It’s okay to not know what you are doing.
You know when it feels like everyone knows something that you don’t?
When I was in college I had to take a few classes in digital illustration. This was a relatively new thing. When I started college in the year 2000 photoshop was ten years old so it was just starting to catch on, and I was in one of the first digital illustration classes the college offered.
And I didn’t want to be there. I was very happy drawing with my pencil, sketchbook, and Prismacolor pencils, and painting with my watercolors. But, the class was required for illustration majors. I’m so grateful it was. However, that’s a story for a different day. This story is about Macintosh computers. Up to this point, I’d never used a Mac.
The computers of my childhood
I’d grown up using computers. My dad got one in the late 80s or early 90s, so he could more easily do his drafting work. If I remember right it wasn’t a Mac or PC (the great debate of today) but something else. He used to amaze the whole neighborhood by creating, and printing out personalized word searches and bringing them to parties. Our neighbor’s minds were blown when they found their own names in the puzzle. (It was a different time, what can I say.)
There’s a Gap in My Knowledge.
So I was no stranger to computers I’d been using them for at least 10 years. But Macintosh computers were a new breed.
So one day, about halfway through the semester I made my way to the computer lab to do my digital illustration homework. The art building and the computer lab in it were brand new. As were all the iMac computers inside. At this time the all-in-one computer had a white dome base with a monitor sticking out of the top.
Up to this point when I needed to use one the computers had always been on. I usually just picked one, signed in, and got started. But one day things were different. I sat down to use the computer and it was turned off. No amount of mouse wiggling would make it wake up. I needed to turn it on. But where was the on switch? I didn’t know, I couldn’t find it.
I looked for probably 15 minutes feeling stupider as the time ticked by. Who doesn’t know how to turn a computer on? It should be easy, right? It wasn’t I couldn’t figure it out. I had to bite the bullet.
Feeling incredibly stupid, and turned to my friend Mike —who I believe worked in the computer lab— and said, “I have a dumb question. How do I turn the computer on.”
Mike, who is luckily an incredibly nice person, said something like: “That’s not a dumb question. Apple likes to hide them. The button is here.” He showed me the place on the white dome, in the back, where the sneaky button blended into everything around it.
I’m always going to appreciate that he didn’t, at that moment, make me feel stupid. (I was doing a good enough job of that on my own.) In fact, he validated my frustration.
So here’s the thing. It’s ok to ask questions.
It’s ok to ask dumb questions. To this day I still use a Mac computer and I know how to turn it on. (Few.) But, that’s not really the point of this story. The point is that some things may seem like dumb questions but they actually aren’t. And even if they are, why not ask anyway?
The worst that can happen is that someone might make you feel silly. If they do, that’s on them.
And, most people are kind. Which means, you never know what you might learn.