Thursday, May 19, 2016

Did you ask a good question today?

Some times I wish I spent more time reading but I just love figuring things out. The little details bore me, and I do not have the patience to trudge through all those words to find the golden nugget of information.

Although people say I am smart, but in comparison to most people... I really am not. I am good at asking questions: questioning the status quo, questioning thoughts, questioning answers, and even questioning questions. Perhaps that is why I can be very dumb at times.

They say there are no stupid questions, but there are. The internet has resoundingly proved that with a lot of anger and a lot of hate. But when we say that there are no stupid questions, we really mean that I would rather that you asked and learned than not ask and remain stupid... with some reservation.

But... there is a time and place for questions. If the question is a low level question (i.e. a very general question) and the audience is a high level group, then save the question for later (i.e. a smaller group). If the audience is a low level (e.g. introduction course) group, then ask away. If you are not sure, wait till you are in a respectable sized group. Bottom line... although you should ask questions, be mindful of other people's time. It is better to take up 1-3 people's time than 10s, 100s, or an internet-worthy number of people. Time and place is more about respect to those around you.

Unlike Chelsea Handler (article below), my parents didn't have a lot of impact on that front of my life. For me, they couldn't figure a lot of things out so I suppose I got my inquisitiveness from need rather than encouragement. So fear not if you didn't come from a more curiosity-nurturing background, there is still hope for you. Lucky for you, the lesson is quite simple. Question anything, everything, or "nothing."

But we wary not to be stuck with asking "why" about everything. "Why is the sky blue?" "Why is the world round?" "Why am I here?" Although "why" is a good place to start, it does not easily lead us to the answers. The reason is that asking that question does not lead us to consider new ideas because the question does not bring us new information that we didn't already know. If we knew, then we wouldn't be asking why.

"What if" is my method of curiosity. What if I took part of A and a part of B, what will happen? What if I wore the brown shirt with the purple pants? What if I mixed Teriyaki with horseradish? Unlike asking why, we can begin to create new ideas even with a set knowledge base by re-ordering certain information. And if we cannot figure it out, we then can attempt to try.

Even questioning existing knowledge can be fascinating. To pick a sensitive topic, the existence of god. There is nothing wrong with questioning your belief to see if the new idea enforces or deters your original thoughts. If it deters, don't let a single idea threaten your belief. On a indifferent topic, the workings of a door. How does the hinge carry the weight? If the top hinge carries more weight, why are both hinges on most doors the same? Isn't it amazing how 2-3 pieces of metal can hold up the door for several years without any physical wear-and-tear to the naked eye? What if one of the hinges broke? What if we keep adding layers of paint? What if we hung on it?

Ultimately, questioning is not really about how things work but how we think things work.

Reference

This blog was inspired by this article:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-journey-from-academic-reject-semi-respectable-adult-handler