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Don’t teach me how to FISH!

Updated: May 15

A person beside a lake, holding a fishing rod while reeling it

Old saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Many, many computer consultants believe strongly in this principle.

The problem is this: you’re not going to always get the opportunity to teach fishing. This principle only works if it’s shared by both the teacher and the student. Some of your customers just want the damn fish. They know you can teach them the “right” way, but they might just want the “right now” way.

You have a choice of how to react when they refuse your suggestion of teaching them the answer:

1) refuse to help unless they learn the right way 2) get irritated by it 3) accept it and help them 4) delight in years of job security

The longer you do IT consulting, the more you will likely pick a higher number. Some IT folks see the customers’ disinterest in learning the HOW as a sign of disrespect or ignorance. Others see it as laziness.

How do you know which method to use with a customer? The “right” answer or the “right now” answer. That’s easy. Just ask.

“Do you want the quick fix or do you want me to show you how to do this yourself?” “Do you want the 5 second answer or the 2 minute one? The 2 minute one includes the ability to never have to ask me again.” “Do you have a moment for me to show you how to be self-reliant on this?”

Software used to come with huge manuals back in the day. Then software manufacturers learned that people just weren’t opening them. And the how-to books folks were buying in bookstores were largely unopened. So “not learning how to do it yourself” has been a consistent PC user behavior for over 25 years.

If you’re discouraged by this, take some comfort in knowing that as long as there are people who don’t really want to learn how, you will be in demand. You might not like having to answer the same questions over and over again, but there are worse jobs.

Or there are these jobs…

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