any reason something stops working, no matter what I’m doing, I am compelled to fix it immediately, spending an entire day if necessary.

It gnaws at me until it’s done.

Ever watch “Heat” with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino? This quote from the movie reminds me of that feeling:

Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.

So, De Niro played a masterful bank robber in the movie, hence the post title. In other words, don’t get too involved in any activity because if something electronic or technical breaks, you’ll be unable to avoid its gravitational pull.

I’ve thrown entire weekends away fixing minor issues that became major ones (because I broke them more to fix them, natch), just because I can’t walk away from a technical problem.

I’m not really sure why I do this. Is it because I did tech support for years early in my career and got used to fixing problems in one sitting? Or did I end up in that job because of a tendency to fix problems in one sitting?

Anyone else have this problem? It’s not always a bad thing, but it’s a bit maniacal.

Find the comments.




  1. I only hire people to my team that have this itch. I feel that its essential to a rockstar resource. I’ve been known to sit someone down in front of a “broken” Linux machine and say “fix it.” The guys who give up after 10 minutes never get hired.

  2. Heh, remind me never to interview with you. I’ll bet that’s nerve-racking. Good idea, but not easy on the BP.

    Tinkering is essential bc it shows passion. It’s equally important to keep these rockstars interested once you find them 🙂

  3. Heh. These traits have led my mom to be very reluctant to ask me for IT help. All she see is me getting “stressed out.” I’ve tried (and failed) to reassure her that all of the muttering and swearing is an essential part of the process. 😉

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