Skip to content

We Can Do Or We Can Teach

September 16, 2022

Those who can – do. Those who can’t – teach.
(Spoken by someone who obviously could neither do nor teach.)

Did you ever see the movie “Deep Impact”? It was a 1998 movie about a bunch of astronauts trying to blow up a comet. You are probably thinking of “Armageddon.” Armageddon starred Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck. Deep Impact starred Robert Duvall. Anyway, at one point in the movie Robert Duvall and team figured out a strategy to blow up the comet. He is talking to the base in Houston. The guy at base wants him to explain the plan. Robert Duvall says,

Look, we can do or we can teach. We can’t do both.

Of course, they solve the problem. They blow up the comet. But, they all die. (Sorry, spoiler alert.) Anyway, the point is that sometimes getting an update on a problem actually prevents the problem from getting fixed.

Several years ago I was working for a large telecommunication company. One morning as I was headed to work, the lights in our building went out. I got a notification that the lights were out, but not much else. The team was working on the problem. The client called me.

Rodney, I heard the lights went out in your building?

Yeah, I’m on my way in right now.

Well, what the was the issue?

I’m not sure yet. I’ll know more when I get there.

Are the turnstiles working?

I don’t know.

Well, can’t you find out?

Look! I’m driving. I could pull off the freeway and call. I’d probably have to pull one of the electricians out of a wiring closet where he is right now trying to fix the problem. Or, if you will wait 15 minutes, I’ll be at the building and can see for myself. What would you like me to do?

The client backed off and realized that the electricians could either do or they could teach, but they couldn’t do both.

The other day I came into work and there were two critical issues from the overnight team that our lead developer was working on. I used the Slack program to ask him for an update.

What’s the status on bug #15465?

I’m working on that right now.

What about the refresh issue with #16213?

I’m also working on that one right now.

Then I’ll shut up and stop distracting you.

You’re fine.

I wanted to know how the process was going. But any time Tom spent talking to me would be time he would NOT be working on our critical issues. He could do or he could teach. But, he couldn’t do both.

I’ve always found that the best teachers are those who are really good at doing.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (
LinkedIn (
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply