It is something I’ve never really understood clearly enough. Why do people roll over so readily when it comes to technology? Instead of being curious, poking, prodding, and exploring, they just roll over and give up.
I get this a lot with people who can’t use websites at all, a lot like WordPress.com or WordPress.org. What gets me is that a lot of these systems are written in a way where the programmer really has a vested interest in helping you understand. They are going way more than halfway with the design of a lot of these systems, but some people simply refuse to explore. Why are we so incurious, so resistant to exploration? Is it that daunting and I just don’t see it? So what if you broke something? That’s what IT people like me want to see. We want to see a field littered with broken technology because that shows us where we need to concentrate on making things better.
I get this a lot at work. People tell me frequently “How do you know this?” and it’s rather embarrassing to tell them that I just looked at the thing and saw what the purpose of the thing was and saw how it was supposed to be used and blindly wandered around bumping into things until I figured things out!
It’s how I learned how to drive a car. It’s how I learned Windows. It’s how I learned Mac. It’s how I learn everything. I open it up, dive in head first and start making a right proper mess out of everything. Each oops and damn and well-crap reveals more about what the system does than any manual could. Plus you get a feel for all the natural ways that people may approach new things like these bits of software. It seems so natural and simple to me that I get to wondering why more people don’t try it and see if it works for them as well.
Don’t study, don’t just sit there contemplating doing something. There is no try, there is only DO. Do it. Whatever it is. Anyone can be an instant genius if you have just a sliver of faith in yourself and absolutely zero qualms with making messes out of things. I wish more people would do this sort of thing. Go exploring. Make a mess. Take something broken apart and see how it was put together.
I’ve tried to explain the whys and the hows to people in my job and I’ve seen the same response over and over. Exasperation. People don’t want to know the why or the how, they just want simple instructions, much like “Slot A” and “Tab B”. It’s almost a kind of Pavlovian thing, someone comes to them asking them for something and all they want is just the minimum to produce minimally acceptable output and then hand it back. There isn’t any pride in that and that’s something else that bothers me. So few anymore take actual pride in their work. Even if you can’t take pride, you can at least say that it works, even if your solution is a hot mess and someone else has a much more elegant solution. At least you came up with a solution on your own! I suppose a part of what I dearly wish for would be for people to sit back and say “If I got what I’m about to give this other person, would it be correct?” And if it’s not, and you hand it off anyways, and you know it, then you are the worst kind of lazy person – willfully lazy. I just can’t stand that.
I hear the same statement from folks quite a lot, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. This statement bothers me so much and so deeply that my usual response (and usually I leave it unsaid) is “If the old dog can’t learn new tricks perhaps it’s time to take Old Yeller out behind the barn and do what must be done.” It is one of my deepest held beliefs that when you stop questioning, when you stop being curious, when you stop wanting to know – that’s when you die. Yes, the mechanical parts of you live on and you may have another thirty or forty years of meaningless shuffling yet to do, but really, you’re dead inside. When you stop wanting to know, when you stop being curious, you might as well go behind the barn and do what must be done. Living any other way is living like a sleepwalker, just shuffling through your life and the only thing you can really take pride in, the one last thing that you can contribute is carbon dioxide. That’s no way to live.
So I urge everyone to take things apart and put them together again. Find something that interests you and explore it. Do something. Take pride in doing it badly at first, but you will get better. There is so much to our world left undone, unimagined. I don’t think one lifetime is anywhere near enough to ever “have had enough” of learning. If you feel the icy grip of age sneaking up on you, fight it off with something new. Try something creative. Write, draw, sculpt, paint, sing. Any verb. Do it, do it awfully, but take joy in knowing that you are really DOING something instead of just waiting to be led out behind the barn.