Wrong answer right question beats right answer wrong question everyday.
And it’s not immediately intuitive. Because we’ve spent our whole lives focusing on answers — without ever questioning why. Our lives are built around getting the “right” answer.
Because those are the structures that create us.
For some reason, we never teach people how to ask the right questions. Instead, we teach students to get A’s without asking them why should want an A, and prioritize outcomes without asking people why they matter.
Let me tell you a story about “right answer, wrong question”. Imagine a student with perfect test scores and grades. The 4.0 student. The teacher’s pet. They’ve been getting the right answer their whole life. So they attend a “top ten” institution because it’s the “right” thing to do. They work two years in consulting because it’s the “right” next step to take. They go to Harvard to get an MBA because that’s what “successful” people do.
Before you know it — this person has succeeded in every imaginable way. They’ve attained the highest “status” that our society has to offer in terms of pedigree, they make 6-figures, have a family, and get to go on lavish vacations 1–2 weeks a year.
This person is miserable.
Why? Because they never got to pursue that interest they had in sustainable energy. Because they sacrificed their 20’s working 100 hour weeks to climb a ladder that they didn’t want to climb. Because they got all of the right answers, but never stopped to ask what question they were answering.
We’re so focused on whether the “ends justify the means” that we never stop to ask ourselves whether the question at hand justifies anything at all.
It’s no wonder that we’ve moved from having mid-life crises to having quarter-life crises. When you spend 12 out of your first 18 years of life blindly following the instructions that you’ve been given — you’re not really well equipped to do any independent thinking.
But that’s exactly what today’s students need to thrive in a world full of ambiguity and countless possibilities. The fact of the matter is that college is becoming less and less relevant to modern work, and your major doesn’t define your career journey.
So if you can be anyone and do anything — how do you figure out what you want? A lot of people default to what they’ve been doing their whole lives: chasing status and recognition.
The problem with that approach is that it’s extrinsically driven. If you define your self-worth through external validation, then what you lose, by definition, is your sense of self. Enter life crisis mode.
If you’re looking to avoid your quarter/mid life crisis, it pays to be more intentional about your life journey. What question are you solving for? Are you optimizing for financial security in your early 20’s, or for life experience?
Finding the right question(s) isn’t an easy journey by any means, but it’s certainly a worthwhile one.