Everyone has heard the phase “Live and Learn”, but I think it’s time to adapt this phase to “look and learn”. Stick with me here and let me know if I start rambling. Over the past, well, forever I can remember, I’ve been mechanically somewhat gifted and generally don’t have any problems discovering how something works. This can go for one of those wind up race cars you have as a kid that breaks when you pull it back too far because you wanted it to hit a sick jump, or it can go for a Magnetic Resonance Imager. Ok, I did take a little toy car apart but haven’t had the chance to mess with an MRI machine yet. If anyone knows of one that is getting tossed I’d love to take a screwdriver to it. But I digress. The point I’m trying get to is that you should always be wanting to learn more. In my case, I generally think in a systematic way and hence am prone to wanting to look at mechanically driven items. You might be different, and that’s perfectly fine! The more diversity that we have in the world the better and more learned we all become. There is one issue that gets me to shake my head. Even in a world of smart phones and the internet at our fingertips, some people (maybe most people, I haven’t actually counted) are content to live in ignorant bliss of how things work. This becomes a problem when they refuse to attempt something because they “don’t have any idea how” to go about attacking the problem. Let’s get this straight, I’m not talking about proprietary high-end machines, rocket science, or computer science. I’m talking about simple user friendly user interfaces.

I walked into the gym to see my Athletic Trainer Coach (ATC) this morning. ATCs are essentially a cross between a physical therapist and a strength coach. You’ll find them most often in the collegiate and professional sports teams. Allen suggests I warm up on the bike before starting on the ProPio machine. The ProPio is a machine with a circular platform that you stand on, generally with one foot, and the platform begins to pitch, yaw, and roll while you do your best to keep from falling and bashing your teeth into the hand rails. The hope is that all this pitch, yaw, and roll will help strengthen your feet and ankles. Of course the unit is computer controlled. I should mention that this is not my first time on the ProPio. So after about 15 minutes on the stationary bike I head over and step up onto the ProPio, scroll through the menu, select my profile, verify that the program looks good, hit start on the computer screen, and hit the manual red start button. About this time Allen comes jogging over. He had been on the phone with tech support since the computers never seem to work in that office. He promptly hits the stop button. “What are you doing?” he asks. “Just starting the program,” I reply. He looks at the screen, “Hey, everything looks good. Let’s get you started. Oh, how did you know how to get this going?” I’m truly mystified at that last comment. The user interface has five options: Start/Stop, Back, Next, Menu, and Power. I suppose if you count the arrow keys and the pop-up keyboard the number would go up. After telling Allen pretty much those last two sentences verbatim, he admits, “Yeah, I really don’t care about this thing. So it took me about a month to figure it out.”

Why is it that people are content to just not know things? I understand the time, effort, and priorities issues. I just wrote about that earlier today. No, what I don’t understand is, when time is not an issue and you’ve already got effort invested, how people just ignore things and don’t put in the effort. As a team communicator back in the day, I hated being in charge of the radios. Why? Two reasons. First, “comm” is probably the lousiest job to have because it is thankless and whenever the communications drop out (which can happen very frequently and literally only God knows why) the communicator is blamed. I could be half a city away and it would still be my fault. The second reason is that NO ONE else wanted to learn anything about a radio. I showed, taught, and rehearsed with guys how to load their personal radios hundreds of times. A day later and they’ve “forgot” how to do it. Someone being honest would say they just didn’t want to learn it. More work for me. Oh well, those days are behind. But the ever present, “I don’t know how to…” still rings true.

So, back to the topic. Look and learn. Ever watch a young child, any age between 0-4, and how hungry they are to learn about the world? When did we lose that? Granted, some of the time they probably are very hungry for real food, not knowledge. Nonetheless, why don’t we cultivate that intellectual thirst as we grow? It’s not reasonable to learn everything out there on the internet or in all the world’s books, but one can still have an inquisitive mind. I mentioned smart phones earlier. Please note, I’m not advocating that you run around staring at the screen and putting a kink in your neck. They can become just as much a hinderance and a crutch as they can be a helper. I knew one person who would never use it even for the GPS. She got lost a lot. I knew another person who used the GPS on her smart phone almost everywhere she went. She got lost a lot too. God forbid the cell service fails.

One lesson that I told some of my junior Marines once upon a time: “Before you ask a question, look at your hand. If your smart phone is in your hand or pocket and it can answer your question, ask the smart phone first.” Again, I’m not advocating a society that is so dependent on technology that they literally get lost without it. I’m advocating for a world where people ask questions, learn from what they see, and aren’t afraid to dive into a new topic they were wondering about. After giving that advice to my Marines, you’d be surprised about how many of them started surprising me with what they knew!

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