Got a Problem? Why You Should Figure It Out Yourself

by Tara Struyk on 17 May 2012 2 comments
Photo: Ed Yourdon

An aunt of mine recently asked me what the Internet was for. Of course, she has email and knows how to use a computer, but she just couldn’t understand why I found having access to all that information so exciting.

“Well, I can look up anything!” I told her — and I often do. Whether I’m searching for statistics for a story I’m writing or I’m just trying to remember what that great restaurant we went to a few years back was called, I can call the information up any time I want.

My aunt, though, is from a different generation — one that I have a hard time even imagining. If you wanted to know something, you could find it in a book, you could ask around, or you just figure it out for yourself. While I won’t be giving up my Internet connection, like, ever, I’m wondering why I don’t take the time to figure things out myself more often, rather than running straight to Google. Come to think of it, there are some good reasons for taking the extra time. Here are a few. (See also: Can You Buy Your Way Out of the Rat Race?)

Because You Can

I think sometimes when we don’t know something, our egos automatically kick in. Either we don’t want to admit we don’t know it, or we want to skip over the part where we’re left feeling stupid and find the answer right away. At the same time, there really isn’t anything wrong with not knowing the answer to a question or not knowing how to complete a task. Learning those things is what life’s all about. Most people who want to understand a complex scientific theory or know the 100,000th digit of pi will probably have to visit Google, but there are many things we can solve all on our own — especially when we have to. Have you ever been stranded somewhere with few resources and been forced to find a solution to a problem? Getting that tent set up without the forgotten poles is something you could easily solve with a trip to the camping store, but doing it yourself will leave you feeling exultant — and you’ll have a great story to tell your friends. Try the same strategy when you aren’t quite as stuck.

Because If Can’t, You Can Learn

Let’s get back to ego again. It can make learning things very difficult. Actually, it can prevent us from even trying to learn things. You can’t fail if you don’t even start. Just to be clear, I’m not speaking as someone who’s mastered the art of self-education; when my ultra-complicated recipe fails or I can’t figure out how to put the doohikey that fell off my car back on again, my tendency is to throw it aside in a huff and never go back to it. I feel stupid, and I just don’t want to go there. Sometimes, though, I manage to peek past my own pride and look at what went wrong. Often, it’s something really simple, and if I’m patient enough, a solution will usually come to me. And boy do I feel smug when it does.

Because You’re Always Available

There’s nothing wrong with asking friends and family for help and advice, but there’s something to be said for self-sufficiency. After all, help isn’t always available (or helpful), but chances are you’ll always be on the scene of your own personal problems and disasters. If you believe other people have the answers, why not put the same stock in yourself?

Because You Can Afford Your Own Labor

Figuring something out for yourself often involves doing something for yourself too. In many cases, this can be a great way to learn something new and save some money. Yes, your time has value, but if you aren’t busy, why not try your hand at fixing a household appliance or changing your own motor oil rather than paying someone else to do it? Google might come in handy here, but even if you pull in a few references, there’ll still be plenty of confusing bits left for you to sort out on your own. If you learn to do a few things like this, the savings will really add up.

We have access to so many resources these days, it’s possible to eliminate having to do much of anything at all (besides working to pay someone else to do it!). So here’s a salute to the art of figuring things out ourselves. I think I’ll try to do it a little more often. After all, if it doesn’t work out, I can always Google it.

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Meg Favreau's picture

I recently was reminded how satisfying it is to teach yourself something. I had 3D footage to edit, but instead of asking my friend who knows how to do it, I downloaded the Final Cut plugin and taught myself through a combination of online tutorials and trial and error. Having my friend teach me would have been great, too -- but doing it alone, I felt like I had really accomplished something when I got it right.

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suzemagoo

We have become increasingly self sufficient beyond the ordinary for not only how it saves money but avoids the hassle we increasingly get from professionals who are just flat out incompetent or should know better but attempt the rip off anyway.