Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Read the Manual (RTFM)

There is a stereotype around that men will not read the manual.  We see it on TV all the time.  A guy gets something from IKEA, he looks at the manual, and chucks it.  It's a TV stand, how hard could it be?  The next scene is inevitably the guy sitting his TV on the now built stand and everything collapsing.

I may get yelled at for this story, but here it goes.  My step dad got a new TV, a large LCD 1080p TV.  He has permanent gray bars on the sides making everything look like it's 4x9 instead of the 16x9 it should be.  I went down there a while ago and casually said "you've just got to check the manual and you can take care of that problem."  Several weeks latter I went back down and the bars were still there.  From what my mother tells me, not reading the manual is a common thing for him.

This kind of thinking can be seen elsewhere.  How many of you know someone who refuses to ask for directions?  This comes from an innate fear of showing weakness.  If you have to ask for help by asking directions or reading the manual then you show that you lack in some way.  This probably comes from way back in the day when man was fighting the tigers for dinner.  If you hesitated or showed weakness, you were probably dead.

In the modern times, this way of thinking needs to end.  Yes, asking for help will show that you are lacking somewhere, but if you ask for help it shows that you are also willing to improve yourself.  If you ask for and get directions, suddenly you're not lacking in that area any more.  If you read the manual, you now know more then you did before.  And that is where the human strength lies; not in our muscles, but our minds.  Anything we can do to improve our minds increases our strength.

There are advantages to reading manuals.  Even if you know exactly how to use the new item you just picked up, reading the manual can teach you the little things you may not have learned just by poking at it.  Look at something like Adobe Premature, an insanely complex program, but you could learn it just by poking at it.  However, if you read the manual you learn the little things that can't be found just by poking, and you're better for it.

There are also disadvantages to reading manuals.  Sometimes they're wrong.  I got a riding mower a little while ago.  The first thing I did, even before I got it home, was read the manual.  There wasn't anything in there I wouldn't have learned just by poking at it, but in the long run it was much faster.  The problem came when I tried to turn the engine over for the first time.  The manual said to make sure the throttle was set to turtle, the accessory transmission was disengaged, and turn the key.  I did that and nothing happened.  Turns out the throttle needed to be in the exact opposite position, up past the rabbit where the choke is.  It wasn't labeled, but I would have figured it out fairly quickly if I hadn't read the manual.  Luckily the nice lady from down the street, who knows more about that kind of thing then I do, happened to drive down the street at that moment and pointed out what I did wrong.

So don't be afraid to ask for help, don't be afraid to read the manual.  It'll make you a better person and possibly save your TV.

As with most everything I write, this should not be taken as proof of anything.  I just go with what I see and think up things from there.  I have no scientific evidence or background.  The reason why may not be 100% accurate, but the advice is still useful.

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