Don’t always rule out the simplest explanation

A few days ago I noticed that my laptop was booting up much slower than before, at least 20 seconds slower I would say. I checked if there were any programs being automatically started by Windows that might’ve slowed the computer down. Nope. No viruses on the computer either.

I then went into the BIOS setup and checked if there was some change in configuration. Then, it hit me. The bootup sequence checked the CD ROM drive as well and, in my infinite wisdom, I’d forgotten that I’d left a CD in the drive by mistake. I took it out and the laptop’s boot up speed was back to normal.

A little while earlier, I was trying to plug in my laptop into a power strip but the power wasn’t going through to my laptop. I checked the connections but everything was fine. Further checking made me realize that I’d inserted a similar looking but completely different plug into the socket. A smile and a correction later, I’m back on power.

These two examples should not be construed as reasons for my declining mental faculties. (You may make a case for that under different circumstances but that’s a whole other can of worms.) My reason for writing about these two incidents is that we sometimes tend look for complicated solutions / explanations without checking for the simplest ones.

The simplest explanations are not always the solution to a problem, but they are surprisingly the solution a great deal more often than you think*. (All I have to go on here is my experience — I don’t have any empirical studies to back this up.)

So, the next time you face a problem, resist the urge to panic and hyperventilate and check the obvious, simple explanations. Chances are you may figure out a solution without too much panicking. If the simple solution route doesn’t work, you can always check for the complicated ones later and panic to your heart’s content.

Just to reiterate: I am not saying that the simplest solution is always the correct one. I am saying that you should consider the possibility that it might be and rule it out before investigating further.

* – This is probably the reason why customer service people will ask you things like, “Is the power switch on?”

P.S.: Occam’s Razor is a term that’s you hear when people talk about looking for simple solutions.

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