The boy screams and wails.  I panic and run to the other room.

“It’s signed me out of X-box Live!” he says.

I try to be relieved–nobody’s injured.  Instead, the cold hand of fear wraps around my soul.

I cannot fix the Xbox.  I have no idea what to do.  My gut reaction–avoid the problem.  Procrastinate. Decide not to decide.  Hope it’ll go away.

There are two kinds of problems in life–ones I solve and ones I call other people to solve.  This is the second category.

But there’s something far worse–problems I’d call others to solve, only to realize I’m the only one around… the tech equivalent of being Les Stroud.  Survive or die.  I need to make a decision–leave a boy crying or dig in deep.  I’m not a gamer.  I’m afraid.  “I can do this,” I think.  “Twelve-year olds do this!”

I discover the Xbox Live Gold’s expired.  I renew.  Done!  Relief.  “It still won’t work!” Declan says.  Fear!  I’m out of ideas.

“I don’t know what to do,” I say.  I decide to surrender, to come back another day.  It’s what I do when I might fail.  Declan cries.

“You’re the adult–the solution starts and ends with you!  Take action!”  The voice in my head taunts me.  I own this problem.  It’s not going anywhere.  I decide to fix it.

I look again.  I’ve bought the code, but didn’t install it.  “Account renewed.”  Phew!

“Moommmm!”  More crying.  “It keeps signing me out!”

Error message: “You must be signed into Xbox Live to continue.”

I can’t find a sign-in box and I don’t know how to use the game controller.  Maybe if I can figure out the process, I can talk Declan through like ground control flying a pilot in blind.  “Find the sign in box.”  I say.

“I don’t know where it isssssss.”  He hands over the controller.  I randomly click like a stranded car-dumb guy who raises the hood and smacks around hoses because that’s what guys do.


YouTube is the most effective learning platform ever created.  It’s so effective schools block it to avoid competition.  I watch some twelve-year old deal with the error message I’ve received, complete with screenshots and professional voiceover.

Finally, it works.  We sign in.  The adrenaline overload starts to fade, my heartbeat returns to slightly above normal, but I’m not sure I can replicate the solution, so I pray for peace in the universe.

“Moommmmmm!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  That doesn’t sound like peace.  “Minecraft Story Mode won’t work!!!!”  It says, “Coming soon.”

“It’s not out yet.”  Nothing I can do about that.

“But DanTDM played it!”

DanTDM’s a famous YouTuber.  He gets games first to test them.  It’s marketing.”  It’s always best to blame “game designers,” or “marketing.”  It’s the tech equivalent of  “Acts of God.”

“That’s not fair!  He shouldn’t get privileges,” Declan says, dangerously on the brink.

I’m the adult.  I have to solve it this too.  Lesson time.

“Life is about privileges, if you work hard, you’ll get them, too.”  I explain DanTDM has worked hard to make gaming his job.  I don’t explain certain groups are born with more privileges than others, and Declan is in that privileged group.  I’d like him to work hard for his success.

“Coming soon” reminds Declan there are other things he wants.  “Is Jurassic World out?”

It is.  Declan’s been waiting patiently since I deleted a Korean torrent he found and taught him about intellectual property.  “I didn’t steal it, it’s right there.”

Every day’s a tech lesson.  Some sink in better than others.   That’s 21st century tech for you.

Today, the lesson’s for me.   I, the worst gamer on the planet, survived the Xbox Live crucible.

If life is a battle, I just put a well-earned “W” in my column.

Success isn’t about reading and memorizing, it’s about making key decisions when a challenge comes along.  Whatever I’m doing, success is about this: Decide. Do. Repeat.   “You can’t prepare for life’s problems by studying for a Ph.D exam,” said my really smart friend.  “You’ve just got to jump in and do it.  Learn things as they come along.”

The only way to get unstuck and win when faced with an “I don’t know” is to live and experience, to make the critical decisions right away,  see how they worked out, and then decide and try some more.

Then I can conquer the world and have the experiences that make me stronger, that forge me in the fire.  Decide.  Do.  Repeat.  That is the only real formula for success. 

I thank the Xbox and a 12 -year old expert for the reminder.

You are the kid I hope my straight-C little boy will become.  A troubleshooter, a problem solver, and a builder of great things.  He won’t have to cry over problems again.  He’ll simply pause, wrinkle his brow, and build a solution for the entire world.

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