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## Getting Over Excel Phobia

When I was in high school, I took a statistics class, which to this day leaves me in abject panic when I encounter anything related to statistics.

Our teacher decided that since we were an “honors” class, the best way for us to learn statistics was to find errors in a statistics book. It didn’t work, for obvious reasons. If you don’t know what you’re looking at, how can you tell it’s wrong?

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

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

I tell the story of how my phobia about statistics led to a phobia about Excel—because Excel uses statistical symbols and formulas.

Every time a client has suggested that an Excel worksheet is the easiest way to manage the data in question, I’ve found some other more laborious task.

A former colleague once showed me that I could use an Excel spreadsheet to alphabetize names and prioritize data. In fact, she set up the worksheet, showed me how to do it, and while showing me, did it for me—bless her heart.

Although I now knew it could be helpful in certain situations, I never learned to use Excel alone.

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

In an absolute 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 also managed to get a sub-total indicator. However, when I hit 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) suggested that it might be easier if I just added 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 start? I knew that she had taken many computer related classes at her job. I didn’t realize that any of those classes were related to Excel.

My daughter told me that she worked in Excel, that she kept her budget in Excel, and that she would be able to help me. So, I sent her the worksheet – and she couldn’t do anything either.

However, she understood why the worksheet was not held accountable. It could not be properly arranged.

Over 1.5 hours, she patiently taught me how to set up each column, what I could do with the columns, and how to get the sum. I can’t tell you how grateful and relieved I was! Her matter-of-fact approach to teaching me how to use Excel calmed any fears I had.

I confidently used Excel the other day to alphabetize terms for the glossary. Boy did my job look easy!

Do I remember everything he showed me? Probably not, since I’m not likely to use Excel much in the near future.

The audit situation prompted me to face my phobia, so I can’t claim *chosen* “To see the fear in my face,” suggests Mrs. Roosevelt.

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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