How To Learn ANYTHING

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Comic from http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2009/10/21

My purpose in this post is two-fold: 1) I want to demonstrate how you can learn just about anything on Google (some exceptions do apply; on that, I’m totally agreed with the little brown character in the comic strip), and 2) I want to show you how “Googling” can strengthen your brain; it is an exercise in mental fitness.

The Things You Can Learn on Google

What can you learn on Google? In a word, anything! My love affair with Google started several years ago when I had an issue with my computer that was very weird and difficult to explain. It started when I went to the website of a hotel that I was going to be staying in, and I needed to call to ask a question. I pulled up the website, and for a split second, I could have sworn I saw a phone number, but it wasn’t there any longer. I navigated all over that site looking for a number to call, and there was none. What a stupid hotel, I thought with contempt. What kind of business wouldn’t put a phone number on their website?

As a Realtor, the core of my business is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) where all the homes listed for sale in my geographical area are on one site, complete with all the info about the home, but also including all the contact information for the listing agent and his/her office. When one of my clients wants to see another company’s listing, no problem, I just call the listing agent or his office and make the appointment. You can see why it would be important that the phone numbers are displayed prominently on each listing. A missed call could be a missed sell. I pulled up a listing to make an appointment, and amazingly, there was no phone number! What an inept agent, I thought. I tracked down the agent by calling the MLS office (because I had that number in my phone), then called him and made the appointment. While I was at it, I politely informed him that he had forgotten to put his phone number with the listing in the MLS.

I bet you’re already figuring out that it wasn’t the hotel or the other agent that was inept, right? I had a number of similar experiences before I started to consider that maybe I and my computer were the problem! Paying closer attention when I pulled a site up, I did confirm that I was seeing a phone number for a second before it disappeared. Obviously, this was a serious issue that needed to be remedied, but I didn’t even know how to go about explaining it to a computer tech. The idea occurred to me that maybe others had had a similar problem; maybe I could find out how to explain it if I could read how others had explained it. But how do I even explain what I want to know? was my next dilemma. I got online and typed in the Google search box this phrase: disappearing phone numbers. Unbelievably, there were lots of returns! I started clicking on the links, and literally within minutes, I had found and fixed the issue myself.

This experience was above and beyond my expectations. I was hoping to find a way to explain the problem so some tech guy could fix it for me. I never expected that I would be able to fix it myself. I didn’t consider myself “techie” enough. Well, that experience changed my concept of myself for one, but it also opened up a whole new world of answers for another. I’ve been Googling ever since (amusing, this new vocabulary that has emerged in the past decade, huh?).

Before the “disappearing phone number” fiasco, I usually Googled when searching for websites that I had been to but had not bookmarked. When it came to computer issues, I was fearful of deleting my hard drive, so I left that kind of stuff to the geeky people to fix. Now, I’ve decided that I’m pretty geeky myself, thanks to Google. And Youtube also (which happens to be owned by Google, so it’s really the same thing, just a different format).

I have a friend who works for a big company fixing major computer issues. I told him, “I don’t know much about computers, but I do know about Google.” He agreed. He said, “Sometimes it’s just me and Jesus and Google.” Then he mimed clicking desperately on the keyboard while praying, “Jesus, what’s a different search term I can use???”

All my Googling isn’t only about computers, though. I have learned a fair amount about cooking and blogging and gardening and running. I’ve learned how to tie a scarf, do a burpee, roast garlic, shuffle cards, and organize my closet. I’ve learned how to get the pics I take with my iPhone onto my computer (that was before iCloud), how to pull only the audio off a DVD and then put that audio in iTunes so I can listen to it on my phone, how to stand on my head (and why I would want to), and how to do the “Mashed Potato” (the dance, not the veggie). The possibilities are endless! So much to do, so little time!

Is Google a Detriment or an Asset?

Google (and the web, as a whole) is changing the way we think and even changing the structure of the brain! People are relying more and more on the internet for their knowledge, and thus emphasis is being placed more on where to get the information (on the web) rather than actually acquiring knowledge. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as we don’t throw out all learning and real knowledge in lieu of internet factoids.

However, the kind of internet activity I have suggested in this post is not the kind that makes you mentally lazy, but rather stimulates the brain. To locate the information you are looking for may not be a stretch, but then to follow the instructions and actually do something new is exactly the kind of activity that experts encourage for creating new neural pathways in the brain. New kinds of activity are the most beneficial for the brain–not those activities that you’ve done over and over to the point of becoming an expert (like with crossword puzzles, for example).

High levels of mental activity reduce the risk of dementia by 46% compared to low levels (one of the best examples of “low-level” mental activity is watching television).  Also, it is noteworthy that mental activity benefits are particularly outstanding for older adults.

So the question remains: what do you want to Google?

By the way, those disappearing phone numbers that I wrote about? That was caused by something called a Skype Mastermind add-on. All I had to do was disable the add-on. It took about four steps and less than five minutes. All praise to the Google!

What’s on your Google learn-about or learn-to-do list? Leave me a comment!

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9 Responses to How To Learn ANYTHING

  1. Isabel Richards says:

    Funnily enough… I’ve been seeing the usefullness of Google today in my composition!
    After going to a fantastic composition workshop at university, where one of the musicians reccommended really researching an instrument in order to enable you to compose for it accurately, so I’ve been looking up lots of details about how to write for the trombone as I work on my next composition assignment! I think there’s so much value in going beyond whats required in terms of resource, and there is real wealth of resource in the internet! you just have to find it 🙂

  2. I had a wiring issue in the dashboard of my Jeep that caused all the gauges to drop to zero whenever I hit a bump. Googling it, I was able to diagnose the problem, but when I called a mechanic to have it fixed, they wanted about $400. So, I found a website that described how to fix it myself. I spent $10 at Napa, and after half an hour with my basic girlie toolkit, I solved an issue that had been annoying me for 5 years. Yay Google!

    • Diane says:

      That’s awesome, Kristen! You’ve inspired me. I’m not sure I would ever have thought of tackling a mechanical issue with Google. But now I will! Google is leveling the playing field. Knowledge is power!

  3. Rachel W says:

    At my old job, someone actually cut this comic strip out of the paper and gave it to me because everyone there knew of my love for Google. I’ve still got it! Haha

    • Diane says:

      I remember, Rachel. You posted it on Facebook, and I remembered it. I actually went to your Facebook page to try to find it when I was writing this post!

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  5. Miriam Rosser says:

    I have five rose bushes to plant and I use containers for planting (I live in a condo). The cost of huge pots has skyrocketed, and I wondered if I could my own pots by molding plaster of paris and shellacking it—something along those lines. The answers were all accessible through Google! I learned two ways to make pots from plaster of Paris. Easy and cheap processes. The main sites offered links to sites that showed how to waterproof and paint the finished pot! I’m on it!!

I love to read your comments!