Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
5 tips for getting the most out of your technology
Tip No. 2: Never stop learning!
Hi everyone, I’m Leo Notenboom for askleo.com. I’ve been doing a five-video series on things to help you get the most out of your technology.
Basically, I want you to think about learning and keep it at the forefront of your mind.
I want to go back in time just a little bit – back to 1977. That was a really good year for me. I met the woman who would become my wife, but I also encountered computers for the first time. As a requirement of the courses that I was taking at the university, I was required to take Engineering 141 – Introduction to Fortran programming.
I had no idea what programming was all about. I had no idea what Fortran was. As it turns out, Fortran, a programming language, at that time we were using it on mainframe computers, and I was learning how to program them using punch cards and all sorts of … oh, it would, be very old technology to you today.
It was one of those interesting moments, though, because it was pivotal in my life. Yes, this was an environment where you were expected to learn, but I did more than that. This was one of those things where I encountered computers, I encountered computer programming, and it was a watershed moment for me. This was the moment where I knew what I would be doing for the rest of my life.
The fact that people paid me to do this kind of stuff, that was just gravy. This was my passion; this was what I wanted to do. What was interesting, if I take a look back at the grades at that time is that there’s a very strong pattern in what happened through the rest of my college career.
My grades relating to technology, my grades relating to programming and computers, were all great. My grades related to just about everything else? Well, not so much.
Fast-forward now a few years to my time at Microsoft. I often considered, I often tell people that I had what I considered a two-year corporate attention span.
I was there for a little over 18 years, and I held several different positions in several different groups over that time. What I would do every time I ended up looking for a new position within the company, which was wonderful. They were very flexible about allowing you lots of opportunities company-wide, but one of the questions that I would always ask myself is what can I learn?
What would I learn from the various opportunities that I was being presented with? One of the things that I really, it took me about 10 years there to really figure this out, but one of the things that really made a difference not only to just my success within the company but my personal enjoyment of what it was I was doing was learning new things, learning new technologies, learning new concepts and so forth.
Microsoft was a wonderful place to do that.
Fast-forward a few more years to today – Ask Leo! The thing that I’ve come to the conclusion on over the last, I’ll say year or so, even though it has been true for the entire thirteen years now that I’ve been doing Ask Leo! is that everything is an experiment – literally everything that I do with Ask Leo! is an experiment of some sort.
Even these videos that you see here. What you may or may not realize is that since I started doing these roughly, weekly videos a few months ago is that each time there’s usually been something that’s just a little bit different. I’m experimenting with each video. A few weeks ago I introduced the green screen. You probably can’t see it now because I’m using it to provide a white background but there’s a green piece of cloth behind me.
That was new; that was something that allowed me to experiment with, “How would it look?” How do I do it? How do I do it in the software? How do I do it in the camera? What kind of adjustments do I need to make and so forth? Learning. It’s all about learning and learning new things.
Hopefully, hopefully, each video that I do is just a little bit better than the one preceding it. If nothing else, it’s a little bit different as I try new things each time. Learning. That’s why I’m in this industry. That’s one of the reasons that I love this industry, because as you know, there is always something new.
Again, to talk about the videos that I’m doing here today, the fact that I can do this by myself in a reasonable amount of time with a reasonable amount of equipment is something unheard of as short as ten years ago, maybe fifteen, but the fact that I can do this, that anyone can do this is an amazing amount of opportunity for people.
Yep, it requires that we learn some new tools and new techniques to make it happen but the possibilities are incredible. What I’m hoping for you to take away from all this is that I would really like you to embrace learning. I think that you will have a better time with technology; it will serve you better the more willing you are to learn new things.
I didn’t ask you in the previous video to just embrace change. If anything, I asked you simply to make change a decision as opposed to a frustrated reaction. Today I am asking you to embrace learning, because it really does improve your experience, especially in the face of this seemingly constant change that we’re faced with, and learning actually improves your memory and your faculties.
It’s one of those things that we keep coming back to, especially as we age. that says, you know, the more things you do, the more you exercise your mind, the longer it lasts. Given what I do, and what I expect out of this industry for the next 50 years, I expect to be around and hopefully have an agile mind for a really long time because lord knows I exercise everyday in one fashion or another.
There is plenty of opportunity for learning. There just is. Some of it is in fact, by choice. You don’t have to learn how to do videos. You don’t have to learn how to do Word. You don’t have to learn how to do pictures or communicate with email. These things are just opportunities for you and you can choose to learn how to do them, and I encourage you to pick the ones that are interesting and actually embrace learning about them and how to do them well.
Some, on the other hand, are kind of inevitable. You can delay some change as I talked about in the previous video, but ultimately things do change. Sometimes things just will change. Those are opportunities for you to continue this embracing of learning; this ability to willingly go forth and try and learn what’s new, how things work, how things have changed and what’s going on.
Embracing the learning mindset is really what I’ll say one of the nuggets, the real core of this tip about making technology work better for you, because if you can do that, if you can know that every time you may end up having to learn something new and you look forward to that, you’ll have a much, much better time.
So, some examples. I mean everybody’s at a different place when it comes to technology, so I’m going to start at the beginning. One of the things that I encourage people to do and that I wish more people did is to invest in what I’ll call the basics. These are things that a lot of people simply fly by.
They don’t bother looking at the stuff out there; they’re just so focused on getting what it is they need to get done, done, that they’re not willing to, or they don’t take the time, to invest in really learning about the bigger picture.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, and in fact, some concepts like some I’m going to list here in a minute, they’re platform independent. It doesn’t matter what computer you use; it doesn’t matter what operating system you use; it doesn’t matter actually in some case, what technology you use.
But concepts like disks and files and folders, every platform has them. Even the camera that I’m staring at right now. It has files and folders on it. It’s recording this video to a file in a folder on a disk.
Cut, copy, paste, the clipboard, every operating system has it. Windows, Linux, Mac, the concepts are all there. The concepts are actually all the same.
Window operations. When we talk about how you open and close windows, the fact that windows can contain things. The fact that windows are on top of each other and can cover each other up and you can move them around and so forth. These too are concepts that are common to all of the operating systems that you might encounter. These are things that are worth investing in, that are worth learning about to make your experience a little bit smoother, a little bit easier and a little bit more fun.
If we dig down just a little bit deeper, we go that next level down, then yeah, the devil, as they say, is in the details. The things, the way you might use some of those concepts (cut, copy, paste is the one that I’ll use here) for example, might be different on those different platforms and yes, especially for someone like me who is constantly going between platforms, I’m constantly using Mac, I’m using Windows, I’m using Linux, it gets to be challenging to realize that say, copy, just edit copy on a menu, which in fact, maybe on the edit menu on each of those platforms is actually a different keystroke on each of those platforms.
What is Ctrl C in Windows for copy is a Command C on a Macintosh and I’m constantly getting the two confused. And it’s a Control Insert on Linux so there are definitely differences, but obviously not everybody’s going to be platform hopping like I do. This is where it really pays to understand your platform, learn about it and get familiar with it.
Understanding Ctrl C, Ctrl V for copy/paste – that can really speed up and really make your experience editing documents, typing in emails, significantly easier, significantly less tedious and significantly more productive. It’s worth investing the time in understanding the concepts behind the things you use everyday even after it changes, and in fact, especially after it changes. Now, I’m not saying copy/paste is going to change.
Copy/paste for example, has been this way for decades – literally decades in Windows, but there are other things that you may use everyday. And at some point, some of those things may change. This learning that you have, this understanding of the concepts behind what’s going on actually make transition into a new representation of those concepts easier.
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. One of the best pieces of advice, and in fact, it’s a piece of advice that led directly to my doing videos here for Ask Leo! is to take baby steps. You don’t have to do the whole thing all at once. Learn a little bit. Pick one thing at a time. Get comfortable with it; get familiar with it.
There are resources that you can use (obviously, I hope that you use Ask Leo! but obviously I can’t cover everything). There are lots of resources out there to help you understand and learn about the various concepts and various things that you might want to use everyday.
Take your own time! Set your own pace. This isn’t’ a race. There’s no pressure. You’re not getting graded on this stuff. The ultimate success or failure is really whether or not it works for you; whether or not you feel comfortable doing something. Take your time. You don’t have to feel this inordinate amount of pressure to make things happen quickly. Take your time; figure it out; it will be okay.
One of the things that I find, I don’t know, kind of funny, kind of ironic and maybe just a touch sad is how little some people are willing to invest in the learning that I’m talking about. What that means for you, though, is that just a little bit of learning, a little bit of understanding about the underlying technologies and tools that you’re using could make you the go-to person for a lot of other people.
It could make you the resident expert. Remember what’s the definition of an expert: An expert is just somebody that knows more than you do. Well, if you know more than the person next to you, then to them, you’re the expert. You may not want to be the expert, and that’s okay but that then becomes a choice you can make whether or not you want to serve as that expert to people around you, but the good news is that you’ll have this basis of understanding so that you are that much more productive, that much more able to do things on your own.
It’s funny; one of the terms I keep coming back to is amazement and wonder because really, a lot of technology, a lot of what I’ve talked about, the changes that I’ve seen over the last 30 years since I did, 40 years now, since I encountered the computer for the first time, it has been amazing.
It has been wonderful, and I think that one of the reasons that I have so much fun with it and one of the reasons that I really want you to also experience that amazement and wonder; I want you to be less frustrated, like I said in the last video. I want you to have fun with technology and use it in ways that you find productive and useful.
Ultimately, the more you learn about technology, the better you’ll be at it. You’ll be less frustrated with the technology that’s in front of you. There’s just so much opportunity and potential. It doesn’t really take a lot of learning, but it does take a willingness to never stop learning. That’s what I really hope you take away from today’s tip.
As always, I’m always interested in hearing your feedback on these videos, on the concepts that I’m talking about. Here’s the URL. If you are anywhere but on Ask Leo! visit that page. That’s where you’ll find the comments and the discussion relating to today’s video.
I had an interesting comment on the last video where someone was basically saying you know, you’re starting to talk about more conceptual issues than just “how to” kinds of stuff. My response is twofold to that: One is that these topics, I picked these five tips because in doing this for thirteen years, these are things that I really see getting in people’s way. These are the things that I really think that I aside from, you know, forget about tweaking this driver or fixing that particular problem with Windows, these are the concepts that I think really make fundamental differences to the way people approach technology and as a result the success that they end up having with technology.
So, yeah, I focused on a couple of, like I said, I call them “cerebral thought exercises” change, and learning are things that are more about attitude and how you approach technology. It’s not to say that I’m stopping “how to’s”; don’t worry about that. There’s plenty of that still in the queue. There are plenty of questions that are coming up.
But what I want to stress is that like I said, these are some of the things that I have seen over the course of the last 13 years that I think make the biggest difference, the single biggest difference at the highest possible level for people approaching technology, so that’s why I say, I hope you can cope with change as we talked about in the previous video and embrace learning as we’re talking about today.
The third tip coming up in the next video, there is something specific I want you do. It will be tip number three, and to be honest, it will be something that won’t surprise you and if anything it will surprise you that I haven’t talked about it yet.
So, with that in mind, again, leave a comment down below on askleo.com and I will see you next week. Thanks for watching.