I Ask Because I Can

Synchronicity is an amazing thing for personal growth. Over the past few months a few ideas have been permeating throughout different aspects of my life, giving me no choice but to accept them as universal truths/life lessons/philosphies (or however you choose to describe them). Among the truths I’ve recently come to embrace is the importance of asking the right question.

Douglas Adams demonstrates it best in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For those unfamiliar with the comedy (and a reminder to those of you who know it), a race of hyper-intellectual, pan-dimensional beings build a super computer called Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question, of Life, the Universe, and Everything. After millions of years of processing, Deep Thought responds to their question with “42”. Of course the beings are outraged that the answer makes no sense to them, but Deep Thought sticks to the answer and explains:

“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.”

– Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

What Douglas Adams demonstrates so well is that, in order to get an answer that is meaningful, you need to be sure you’re asking the right question. You will always get the right answer to whatever question you ask. If that answer is meaningless, nonsensical, or just plain weird, it means you didn’t have the right question to begin with.

So make sure you have the right question. Spend the time to really think through what you want to know and how you’ll use that information before you ask even one person. In the words of yet another wise man: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

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