Read the Manual, Stupid!

By Carlos Portocarrero

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reading_manual Photo by Sopues

When I was a kid, one of my best friends seemed to always have a new video game to play. I would come over and he’d be playing it and I would usually just sit there and watch. Eventually, he would get angry and throw his control around.

“This game sucks! It’s not working!”

I’d ask him what the problem was and he would say the game was broken. So I would take the box the game came in and take the manual out.

“Have you read the manual yet?”

“Dude, the manual is for losers.”

And then I would find what he needed in the manual, tell him what combination of buttons to press, and he would finally move on to the next part of the game.

Problem solved.

I’m sad to say that this happened many many times, but every time he refused to read the manual to his latest and greatest games. Which meant that, without me, he wasn’t even getting all the value for the games he paid his dad paid for. Which I never understood.

Lots of people are this way, and they just feel that reading the manual just gets in the way of the enjoyment of whatever brand-new “thing” they have just bought.

Trust me, I understand the feeling, but what I don’t understand is why you wouldn’t want to figure out how to make your digital camera take macro pictures or how to get your new phone to work as an alarm clock. If you can figure it out on your own, cool. But if you can’t and you still refuse to read the manual, you’re just being very, very stupid and stubborn.

Don’t Be A Know-It-All
Think about all the different times you buy something that comes with a manual. Do you really claim to know how all these different things work? Are you an expert at learning how to use:

  • A new gadget like a phone, TV, or camera
  • A piece of furniture (I’m looking at you Ikea)
  • A new kitchen appliance
  • A power tool
  • A car
  • A new video game/system
  • A new computer
  • Installing your cable box

I mean, you could go on and on. This weekend alone, I got a piece of furniture at Ikea and the manual was missing from one of the boxes. Did we try to figure it out ourselves? Hell no! We found it online and thanks to that we had no trouble. Then we bought a food processor—do I know how to use one of those? Nope. It even came with an instructional DVD, which is a great idea. Maybe that’s a better way of engaging those that freak out when they see a manual. Last time I checked, DVDs weren’t for “losers.”

Figuring out how to make things work is one thing. OK, maybe you figured it out the way my friend figured his games out. You’ve got it working, good for you. But what about using it efficiently or taking care of it properly? If you aren’t taking care of it or are using it wrong, you’re throwing money away and may have to replace it sooner than it was meant to. Think about your car—did you even open it up once? Ever? Seriously, you think you know enough to not even take a peek?

Other Applications
This is the part where I take a “trivial” thing like reading the manual on all the stuff you buy and apply it to a wider spectrum of stuff you can use in other parts of your life.

Reading the manual is a good way to learn how to follow directions.

It’s happened to me at work countless times: I get an email with a project or request and I shoot off a response right away saying something like:

This is a terrible idea. You can’t do it this way because that software can’t do what you think it does. And another thing….

And then after I’ve sent it, it hits me: Oops. I didn’t read the email closely enough. I was wrong and the person sending the email was right. Now I look like an idiot.

Reading instructions carefully will also make your boss like you. A LOT. Whenever I get an assignment from my boss, I read it carefully and make sure I’m addressing the exact points that he brings up. If you treat it like reading the manual, you’ll wind up giving your boss exactly what he/she asked for.

And that will make you a better employee.

And trust me, in my experience manuals are usually not the problem—99% of the manuals I’ve ever read are so easy to follow that a drunken monkey could understand them. If something isn’t working, it’s more than likely you aren’t reading the instructions carefully enough.

Does anyone else out there feel like I do about this? You got any good manual stories?

As far as I can see, reading the manual will only save you time, money, and a lot of hassle. So if that makes you a loser, lose away.

(wow that is a lame ending to this post…)

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