Revisiting a Commander Zero thread from a couple of days ago kick-started the muse today.
Watching people try to do in 15 minutes what some of us have been doing for 15 years and far more, is a snark-inducing moment.
It’s akin to watching someone who thinks they could perform at Carnegie Hall tomorrow, if only they had a grand piano and a tux. Yes, that’s it, clearly the only thing you lack is the tux and the instrument, then everything will be fine.
For that level of facepalm, the best therapy involves bushel baskets of rotten fruit, to take to the concert.
Perpetual blog Q.: “Hi, I’m totally clueless, but I’m in a bind, because reality. How do I suddenly become a doctor/lawyer/HAM radio extra-class operator/farmer/nurse/civil engineer/Tier I JSOC ninja gunslinger/Karate black belt/master mechanic/home contractor/nuclear physicist/electrical engineer? And by somewhere between noon and 3PM today, EST? Any help would be appreciated.”
My stock A.: Have you got a hat? One that lights up and says “Lion tamer”?
After that, you hold their hand, and walk them back to the small end, and suggest actually learning something from the beginning. You know...like you learn everything.
“Q.: How do I get rich?”
A.: Pay attention in school twenty years ago, and start working towards your goal consistently and relentlessly.
“Q.: But that’s no help…I need the money nooooooow!”
A.: Yeah. Sux to be you, huh?
Sigh. Shakes head. Goes back to stacking cans and sandbags, and cleaning weapons.
There's nothing wrong with being clueless. We all are, on any given topic. Some people know a lot about a lot of things, but nobody knows everything about everything.
But the height of arrogance is to think: "Oh, you're not very bright. Distill the essence of your wisdom to me in 15 minutes, and also your lifelong experience from 10/20/30/40/more years doing what you do, because I think I could learn it during commercial breaks from the Idiot Tube."
So, look. You can learn to do one thing from YouTube in half an hour.
Disassemble a rifle and clean it, dig a well, make a dovetail miter joint, whatever.
It won't make you an expert, but you can become an expert in that, after you do it 10 or 50 or 1000 times. That's how Ranger/SF guys get good at what they do. They don't learn how to do special secret squirrel stuff, so much as they learn how to do the basics flawlessly, every time. It isn't the 100 pitches that made that Perfect Game happen; it's the 100,000 pitches that were thrown leading up to it. I've told the story of a friend who was a multi-time Olympic skating competitor, who blew my late adolescent mind when he casually dropped that learning a simple jump was falling on your ass 500 times. And getting back up to do it again. And again. And again. It's really that basic.
The corollary is true, too. If you're too old to fall on your ass, you're never going to learn that jump. And even if you can, you aren't going to learn it today. This year? Maybe. But only if you
a) Start. And
b) Keep getting back up when you fall.
Can I set up a HAM shack right now?
But I know how to use a radio, the difference between HF/VHF/UHF, how to talk on a radio, the phonetic alphabet, etc. So I could get a basic ticket, if I study and practice. The books, and the radio, only work if you use them both, and just buying a $5K rig isn't going to make me an antenna whiz Extra-class genius by lunchtime.
Any more than just buying a $5K golf club set is going to make you Tiger Woods, or buying an ivory and ebony-inlaid 2-pc. custom pool cue is going to make you Minnesota Fats.
If you want to know stuff, you have to put in the time.
Time is the only thing you can't bank. You spend it whether you want to, or not, and you have no idea how much you have at any point in this life.
So stop frittering it away, and invest it.
Wisely would be ideal.
And realize that, just like figure skating, you're probably going to have to fall on your ass 500 times to get something down right. Plan for that, too. Case in point.
So probably better to do that work long before you need to know it.
Let alone use it.
A few years back, between jobs, I decided to learn to play drums for real, instead of just air-drumming my life away. Yes, the drum kit helped, but the six months of practice, every day, sometimes twice a day, 2-3 hours, until my arms hurt, because I could, and because it took my mind off a situation I couldn't change in the short-term, are what did it. And I'm still not Neal Peart, or Mick Fleetwood. Yet. But years later, I could cover a crapton of songs from the Who, the Stones, Pat Benatar, Tom Petty, the Cars, or even tour with AC/DC now (really, as long as drinking and drugs weren't a requirement), because I've beaten whole catalogs of those songs for real into muscle memory. I've got the broken sticks and thicker arms to prove it. And it's been a blast. And no, it ain't rocket surgery. But it was a skill set I didn't have then and do now, and is time invested.
Still on my list: HAM radio. Welding. Piano and guitar. Tai Chi. About nineteen more languages, on top of the two I have now. A pilot's license. I'll certainly die before I get through everything I'd like to learn, but I won't die wishing I'd learned things but just sat around never trying.
A lot of you just now have probably got a lot of unexpected free time on your hands.
I mean a lot. Stop frittering it away.
Make a list of what you want to learn, and a time and study schedule, and stick to it.
Invest the time. Then practice. Teach yourself to learn.
(Bonus: Focusing on something you can do for real is a great way to tune out the drumbeat - see what I did there - of panic about the 1001 things you can't affect, with everything that's going on right now. Ask me how I know.)
That's the only way you're ever going to learn to be the expert you aren't.
We're going to get through this.
We just are.
If you're not, well...it sux to be you, doesn't it?
But if you can do a thing or ten when it's over that you couldn't do when it started, it won't all be wasted downtime and old movie fests, will it?