On the idiocy of being "smart" : how not to look like a dumb person

Since the begginings of times, people have been trying to come up with new ways to become smarter, leaner, cleaner and sexier. Surely, not having to do anything to actually get to this nirvana state would also be a more than desired plus.

Personally, I also tend to want to get some of these niceties myself, but at least I know that it’s not that easy to come to a master state, specially because I’m not at this Jedi state on none of these areas.

Back when I was starting to learn my way through all this tech stuff, I realised that if I really wanted to master something, I should do my homework and try to find out a way to learn by myself, not having to rely on someone else for everything.

Sure, there are those really smart people, which we often call our “gurus”, and to which we could try to resort to when things aren’t really working the way we had been trying to make them work.

The sad reality is, by being “gurus”, those really important and highly requested beings, these people are really illuminated and have no time to answer to each and every silly question we would like to ask them so we must find our way somehow and only resort to them as a really last resort, when everything else fails and there’s no hope anymore.

That was fine with me as I always liked the feeling of discovering new thigs by myself, understanding how things really worked and how they could be driven and manipulated in order to accomplish goals which would please me. Besides, this is fun.

By doing this, I learnt a lot and still am learning more each and every day. That’s “The Right Way”, as they say, and really is how things should be … except if you are a newcomer these days, it seems.

I’m by no means a “guru” and would surely not cassify me as one, but I think I have talked to many of these mythological beings over the years so I can tell you what you shouldn’t be doing when trying to approach them.

First of all, please, pretty please, try to do your homework before resorting to more knowledgeable people about a given subject. The more knowledgeable people would surely be pleased to help you if you show them you deserve the right to be helped.

When starting to work with a technology you do not master or even don’t know a thing about yet, the knowledgment about such a tecnology wouldn’t magically be transfered from your local guru’s brain to yours.

Even if your local “guru” is a nice person and get to waste some sentences with you about such a tecnology, do not pretend you can master all about something only by listening to some words from him/her for a couple of minutes.

Well, let’s say that if your guru can give you some initial hints without you firstly demonstrating him/her you did your homework, take it as just it : hints. Follow these hints as clues so you can start researching about the given subject and then later show him you was able to learn a lot by yourself.

Your guru will be pleased and surely will start considering you as a good padawan, a padawan worth the time spent explaining things to. The universe will start doing its magic and things will start working for you, who will also start feeling good for being admired by your peers.

Yes, that’s how “Show me the way I should follow” works. You know, “Show me the way I should follow” isn’t “Do all my work for me”. The later happens to be called “consultancy” and can be arranged for a negotiable amount of money between the involved parts.

Also, please, don’t take it as personal when someone doesn’t want to give you a “hint” about something. Remember that he/she could be really busy, not in the mood or simply exercising his/her right to ignore you if you don’t show him/her you are worth the time he/she will spent explaining things to you.

Personally, I refuse to reply to people who consistently try to use me as some sort of human search engine. Even if I do know the answer for some question, most of the time I try to Google for it before replying to someone who asked me about a given subject.

If I find out that the answer for a question someone asked can be found easily between the first and third hit returned by Google, I happen to ask the person who asked me the question if he/she really tried to research a bit about the subject before asking me about it.

The answer is a strange mix. Some people say the truth and tell me they asked me because they are in a hurry and couldn’t afford the time it would take them to search for an answer when I was readily available quickly. Sad, but at least they are saying the truth.

Some people try to lie and tell me that they tried to find an answer and had no luck despite researching for a long time. Strangely, they seem to stop the conversation right after when I show them that putting the term on Google’s search box and hitting the search button would bring the answer for their problem as the first hit.

The truth is that if you get all the answers for free from your local guru, you will never learn how to look for answers by yourself and will indefinitely depend on someone else to get your job done. Not a pleasant situation, even if you are silly enough expecting to live like a information sucker for your entire life.

When you get in a situation in which you have no workmates or available friends at hand to help you, you won’t be able to accomplish your tasks. Your boss then won’t be nice when that happens and he/she will surely start considering replacing you with someone else.

The opinion of your workmates, which by now could easily see you as a major source of loads of lost time, won’t help you keep your job either. You can be lucky and get the confidence of your workmates, but be sure that management will notice and you won’t last too much on your current position. Gurus have the tendency to be good at finding these kind of people and management also have the tendency of listening to gurus. Do the math.

Do the right think from the beggining. Do your homework, work out your own way, try as hard as possible to find out solutions for problems by yourself and only resort to your local guru when there’s no way for you to go forward about solving a given problem by yourself.

Also, even when these situations come up, try to show to your local gurus that you did your homework and explain clearly to them what you have managed to find out and where exactly you are having a hard time progressing.

This will surely help not only your local guru to help you best, but also surely will get him/her to take you as a really smart person, a person which is worth losing time with and worth  adopting as a future padawan.

8 comentários sobre “On the idiocy of being "smart" : how not to look like a dumb person

  1. I find that when it comes to do research in math one can replace your ‘guru’ by a textbook or other authors paper. If one does not try hard enough to find own solutions, but only remebers the references where to find things this will lead into the same trouble.
    Nice text. Thanks.

  2. @Tom

    First of all, thanks for the visit. As for your comments, surely, it doesn’t matter which area of knowledgment we are talking (or, in this case, writting) about. The pattern and the story is the same.

    There will always be good and bad people. And a way to distinguish good people from bad people is noticing those which does contribute with something instead of only trying to take something from you.

  3. @Karellen

    Yes, it’s a must read. I always try to point new people to this document as the first thing they need to read before pointing them to the actual tech documentation.

    It helps by letting them know that future pointers to RTFM aren’t personal and, instead, are a sign that they aren’t doing their homework correctly.

    Thanks for the visit and for your comment.

  4. I agree with you but I would be careful in suggesting to someone that he didn’t do his research only because you have found it quickly with google. The thing is, if you already know the answer you can quickly distinguish between the google hits and misses.

    An example:
    At the moment there seems to be a trend to name every application with a fancy abbreviation that – when read out normally – sounds like a common word or name. I don’t know why they do it but it makes for really frustrating google searches. For example, I found an ontology for text annotation which was called SUSANNE. Now imaging, your boss tells you to find a text annotation ontology for some language and you google for it. Now on the third hit you read something like “… maybe susanne could help you with your problem” and you think it’s a person, which let’s you continue googling for hours without end.
    Now an expert in this field will tell you – “It was in the 3rd hit! Why didn’t you find it?”.

    This may seem a really constructed example but in my experience it really IS harder to search for something when your not really sure what you really are searching. But I hope that this will be solved with the semantic web maybe…

  5. A very good and worth-reading article, thank you for putting it together so thoughtfully and with enough explanations of consequences to make it easy to grasp: sometimes I am guilty of part of what you write, but I was not aware of certain aspects (owing to my innate selfishness I suppose). You’re clearly the kind of “teacher” who goes out of his way to help others on the way you yourself are walking. Cudos for your efforts!

  6. @Gernot Hassenpflug

    Thanks for your comment. Actually, contrary to what you said (unless you’re being sarcastic and my sarcasm detector is broken), I’m not a really good teacher.

    Hell, I’m not even a teacher at all 🙂 I keep trying to teach people about things, but I’m failing miserably most of the time. However, if this post was good to you, nice. Al least I can now sleep well being sure that it was good for someone 🙂

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