Just like people and life itself, airplanes are divinely complex. But unlike people and life, an airplane comes with an awesome instruction manual called the pilot’s operating handbook (POH).
The POH is actually a legal document required by FAA regulations. Each and every individual airplane has its own POH, with its serial and N numbers tattooed into the book. That said, you can usually get a “generic” POH version, handy for general study and overall knowledge.
The modern POH is divided into standardized chapters, always presented in the same order so that you, the pilot in command, always know where to find the information you need. That said, as you fly more airplanes, you’ll find some differences in how manufacturers present the information. For instance, Cessna tends to use tables for performance data, whereas Piper prefers graphs.
Newer airplanes have fatter books; older ones tend to be skinnier. But thick or thin, the POH is your guide to understanding your airplane. What makes it tick? Which fuels and oils make it happy? How much room and time does it need for various operations? How much can it carry? And, perhaps most importantly, what can go wrong and how to make it right again?
So, spend some time with your POH every night. And as to the instruction manual-free people and life? Well, yeah, good luck with those.