I'm going to raise the question of whether it matters how early we come to this stuff... I've never even wondered if I was tech savvy, mostly because I was playing computer programming games at the age of 8. I never had very much fear of failure because I always was confident in my ability to fix it (and I understand the importance of backups!) I think in many ways it's like speaking a foreign language. If you're lucky enough to be raised bilingual, then you may never consider the challenges of learning a second language... but that doesn't mean others can't learn at other times and in other ways.
You will never become tech-savvy (if you believe that)
What is tech-savvyness? Why do some people have it and other don’t? If it’s something that is learned, does this mean that you can teach it?
I’ve been thinking about these questions (and more) lately, and there are a number of different answers. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Tech savvyness is a combination of knowledge and attitude, of strong ability and a willingness to try and fail.
Let’s unpack these a bit.
Knowledge and Ability
Yes, to be tech savvy, you must know some stuff. But what stuff? For a start, you should know the stuff that you’ve already learned. If you figure something new out, write it down. Keep a notebook of tech things you know how to do, stick post-it notes to your monitor, or better yet, create an Evernote notebook with screenshots.
But how much stuff do you have to know? Well, to be competent, you must know the basics. If you know nothing, you can’t be tech savvy. I’ll use a web browser for example. You should know how to: change the homepage, find the settings and clear your saved passwords and history, how to check for and install updates, how to open and use new tabs, how to search google without going to google.com, etc.
Good news: Don’t disqualify yourself just yet, because like in all skills, tech-savvyness has a spectrum.
You can start off by being a little bit knowledgeable and increase from there.
But, if you don’t know much (or anything), how do you learn? If being tech-savvy is a seemingly innate ability to figure stuff out, then how do you become it if you don’t know anything to begin with?
Attitude is Everything
Yes my friends, tech savvyness is not for the faint of heart. Not only do you have to attempt to figure it out, you have to continue to attempt to figure it out until you succeed. If you don’t try, you don’t really learn.
And once you learn, you have to remember. Isn’t that nice and cyclical? They call that a positive feedback loop.
When you come to a tech challenge, having knowledge gives you the ability to try different solutions, and having a good attitude enables you to continue trying (through failure), solve the problem, and then build more knowledge!
(please excuse my toddler-level drawing skills)
And that, I think, is how you become progressively more tech-savvy.
So, tell me:
What are you trying to become more tech-savvy at?
Or if technology isn’t your thing, in what other areas of your life are you trying to become more savvy?
I have sooo many tech-things I'm trying to dig into more effectively in terms of programming and software. As long as I take it in small chunks, I can pick up the information I need. But I can really get overwhelmed by trying to take in too much info at once.
That said, I am completely unsavvy with automobiles. I'm not interested in learning, and I have no patience with the things. I feel like I should -- but not enough to take the time to learn it, though.
I'm working hard at drawing some boundaries on which subjects are worth large chunks of time and which are clearly not (for me).
I had a key revelation! Ready? It's really important to know what's hard to do and what should be easy.
So many times I've tried and failed, but because I knew the problem was hard to solve, I kept at it. The other day I was trying to set up a development environment on my Mac. I knew it would be hard so I read a lot tried some stuff and failed a lot because I really didn't know what I was doing.
Then I ran into a brick wall that I thought should have been easy. I got really discouraged because I thought, I'm doing something stupid that I can't understand at all!!! In this case I had to dip into line commands and touch invisible files on my mac to configure apache so my .htaccess rewrites would recognize the file paths in the php code. See? That's tech saavy, except I don't know what any of that really means.
It wasn't until I checked with my super tech-savvy friend who then took 3 hours to figure out the problem, doing many of the things I had been trying. He said, "Yeah, this stuff is hard."
I wish I had known that before I thought I was doing something stupid.
So, knowing something should be simple, and running into a problem anyway tells you it's not you that's the problem. Working on something you know is really hard tells you it's not you that's the problem. In contrast, sometimes it is you that's the problem and you just need to go have a cupcake and come back to it.
Revelation? For me, yes!
I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I'm trying to become more savvy at basic typing. I thought installing Dragon NaturallySpeaking would prevent me from having to become a better typist, but the slow and error-prone typing I do holds me back big-time. It's an easy fix - just take one of a bazillion free online classes - with a huge upside. Yet somehow, I haven't developed the attitude to start.
Can I get clarification on something though (time allowing)? You wrote, "If you figure something new out, write it down. Keep a notebook of tech things you know how to do, stick post-it notes to your monitor, or better yet, create an Evernote notebook with screenshots." When I read that, I thought, "Really? People are going to do that? Even someone like me - with an operational and documenting mindset - wouldn't do this regularly." So I need help determining where to draw the line of a new insight being important enough to document. Have any tips or resources for that?
You nailed it with the way you described attitude. For me, it's all about staying curious enough to figure it out even after several failed attempts. I notice the people who hate technology are the ones who quit something after one or two tries.
The tech-y thing my brain is currently trying to figure out has to do with integrations. As I add things to my business, I realize how many pieces have to come into play: shopping cart, payment system, sign-up forms, mailing list segments, document hosting...and it seems to be such a custom solution for each situation that it's hard to google. Lots of trial and error and testing and reworking :)
I just learned how to swap the CTRL and FN keys on my new laptop. I looked online on all the forums (usually, if I have trouble with something, other people have as well.) but the answer was to restart the computer and enter the BIOS to adjust the settings. I was scared to brick my new computer, but I didn't want to deal with the CTRL button in the wrong spot forever, so I wrote down all the instructions. It took me a couple of tries because the instructions weren't explicit in places, but I did it!
Now I want to learn what command line is and writing and executing macros. Apparently that's like the very bottom level of programming, and I want to see what I can automate with that.
@sarahemily Good question, Sarah! Seems to me that matters hugely. It also matters just *what kind of technology* you're talking about -
Ferinstance, I learned early and often how to figure out how *mechanical* things work, and what they do... won a contest when I was a kid, by identifying obscure antique (mostly iron - anybody here remember iron?!) tools and farm equipment, and what they were used for, at a local museum. Electrons and bits and bytes, I don't so much understand the "nuts and bolts" of (see where my brain goes? :) ) I can tell by looking, that if I poke this "wrong" it'll snap shut, or that part will fall down... and it's governed by gravity and other physical rules that don't change depending on who designed the part or what brand of engine it goes in...
From where I stand, much about electronic tech is nearly unpredictable, and requires understanding not only the "magic core" of the whole system, but which set of conventions the programmer was using (if any).
@joeyjoejoe Doesn't that depend on whether it seems like the sort of information that sticks easily (in which case you might not *need* to document it) or if this is the 3rd time you've had to go looking for a similar answer?
I also find that just "writing it down" means that I've entered info into a different part of my memory - may NEVER go back to the note, but the info stuck!
@remadebyhand Absolutely. My advice: Try to accomplish what you want using less services if possible. I'm really into consolidating right now.
@Shanna Mann Becoming tech-savvy is a huge rabbit hole. Once you figure one thing out, you feel empowered to move on to something harder..