This month I’ve been facing a new challenge in my life. It’s a challenge I’ve actually faced previously, but has proven to be a very worthy adversary this second time around.

Contact lenses.

I know. I know what you’re thinking: “no big deal.” I was right there with you, folks. But this particular contact lens has zigged when I was expecting a zag and has really made me question whether or not it is possible to teach an old dog (me) new tricks (like how to put in the stupid contact lens).

To be clear, this isn’t just any ordinary contact lens. I have been given the opportunity (that’s what I like to call things that are difficult for me) to use a scleral contact lens. What the heck is that you might ask. Well, I liken the experience of using this particular vision aid to the equivalent of trying to put a tupperware bowl on your eyeball. Which is one of the reasons I decided to try this contact lens – I figured if I can’t wear it in my eye, at least it will make an excellent container for leftovers!

Why am I boring you with my trials wearing contact lenses? Mostly because I need to vent, but also because this experience has placed me in an unfamiliar place. I’m the student and my eyecare professional is the teacher.

I’m going to admit it. I was cocky about this experience. I’ve worn contact lenses before. I’ve actually worn a bunch of different types of contact lenses before. This isn’t my first rodeo. Nope, me and contact lenses…we go way back. I’ve worn a variety of soft contact lenses. The old school ones where you wore the same pair every day – taking them out each night to soak in saline solution and then putting them in an enzyme bath once per week. I’ve worn the extended wear type that you can wear 24/7 for a while and then pull them out and throw them away because you’ve got a fresh pair sitting in a box in the medicine cabinet. I’ve worn the soft contact lenses that are weighted. I’ve worn colored soft contacts. I’ve also worn a few variations of “hard” or “rigid” or “gas permeable” contact lenses. I was so dedicated to wearing the hard contacts successfully that I developed a callus on the back of my eye lid. My optometrist finally just told me straight up, “listen, I think glasses might just be the better option for you.” So, I’ve been wearing just glasses for about five years now. After decades devoted to contact lenses.

However, I recently had to take the eye exam at the DMV and I had some significant blind spots (which didn’t keep me from getting a new license – scary, huh?). I decided to take advantage of a free consultation offered by an ophthalmologist here in Omaha who is pushing LASIK surgery quite aggressively on the radio. It was a very interesting experience and from all of the tests and measurements and pictures that happened during that free consultation I opted for the crazy contact lens.

Three appointments were made over the course of a couple of months. I needed to get fitted for the lens and then wear it for a while. Next it was a check-up to make sure the lens was sitting correctly on my eye. Then a general follow-up to make sure I was adjusting to the new lens.

The appointment that sticks out for me the most was the appointment when the assistant in the opthamologist’s office was teaching me how to insert the lens. This contact is put onto the eyeball purely by feel because it is filled with some kind of magic saline solution (I’m justifying the cost by calling it magic) so a person has to bend at the waist in a 90 degree angle to keep the magic from spilling out of the contact. I honestly thought I was being pranked so I looked it up on YouTube. Watching a number of other people demonstrate how to insert this lens helped me realize this was no prank.

So the assistant is squatting down on the floor and she is coaching me (“okay, move it slightly more towards your ear and up – THERE! Yes, just bring your eye toward the lens and you’ve got it!”) how to insert this lens. Evidently I successfully inserted the thing three consecutive times because when the opthamologist came into the room I was declared “ready” and sent on my way.

Getting the lens off my eyeball that night was no problem. “I’ve totally got this” I thought to myself. Then the next day rolled around. I spent literally 47 minutes trying to insert that stupid lens. The assistant had told me to allow an hour “extra” to get ready just in case the lens proved challenging for me. As I tried over and over and over again I grew more and more and more frustrated. Without the assistant there to squat down and offer me step-by-step guidance as to the insertion of the lens, I was a fumbling buffoon getting ever more frustrated with each passing moment.

When I stopped to straighten my back (bending at a 90 degree angle for that long really takes it out of you!) I had to push away some of the negative self talk I had rushing through my head (“you’ll never get this” and “well, this was a huge waste of time and money” and “what is wrong with me that I can’t do this?”).

That’s when it sort of hit me. Learning this new skill is not unlike introducing The Mandt System to new customers. Or for you to introduce The Mandt System to new employees. Sometimes it’s a person who has been trained in other programs or other systems and they are cocky, just like I was. “It’ll be easy breezy” or rationalizing that they don’t need to pay as close attention or participate as actively because they already know all there is to know.

Or maybe those new customers or your new employees are truly committed to learning everything we have to offer and yet they struggle with some portion of it – maybe they have anxiety taking a written test. Or perhaps the physical skills are coming a little more slowly than they would prefer. I’ve said it many, many times in my classes – “no negative self talk” because I’ve had prospective instructors say things like, “I’m so stupid” or “I’ll never get this.” If people are saying those things out loud I can only imagine the thoughts they are keeping to themselves.

I did ultimately “figure it out” with my tupperware contact lens. It wasn’t exactly the way the assistant had taught me as she crouched on the floor offering me feedback, but it got the job done. Our priorities at Mandt are (1) did you treat the person with dignity and respect; (2) did you keep the situation safe; and, (3) did you avoid the prohibited practices? If so, I think you probably have it figured out too.

One more correlation I can offer between Mandt and my new contact lens has to do with practice. I’ve had roughly thirty opportunities now to insert this new lens. It no longer takes me 47 minutes (thankfully). It’s not perfect every time, but when it’s not on my eye the right way I know to make adjustments. Just like you can make adjustments when using Mandt in your company. Sometimes I have to remove the lens and start fresh, but those times are becoming less and less frequent. I’m sure in a few months – after I’ve gotten even more chances to practice and hone my skills – I’ll rarely have to make adjustments. It just takes time and a little commitment to see the results.

Nikki Wince – Faculty Supervisor