We watch open-mouthed as these talented athletes in dozens of categories seem to defy gravity and control their bodies and minds in ways most of us can't even imagine.
Same thing is true in other categories --- If you don't know how to cook, you don't sign up to cater your (soon-to-be-former) best friends' daughter's wedding. If you can't balance your own checkbook, you don't offer to help your friend prepare for his tax audit. We know where are skills are, and we are pretty honest in reporting them to others.
Except....you knew there was an "except" coming, didn't you?
Except for driving - I think 100% of Americans think they have above-average driving skills. And at least 20% think they areextraordinarily talented. And it gets them into trouble. They take chances they shouldn't and are usually oblivious to the wake of dangerous maneuvers and annoyed responses their idiocy leaves behind. When they eventually cause an accident, I think they are genuinely surprised----they never understood all the hundreds of times they were almost in an accident and the statistical inevitability of this one.
Except for singing - this one's not as pervasive; there are a huge group of people who will refuse to sing (and with some we should be grateful for the choice...but with others, it's sad they've had the joy of singing taken away from them by some negative voice in the past). BUT, and one night of American Idol auditions will prove this observations: there are many many people who think they are world-class singers. Not only are the absolutely sure of their own skill, they think they are above all feedback and critique. Of course, the irony there is that truly skills performers (in any arena) relish feedback as the path to improvement, not matter how hard it is to hear. So the very act of defiantly refusing criticism is a marker for inflated self-value of a skill.
We know how to do something fairly well, and we do it.
We know we don't have skill, and wisely don't attempt it.
We THINK we have great skill, and we act like idiots.
So where do computer skills fall in this?
Many people seem to want to classify really learning and using a computer well as something they cannot do today and don't want to learn how to do -- like high diving or sky diving. In today's world, however, choice or circumstance forces them to use the computer frequently -- "I know just enough to be dangerous" is a common refrain...and they punch the keys and click the mouse, but don't seem to really understand...or make an effort to learn. It's a 4th category: actively rejecting increasing skill while working at the task. WHY?
I worked with a woman a long time ago who printed our beautiful spreadsheets for meetings. One day I got the electronic version and found that all the data was hard-coded. There was not one calculation in the spreadsheet--she had done it all on a calculator and typed it into Excel. Even after I showed her how to use Excel for this task (something would have saved hours every week), she refused to use it. She just "wasn't comfortable."
I don't know how to respond to the juxtaposition of acknowledge lack of skill, on-going use of the tool, and unwillingness to augment skill. The spreadsheet case was extreme, but by no means unique.
I think the key to maintaining this attitude is a rationalization that anyone who's good at computers has an unfair natural advantage... like some freakishly supple gymnast, chess savant, or a 7' tall basketball star. How can you be expected to compete with that? So, throw up your hands, roll your eyes, and keep banging on the keys and talking about how "it" does things to mess you up or "it" won't let you do something.
I know next to nothing about true computer skills: actually developing software or working with hardware. I would never attempt either, without a serious investment in training.
I do know a lot about using applications. And I've worked hard to increase my knowledge and skill as new tools become available. Yes, I've actually read the manual.
At the same time, I agree: Natural talent or tendency plays a role. Computers just make more sense to some of us than to others. But, and this is critical....90% of what I know about computers, I learned by playing around and seeing what happened---click the mouse and pushing the buttons just like those say they don't really understand...but the secret is, I then PAY ATTENTION to how things work or didn't work.
I learn and adjust...just like you do with any skill.
I guess my point is: if you are a person who routine throws up your hands at computers and rolls your eyes at the "nerd" who understand them....I challenge you to think about other parts of your life where you have strong skills:
How did you get them? How do you maintain them?You built them over time. You practice them regularly. You use feedback (from others, from the universe) to identify where to focus your energy to improve.
Let's remove the rationalization that you're just not computer-oriented.
It's a skill. You've learned many before; this one is no different.
Be willing to work past the frustration point -- that's where learning occurs!
You have to go through it; stopping short will never get to the destination.
Take down the wall that you "can't."
I know you. You can.