I get asked that question a lot. Which may seem strange to some of you. It may make total sense to others.
I enjoy it. It makes me smile when I can help someone else. Sometimes it's with blogs. Sometimes it's at work. Sometimes it is even off-hours.
But... I don't always answer their question. I may send them on the right way to find their own answer. That may end up better than my answer. It may not. In which case, I do take the time to help. I want to see that they have tried themselves.
Why do I enjoy it? At some point someone has answered a question for me. I do have a feeling I should give back.
So back at you Why? Why? Why?
I love it, especially when I later get questions proving that the tiny mental wheels have been turning in the background and the dots start to get connected. Recently, during one round of interviews, I was asked what I could imagine myself doing in a few years, in addition to the job itself: mentoring was my answer.
Part of the reason is that you know you really understand something when you can explain it, another part is that it forces you to keep learning (otherwise you won't have much to give back).
For me too it is the joy of seeing the other person smile after my help relieved their stress. For someone who has had his share of experiences, I realize having a guiding light or a helping hand in a challenging situation contributes in many ways. It is not always about helping the person find a solution to the problem, but some times it is giving the person confidence he/she needs to overcome the hurdle.
And @mcrapo I agree with you, when a person is hungry a better way to help him is to teach him how to cook rather than just giving him food. When I am honored to help or mentor others, I listen, I encourage and I guide. I guess it is also in our culture to do selfless good deeds. It gives us immense joy, a feeling of peace and content and few good karma points 😉
Sorry, I should have expanded more on my thought. So I am born and raised in India (currently in the US). Back home in India (being a Hindu), we are taught how we should always be ready to help others selflessly. Our grand parents read mythological stories for us at bed time, so we learn mannerism and ethics 🙂 I am grateful to my parents and grandparents for reciting those stores to me!!
I think our family, guardians - extended family has a lot to do with our ethics and what we want from life in general. Some people use them as role models. Some people as what not to do when they grow up. And most of us use a little bit of everything from family, culture, people around us. It all matters - I think.
I have no memories of my Grandfather talking about the war. (WWII). Nate, my son, has many memories of his Great-Grandfather talking about the war. I also saw both my Grandparents work very hard for everything. They went through the depression. (And I heard about it) It is amazing the wisdom they pass down to us.
I saw both my parents be managers. My Dad's style varied quite a bit from my Moms.
My sister and I grew up in the same house with the same stories. She packed up her entire family, and moved to Florida. She lives in a place with many houses grouped together. She works at Universal. She loves it. I on the other hand live on 15 acres in the country with horses, cats, and dogs. My parents live 3 houses down from me. My Mom-In-Law lives about 15 minutes from here. I love working from home. My sister would not be happy working from home. So we are very different. However, our work ethic is the same.
It's an interesting thought - and I bet there are many studies out there on how your location, culture, and beliefs are formed. In fact digging through my mind I believe I took an Ethic class in college....
Someday - I'm going to be motivated to look at history from different countries and how there accounts different from the US. It seems to me they will be extremely different.
I started answering questions in various forums as a way of learning new things - I feel that one of the best ways to learn something is "see one, do one, teach one" and answering questions/mentoring fills the "teach one part of that. But I've found I get a lot of self-satisfaction in knowing I've helped someone figure out how to do something.
I also like to give step-by-step instructions - many people who answer questions just say "do this", but they assume you know how to get there. Beginning users may not know how. Step-by-step instructions with commentary about why certain steps are needed without being condescending helps users learn not only the how, but frequently the why of a certain process.
Finally, I'm a firm believer in paying it forward. If I see you have a need and help you today, somewhere down the road when I need help, someone (not necessarily you) will be there to help me. You get back the energy that you put out into the world.
Step by step is certainly needed and appreciated. I love those type of blogs. But if I can find the answer by doing X, Y, Z - I try to lead people that way. If the answer is not easily found - then I try the step by step approach. Sometimes I help people determine the right question to ask.
It is a hard balance - when to do step by step vs. when to teach how to find the answer. I don't answer questions on forums very much anymore. Actually I've been having trouble finding time to blog too! At some point I have to finish up on my personal lcnc learning adventure.
I'm the other way around - I answer questions more than I blog. I primarily focus on the SAP Crystal Reports and SAP BusinessObjects spaces. And definitely, if the question is a common one, I'll post links to find the information or explain how to find it in the Crystal Help (which is actually quite good.) But frequently, especially with Crystal, the questions are data-specific and require step-by-step info.
I can relate to having trouble finding the time to blog - that's one of the reasons I like answering questions because it's usually pretty quick.