Archive for the ‘Chapter 1, basics’ Category

Tools of the trade – Curiosity

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

Every skill requires some kinds of tools. Troubleshooting is no exception. You may be surprised that you probably already have all the tools you need. To start, you need to be genuinely curious. And just why is that important? Curiosity is the easiest way to inspire yourself to learn. If you are truly curious, you will be driven to search for answers, you won’t just give up when things get difficult.

How do you develop curiosity? While the answer may be different for each person, the basic principle of “practice makes perfect” can bring it out of you. Practice as you would practice any skill. Remember back to your days of piano lessons, or typing class, riding a bike or driving lessons. Feel free to insert any appropriate skill in place of those I just mentioned. Were you any good at first? Of course, not. Same with curiosity. You have to keep at it, until the act of being curious becomes a part of your nature.
Have you ever noticed how easy it seems for children to learn? Language, crawling, walking? Yet it is so difficult for adults to learn a new skill. Why is that? I have a theory . The main reason adults don’t learn as fast as children is because we lose our curiosity. To infants and children, the entire world is new and exciting, just waiting to be taken in. Adults? Been there, done that. We lose our sense of wonder, of adventure. When was the last time you looked at a learning task as exciting? If you do not see learning to troubleshoot as interesting or exciting, and if you have no curiosity to find out what’s going on under the hood (so to speak), fixing your computer yourself will be just another chore, boring and stupid. And why do something boring and stupid if you can pay someone else to do it? Well, if you have that attitude, why did you buy this e-book? Reading this e-book will be sheer drudgery. I mean it. You will hate what you are doing, in any aspect of life, if you lose your sense of curiosity and wonder.
So, practice asking questions, either to yourself or to others. Ask how things work? Ask why somethingwas designed the way it was. Practice critically looking at the world around you. Do not accept everything as it is. And when you have asked these questions, go on the adventure of finding the answers. The internet is a wonderful resource of knowledge, and can be very handy. However, do not overlook other sources of knowledge. Books, educational shows on TV, working professionals.

That last suggestion may sound odd, but have you ever had someone ask you how to do something? Sure, it can be a little annoying if you just settled in to your couch to watch your favorite show, but on the other hand, wasn’t it just a little satisfying to have someone consider you an expert? Do not be annoying, of course, but ask your friends. Most of what I learned about computers was from experts who got paid to fix computers. Tap into their brains and watch them, if they are willing. You will learn a great deal that reading alone cannot teach you.

Are you feeling curious yet? I hope so. I hope you are curious about the rest of this book. I hope you are curious about whether I’ll actually get to talking directly about computers in this chapter. We’ll get there. Remember, there are still other important tools with which you should equip yourself. We still have a ways to go before we get to the actual computer in front of you.


Saturday, February 11th, 2006

I know,  you are thinking, “Just what does attitude really have to do with computers?”  Well, I’ll tell you.  While in college, I worked part time in the English department as a computer technician. Although I was far from experienced, I knew enough to solve basic problems.  For a while, I was the only person they had and my boss relied on me.  Often, I would be called to a professor’s office and told, “My computer doesn’t work.  Fix it.”

What do you do when your computer stops working?

These guys had it easy.  All they had to do was ask for help and I would come running.  I would sit down, do some diagnostics and figure out what was going on.  Once I knew where the problem was, I would fix it and allow these educated men and women resume their work.  I became a personal hero to some, because they were absolutely helpless without me.  A handful of them were embarrassed that they really had no clue how to do anything but turn on their computers and open their word processor.  I didn’t judge them.  Hey! They all had PhD’s, had obviously accomplished something with their lives.  No one can know and do everything.

While fixing, I would talk to these men and women, get to know them. It became a quest for me to spread a little knowledge. Rather than just fix the problem and go, I made sure that the professor was right there, watching me work.  I spent a little extra time explaining what I was doing. I gave them a little crash course in troubleshooting, right there. Of course, it still amazed me.  Here I was, a twenty-something kid teaching PhD’s how to fix their computers.
Through this, I learned that no matter how much education you have, your beliefs can still keep you from accomplishing your goals.  If you believe something is too hard, too scary, too complex, you might as well just pay for someone else to do it, because you are never going to get it done.

Computers?  If you see them as the enemy, as a mystery box that can’t be controlled, as a thing only experts can use, you will always be a computer dummy.  To be a good troubleshooter, you have to believe you can do it. This is not some touchy-feely garbage. One secret to any accomplishment is to have a clear vision of what you want to do.  Picturing yourself as fully capable to handle computer problems is an important step toward actually doing it. Without this vision, this attitude, the rest of this book will be a waste of your time.

There are many books on changing yourself through affirmations, visualization and so forth.  I just want you to believe in yourself. You are a capable person.  You have gotten this far in life successfully. Any mistakes you have made are just practice.  Everything you  set your mind to, you accomplish. If you believe these things, you can persist long enough to do anything. You will stop trying and startactively doing.
Remember what Yoda once said to Luke Skywalker, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Trying implies failure. You are not a failure unless you believe you are.