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## Getting Over Excel Phobia

When I was in high school, I took a statistics class that still terrifies me to this day whenever I come across anything related to statistics.

Our teacher decided that since we were an “honor class”, the best way to learn statistics was to find mistakes in a statistics book. It didn’t work for obvious reasons. If you don’t know what to look for, how do you know if it’s wrong?

This teacher left school before the end of the semester to go to a southern state to play piano (my high school was on Long Island, New York and not known for temperate winters).

Because of this statistics nightmare, I never studied statistics and believed that I could never learn it. Just seeing a statistical symbol on a page short-circuited my brain.

I tell this story to explain how my phobia of statistics led to a phobia of Excel – because Excel uses statistical symbols and formulas.

Every time a client has suggested that an Excel worksheet would be the easiest way to manage the data in question, I’ve found another, more labor-intensive solution.

A former colleague once showed me that I could use an Excel spreadsheet to alphabetize names and prioritize data. He actually made a worksheet, showed me how to do it, and demonstrated it for me – bless your heart.

Although I now knew it could be helpful in certain situations, I never learned how to use Excel on my own.

I managed quite nicely without the need for Excel until last week. A Government Services Administration (GSA) auditor has asked me to provide Excel spreadsheets listing my company’s total annual sales and annual sales under our GSA contract for the previous year.

In complete panic, I turned to the internet. I read articles and watched YouTube tutorials. They gave me the confidence to start a worksheet, title columns, and put text or numbers in them. I even managed to get a subtotal figure. However, when I pressed the Auto Sum button, nothing happened.

I sent my spreadsheet to various friends and colleagues, but no one could work with it. A colleague (who has worked with me for over 15 years) thought it might be easier to just add up the numbers instead of trying to get the total with Excel.

When I expressed my frustration to my daughter, her first question was why didn’t I ask her to begin with? I knew he had taken a lot of computer related classes at his job. It just didn’t occur to me that any of these classes were about Excel.

My daughter told me that she worked with Excel, kept her budget in Excel, and she could help me. So I sent him a worksheet and he couldn’t do anything with it either.

However, he understood WHY the worksheet was not responding. It was not set up properly.

Over the course of 1.5 hours, he patiently walked me through how to actually set up each column, what else I could do with the columns, and how to get the totals. I can’t tell you how grateful and relieved I was! His matter-of-fact approach to teaching me how to use Excel eased any remaining fears.

I was confidently using Excel the very next day to alphabetize dictionary terms. Boy did that make my task easier!

Do I remember everything he showed me? Probably not, because I probably won’t be using Excel much in the near future.

The audit situation pushed me to face my phobia, so I can’t say I have *selected* to “face your fear,” as Mrs. Roosevelt suggests.

However, I now know that I no longer need to fear Excel and that it can and will be a useful tool.

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