Despite his mother’s horror and protestations, my 18 year old son recently bought a motorcycle. It’s a Japanese, hog style machine. Ben would quite like a H.D. but that’s WAY out of his price range. The bike he got is 13 years old with 15,000 km (9,300 miles) on the dial. So he didn’t pay a lot for it. In fact, his bike clothes and safety gear cost almost as much as the used hog.
Anyway, being that he’s 18 and this is his first bike, he’s like a lamb with two tails. Not long after he departed for his third outing on his new machine I get a call. “Dad, my bike has broken down”. When I asked him to describe where he was, it was quite close to home. Close enough to get there on the fuel in the carburettor’s float chamber, I figured.
“Did you turn the fuel on, I asked?” There’s a moments silence over the phone while he checks the fuel tap. And the next thing I hear is the out loud self-loathing of a Gen Z teenager. Something along the lines of, “I’m so stupid…. I hate myself….” While I’m waiting for the rant to subside, I’m thinking: that was easy.
But I thought it too soon. Turns out he only called me AFTER he’d cranked the battery flat. Dang. Could have been an easy one. I was in the office up to my waste in alligators, so I got my wife Jay to arrange for the local automotive club to go boost his machine. For Ben, a couple lessons learned. The hard way. And an hour sitting on the side of the road to reflect on them.
I share a very similar story to this one on page 41 of The Hydraulic Troubleshooting Handbook. But unlike my son who has no motorcycle and very little mechanical experience, the narrator of that story was experienced. And this leads me to these 3 truths:
1. Troubleshooting is mostly procedural.
2. Troubleshooting is an entirely learned skill.
3. Troubleshooting is an essential life skill.
Whether we like it or not, problems in all of their various shapes and forms invade our lives daily. In and around the home. At work. And everywhere else in between. So dealing with problems, things that don’t work the way they should, is part of the human condition these days. And so the better we are at resolving faults and failures, the happier, or at least less grumpy, we’re likely to be.
In the majority of troubleshooting situations the correct response is not programmed into our DNA. Our first response it likely to be the worst response. Instead it requires the application of rational logic in sequential steps. And our brains aren’t hard wired to work this way. This means for most of us, we must pause and flick a switch. Or stop and put our troubleshooting hat on, if you like.
This also means efficient and effective troubleshooting is a skill that can be learned. And it must be learned in order to be good at it. But even when learned the process rarely if ever becomes instinctive. It must be practiced.