No, this is not the search-your-own-soul kind of self discovery. This is about the more literal meaning of self discovery, which is discovering things on your own (that really does translate to self discovery, right?).

I’d say that this is one of the most important skills that can bring you far in life. It makes you more independent and increases your survival and gives you an edge over other people in any kind of competition. Sadly, I’m seeing less and less of this skill in my friends.

People tend to disregard the process of acquiring knowledge when there is a direct source for them to do so. I can think of no better example to use to illustrate the whole point of this post than my current knowledge and skills in computing and how other people acquire and use them. (Bear in mind that it is not the only example, just the most easiest example I can think of at this moment).

Many people have asked me where did I learn all that I know about computer, whether I’ve attended computer classes or not, etc. etc. Well, the truth is (which is also the answer I’ve been repeating each time people ask), the only computer class I have ever attended is during my lower secondary school, where my school (MRSM Gerik) have this Computer Science subject for Secondary 1 and 2. Cool. So that’s where I learn all those stuffs. Not at all. I can sum up all the things I learned during those classes: Microsoft Word 2000, Powerpoint 2000, Flash, some very basic stuffs of programming, history of computer (all those mainframe and stuffs), and also the basic working principle of computer system (the Input > Process > Output basics). And that’s all. Seriously, that’s all. They never teach me how to format computer, install Windows XP, download software, music and movies, crack games and applications, create website using XHTML and CSS, use Photoshop, all the things I know about processor, RAM, BIOS, graphic card, PCI Express, SATA, HDD, LAN, and we all know the list goes on and on and on and on…

And on… (sorry, I can’t help it 😀 )

So where did I learn all those things? With exception of XHTML and CSS (which my sister taught me only the very basic things and I went on to develop the skills on myself), pretty much all the rest that I know about computer I learned by myself. It was all self discovery. And God knows how long it takes me to learn all those stuffs. And yeah, I know how easy and compelling it is for people to just come and ask me, “What is this?”. Or even worse, “Can you do this for me?”

The thing is, pretty much everything about computer can be learned through self discovery. And the wide availability of internet just made that a hell lot more easier. There’s a vast collection of information out there telling you how to do things. You just have to look for it.

I know, it will take time and sometimes just to find out about a simple thing might take up hours and lots and lots of searching and searching and sieving through irrelevant information. I know, believe me, I’ve been through them. And I also know how you wish you can just skip all those hours and just get that damn answer. Believe me, I’ve wished that before too. And the interesting thing is, you can. You can just skip all those hours and just get that damn answer. How? By asking me. Heck, I didn’t have that luxury before.

But here’s the catch. When you have such luxury, you tend to resort to that luxury all the time. The result is, you missed the entire process of discovering it by yourself. And my friend, that is a big loss.

I see a lot of my friends are overdependent on me now for things related to computer. Whenever something is not right, the first thing you do is ask me. Whenever you want to do something that you don’t know, ask me. When you go through the same routine and questions over and over again, you began to see a pattern. And I see a pattern. You are treating me as if I am a know-it-all person. The questions and responses all suggest that you think I have so easily acquired all those information. And the most obvious pattern is, there wasn’t even a slightest hint of intention or effort by you to think and consider how you can actually find that information on your own. Heck, you have me now. What about in the future?

I’m not suggesting I am frustrated by all this (though I may sound so). I’m not suggesting that I’m tired of you guys asking me all these questions. No, it’s not that. I love giving you all the answers and explaining to you how and why things work the way they work. I love helping you do what you cannot do. But mark my word. As much as I love helping you guys, I can’t help but be saddened and frustrated by the increasing loss of the ability I see in you to discover things on your own every single time you resort to me for an easy way out. I hate to see that loss in you, and I hate it that in some way I’m facilitating that loss to happen.

There’s nothing wrong with asking people questions to get answers. But it is bad once you become overdependent on asking questions. You need to have a healthy balance between asking questions and finding the answers on your own. You need to develop that self discovery skill. Believe me, it is damn important. It will take you far.

So this is what I say. Whenever you don’t know something, try to find it out on your own first. If time is not a factor (most of the time, it isn’t), always do. Please.

I will still answer you (if I know the answer) whenever you ask me questions again. If I don’t know the answer, most of the time I’ll take the effort to go and look for the answer (at the expense of my own time) so that I can tell you the answer. I will still do this for you, because I care for my friends and I don’t keep knowledge all to myself. But please, for your own benefit, do try to find it on your own first. Please do.

And this doesn’t apply only for computer knowledge. It applies to every single area of knowledge and your everyday life. If you just got your driving licence and doesn’t know the routes to go to many places, don’t just ask people all the time. Go buy a map or something, or download map software from the internet. If you don’t know how to buy bus ticket online, go to the bus company’s website and find it out if they offer online facility or not (and if they do, for sure there’ll be instructions). If you don’t know how to apply for online banking, go to your bank’s website or call them. How hard will it be to do all those? And yes, the list goes on…

I really hope we will all change our attitude particularly in the way we find answers that’ll release us from this over dependency on other people. Go develop that self discovery skill. Take my word. It will take you far.