Teach a man to fish

The old saying "Give a man a fish, he'll eat for the day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime." has to do with teaching someone to do something. But what if they don't want to learn?

It can be frustrating for anyone, how you can make something so easy for someone else to do and yet they still manage to screw it up. I know a few people in life like this. You can give them specific, written directions to follow, step 1, step 2, step 3 and so on... everything but hold their hand or do it for them. They still manage to blow it.

There are people who leave you scratching your head in wonder, if they really just don't get it? They try, they honestly do and yet they fall short over and over, time and again. They either rush thru things, ignore things, skip things or try to just finish it now and come back later to clear up rather than do it right from the beginning. Um, no. It doesn't always work that way. I have always asked- if you didn't have time to do it right on the first go, where are you going to find the time to do it over?

I know there are times when you need to just go slow, learn it the right way and later it will be easier and faster because you become more proficient. I get that. With written directions, specifying the order to be followed, even showing you exactly what you will see as you proceed... How do you screw it up? How does anybody not understand what they need to do?

I know that sometimes it is intentional. I have known people to intentionally do things wrong to the point of pissing off the person showing them, to where they just sack the idea of teaching them and tell them, "Nevermind, I will do it myself." This is an art in and of itself. I don't want to do this so if I mess up enough to piss them off, they will do it for me. Some people are masters of the subtleties of repeatedly pulling this off with the same person. I just don't suffer their foolishness.

My father was a master at asking where stuff was so that others would get it for him. Asking repeatedly how to do something so someone else would just do it to shut him up. He wasn't to be considered thick at all. Instead he was quite brilliant, because he could get others to do things for him that he didn't want to have to do himself. When you grow up with someone like this, once you figure it out for yourself, it is easy to spot in others when they are honestly trying and when they are not. That starving man has to WANT to learn to fish. Otherwise trying to teach him is a waste of time for everyone involved.


  1. i hear you, i have a few clients like that and sometimes it is just easier to connect to their machines and press the damn button yourself...the button if says "click here"..garh. I couldn't never do what your dad did tho...I am afraid of people thinking i am stupid....therapy here i come

  2. It is in fact an art form. I once worked with one and he was a master at doing just enough to not get fired, and get others to do the rest. If there was a mistake he would throw you under the bus in a minute.

  3. One of the dangers of giving up teaching the man to fish is that he'll become dependent upon others giving him a fish to eat. He won't go hungry, but he'll become totally addicted to handouts. Of course, some unscrupulous people rely on that, not wanting the man to learn to fish. They keep giving him a fish until he's dependent upon them, and then they start making demands, such as "vote for me or I'll stop giving you fish." It doesn't help when that manipulative person isn't even the actual source of the fish and can simply take it from hardworking fisherman by force, investing nothing in the fishing and then taking credit for giving out fish. But that is, obviously, a whole different topic.

    There used to be a TV show, I can't remember which one it was, but the joke has been repeatedly endlessly, where the man of the house was asked by his wife to do something, the dishes or something. He told his son "watch this" and then proceeded to do the absolute worst job possible at completing the task. The wife got angry and said "nevermind, I'll do it myself." Then the dad said "you see, son, that's how you get out of doing things you don't want to do." Then the son proceeded to use that psychology on the dad and the dad ended up regretting it. Living with such a person would be incredibly difficult, I imagine. I believe in the comic strip "Dilbert" the character Wally does what you describe, screwing things up he's asked to do in order to not be asked again. It seems to be a fairly common trick.

  4. You make good points, Pixie. One of my pet peeves is people who complain about their lives or situations, and then do nothing to change it, instead whining to you in the hopes that you'll do something to help them. You can't damn help someone who doesn't want to help him or her self!
    *end of rant*

  5. I used to work with a Chinese guy who was like this. Someone would try to teach him something or make him do something, and he'd play up the "I don't speaka the English so good" and then fail miserably. Then they'd leave to go do it themselves, and he'd start talking to me and having all of these intricate conversations with me. He just played dumb so he wouldn't have to work. It was brilliant in its own way but also a pile of crap.

  6. This reminds me of teaching my mother how to burn a cd or check her email. Lots of repetiton and practice I guess.


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