My Dad Taught Me One Thing
That Has Led to Every Success I’ve Ever Had
I was an inquisitive kid. Always wanted to know things and how stuff works.
But with my Dad, It always went the same way.
Dad, what is, how is, when did, whatever.
Look it up. Figure it out.
I later decided that meant he didn’t know, but that didn’t really matter.
Today, the answer would be, Google it.
But back then, look it up meant wait until Saturday when he would drop me off at the library. I would spend an hour or so in the reference section, chasing down whatever facts I sought. By the time he came to pick me up, I usually had my answer.
Then, one magical day, our house got wired with the internet.
And by that, I mean, he bought us a set of World Book Encyclopedias. (I secretly hoped for Encyclopedia Brittanica) Wow. The world at my fingertips. One summer, I actually sat down and read the whole thing cover to cover, Aardvark to Zytemology.
Now, instead of waiting a week, I could look it up within 24 hours. The power of modern technology.
But what was that one thing he taught me that came as a result of all that?
It wasn’t patience. Didn’t have any then. Don’t have any now.
What he taught me was one of the most potent lessons I have ever known. He gave me a skill that has carried me through my entire life and has led to every success I have ever had.
He taught me to think.
Think for myself. Figure it out.
To me, that is now as natural as breathing. And with these tiny devices we carry in our pockets that contain the entire accumulated knowledge of humankind, it’s almost as quick as taking a breath.
But you still need to think. You still need to figure it out.
And it amazes me what a unique skill that is, how people will ask a question that is so simple to answer for themselves. They don’t have to wait until Saturday and go to the library.
They have to reach into their pocket. They have to Google it. But they still have to think. They have to figure out how to ask the question. They have to separate the nugget of truth from the endless stream of crap you will get in your results. They have to understand that virtually everyone trying to answer that question for you, is also trying to sell you something.
They have to think.
I guess it was natural that I would end up in computers. They operate a lot like me. I’m not saying that my brain is some sort of supercomputer, but that we are both logical. This input will produce that output. Every time.
But as I got better with computers, it seemed like the rest of the world got worse. If their toaster didn’t work, they would check to see that it was plugged in. But they would stand next to a computer that wasn’t plugged in all day, waiting for me to fix it. You say your wireless mouse quit working? Did you change the battery?
It has a battery?
It finally got to where I had to get out of IT. I couldn’t take it anymore. I should have got rich off of it, like all those people that made out like bandits on Y2K, but working with people incapable of thought just got to be too much.
Any computer problem requires the solution of the same question. What changed? It worked, and now it doesn’t. What changed? But they won’t answer that question. The question they will always answer is, What do I remember changing that I believe would have contributed to this problem.
Photography, writing, guitar. They are all skills that require one talent to master them — the ability to think.
My wife got into technology before I did. That’s how we came to own and Apple IIe computer. And it was no sooner plugged in than I wanted to know how it worked. How to make it do things. A machine that can think, and I control it. Nirvana.
And my greatest and proudest possession of all time came out of her career in technology. As soon as she got her BA, IBM recruited her. That led to an endless parade of toys and technology to get my hands and brain on.
But that one thing that I treasure above all else always reminds me of my Dad’s gift.
It was one of the notepads that all IBM employees carried with them back in the day. It was a small shirt-pocket sized notepad. The cover is a nice brown leather. And on the cover of the pad is stamped one word.