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On Being Prepared to Contribute

You'll Figure It Out

“You’ll figure it out.” The advice my mom gives has always been the same, whether addressing my high school homework or paying bills while taking a full course load in college. If I was looking for a shortcut, my mom was not going to be the one to provide it.

 

What do kids know, anyway?  When I was a kid it infuriated the hell out of me, but what I then perceived to be a lack of understanding turned out to be an important keystone in my upbringing. As an adult, I realize the value in not receiving outright solutions, but being forced to figure things out.

 

It will never escape me. Even today, when presented with a roadblock while building for the web, I am tempted to get by with the help of the latest grid system, button generator, table maker, or plugin. In and of themselves these resources are harmless, but before I can drop them in, those damn words still echo in the back of my mind: “You’ll figure it out.”

 

A quick fix is not always a lasting solution.  I know that if I blindly implement these tools as drag and drop solutions I fail to understand the intricacies behind how and why they were built; repeatedly using them as shortcuts handicaps my skill set. When I solely rely on the tools of others, my work is at their mercy, leaving me less creative and resourceful, and, thus, less able to contribute to the advancement of our industry and community. The same exact truth exists in land surveying.  Without a mentor, do you really know what you are doing?

 

One of my favorite things about this community is how generous and collaborative it can be, when we work together. I bet we can all think of a time where being able to implement a shared resource has proved a benefit to our own work and sanity. Because these resources are so valuable, it’s important that we continue to be a part of the conversation in order to further develop solutions and ideas. It’s easy to assume there’s someone smarter or more up-to-date in any one area, but with a degree of understanding and perspective, we can all participate. Surveyors can all become better surveyors on this networking community of practice.

 

I love this pattern of collaboration because it involves a fairly specific dialectical process:

  1. Initial idea or prototype is outlined or built, then shared
  2. Discuss
  3. Someone develops or improves it, then shares it
  4. Discuss
  5. Someone else develops or improves it, then shares it.
  6. Infinity.

 

This is what the network looks like when we build it together, and I’d be willing to argue that steps 2+ are absolutely crucial. A community where everyone develops their own ideas and tools independent of one another is like a room full of people talking and no one listening. Who wants to be there?

The pattern itself mimics a literal forum structure, and ideally we’d be able to follow a strand from one idea to the next and so on.

 

Off My Soapbox

This isn’t a call for everyone to learn everything all the time, but if you’re curious or interested in something, skip the shortcut and get your hands dirty: sketch, prototype, question, debate, comment, and share. Figuring these things out on our own makes us valuable contributors to the community – the thing that ultimately we’re all trying to figure out together.

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GEO Ambassador

Justin Farrow... Creator of Land Surveyors United and Mobile Apps for Land Surveyors

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