If you text a friend or post a question online before trying to google your own solution for at least 5 minutes, you’re just being lazy.  

 

Today’s musing is on self reliance in the age of information.  Let’s paint the picture of our modern world. Thanks to this thing called the internet, you literally have the entire wealth of knowledge in the world available to you via a computer.  Not good enough? You also have access to all the knowledge in the world inside your own pocket. Crazy right?

 

My general philosophy towards doing anything is this:  If something can have instructions written for it, then it can be learned and performed by the vast majority of people.  Subsequently, if those instructions can be written, then they are extremely likely to be readily available on the internet.

 

Yet with access to all these limitless resources we have, the majority of people when faced with a perceived challenge will ask for help instinctively instead of attempting to seek out the answer first themselves.

 

Fellow “tech” friends experience this on a regular basis.  The flow of information goes like this:

 

Friend:  Hey tech buddy!  I’m having trouble with my laptop,  X is happening can you fix it?

 

Technical Person:  Sure hang on. (Google’s “how to fix X”, then reads the first two links

 

Technical Person:  Here you go (copy pastes solution to try in message window)

 

Friend:  WOW!!!! Ur so smart, thanksssss <3 <3 <3 <3

 

I can’t tell you how many times this happened to me in college, and to some degree still happens today (though in modern times there are much more sophisticated emojis to express gratitude).

 

While it certainly is easier to ask for an immediate solution to your problem, you just don’t learn anything that way.  I’ve found that the tiny pieces of knowledge that you uncover when trying to research and solve your own problems accumulate into large domains of experience that can serve you for the rest of your life.   Aside from the pure skills themselves (whatever they may be) the boost of self confidence that comes from being able to resolve your own problems as a human being is deeply satisfying. Mark Manson believes that problem solving is the key to human happiness, and I can’t help but agree with him.  

 

“There are no stupid questions”

I disagree, I think about 95% of the questions that pop into my head are stupid and answered by a few minutes of reading and effort.  The other 5% of questions usually crop up after I’ve spent a significant amount of time answering the other 95%. Those are the only occasions when it’s appropriate to ask someone who’s better than you.  For the vast majority, I like to get out there and try and learn on my own.

 

We have established such a “get the answer now, get the solution and move on” expectation for how we interact with information.  Perhaps it’s necessary on some level just to keep moving forward, I certainly haven’t figured out a perfect balance there. But what I can tell you is that by taking a little bit longer to get to an answer, you improve yourself on the way and build just a tiny bit more of intellectual equity.  

 

Our friend from the conversation above will probably turn out just fine.  They’ll get their laptop fixed quickly, and surely will continue having other solutions spoonfed to them for years to come.  Maybe that frees their attention up to focus on what really matters (instagram and snapchat?). Or maybe they’ll wake up in 30 years and not realize they can’t remember the last time they’ve learned how to do something interesting.

Categories: Essays

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