Why is this fucking thing not working?

A friend teaches you a great shortcut on your computer. You can clearly see how it’ll make your life better. You try it a few times before moving on with your work, happy you’ve learned something new.

A few days later it’s as if that moment never existed. The shortcut is only a distant memory.

bang head here

This doesn’t only happen to your grandmother, by the way. We all make the same mistake.

We tend to believe that we’ve made it to the finish line as soon as an explanation makes sense: “OK, I think I get it. Let’s move on.”

Wake up call: you don’t get it. 

If you didn’t do the work yourself, if you didn’t make the mistakes, if you didn’t figure out the solution on your own, YOU DON’T GET IT.

Here’s another classic example:

  • The math teacher explains a concept to class.
  • It seems perfectly clear to you.
  • The teacher goes through a few examples, step by step.
  • Not only do you get it, but it’s already starting to feel easy.
  • The teacher gives you a simple test.
  • You blank. You don’t even know where you’re supposed to start.

Sound familiar?

I like how Steven Pressfield put it in his new book Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit:

[…] the way you really learn:
– Alone at your keyboard.
– Alone in the dance studio.
– Alone in the darkroom.
Trying to answer the Eternal Question: “Why is this fucking thing not working?”

I can show you the fastest route to learning a new skill, but until you wade through the tough times yourself, you won’t make it to the finish line.

You knew this as a kid, you just forgot about it at some point. Just the other day, I watched my 16-month-old son open and close a door for a half an hour straight.

He’s going to continue with this obsessive-compulsive behavior until opening and closing doors isn’t a challenge anymore, regardless of size, shape, or knob design.

So, next time you think you understand something new, ask yourself: did I go through the “why is this fucking thing not working” phase?

If not, go back to opening and closing doors.

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