Once upon a time, many years ago, I didn't know a thing about computers. People who know me, and especially my clients, often have trouble believing this.
But it's true; I wasn't born with some built-in ability to use computers. I started off as a complete novice, and had to learn as I went along.
In this article I'm going to explain something that I was very lucky to figure out on my own, way back when, that helped blast my computer skills into the stratosphere compared to where I started.
But first I want to tell you about a client of mine named Peter.
One day I was at Peter's office, helping him with a problem he'd had with his laptop. Peter has a problem which is very common – his computer skills never improve because he's afraid that if he tries something new, he's going to break his computer or mess things up somehow.
Maybe you've felt this way too.
So I was talking to him, and was telling him about when I first started driving. When I first got my beginners permit, I wasn't very confident about what I was doing, and would get nervous when a car passed on my left, or a mailbox was coming up on my right, so I ended up swerving slightly back and forth in the lane.
It probably looked pretty funny.
Of course, I didn't have to do this - there was lots of space on both sides, and I wasn't going to be hit by anything. All I had to do was just relax and drive instead of worrying about what might go wrong.
I've met a lot of people over the years who use their computers the way I used to drive back when I first started. And unfortunately, while I quickly got over this with driving, a lot of people never get past this problem with their computer.
The thing is, once I stopped worrying about something going wrong, and just relaxed and drove (while still, of course, paying attention to what was going on) I got a lot better at driving.
Turns out that Peter was kind of the opposite from me when he first drove. He actually “borrowed" his dad's car when he was just fourteen years old, and drove to a friend's house!
He dove right in and just did it, and probably really enjoyed himself right up until the moment a cop pulled him over!
His attitude was great, and made it a heck of a lot easier for him to drive (even without lessons) than it was for me at first when I started to drive. If he'd just balanced that out by being a little more careful (or maybe waiting until he had his license!) he might not have gotten into trouble.
The attitude Peter had when he was a teenager about driving a car is the attitude I had about using a computer when I first sat down in front of one. I dove right in and just played around with it to see where I could go with it.
But there was something else I did.
When I was exploring somewhere new with my computer, trying something I hadn't done before, I paid attention to what I was doing. I made a point of remembering how to get back to where I was, and what I did, so I could undo it if it caused a problem.
So for example if I wanted to change a setting in a program, or try doing something new in a program, I first made sure I had some idea what would happen when I did it. If I had no idea, I either looked it up, or left it alone.
If I did have some idea what I was doing, then I'd try it and see what happened, but would make sure I knew exactly what I'd clicked, and where it was so I could reverse it if I didn't like what happened.
And I'd only change one thing at a time, so if something went wrong, I knew what caused it.
The way I like to put it is “if you dig yourself a hole, bring a ladder. "
Remembering this tip, and remembering to have the right attitude when it comes to computers will do a lot to help you feel more comfortable and confident with the computer than you used to think you could.
So don't be afraid to try new things – just make sure you bring a ladder when you do!
Worth Godwin is a computer coach with a dozen years’ experience helping computer users of all levels, and has also worked for many years “in the trenches" as a hardware and software tech, solving real-world computer problems.
Worth has also been studying the human mind, and how people learn, since the early 1990s. He draws upon all of this experience, as well as his English and writing degrees, to teach people in a unique way with explanations that really make sense.
In 2006, Worth began putting his easy lessons together on CD, helping you with either Apple Mac training or Windows computer training that lets you go at your own pace, for an affordable price, with a system that is both simple and easy.