Success principle #37. Question everything. | 892

My Author Journey, Friday, October 20, 2017

# 892 (countdown)

We barely ever ask fundamental questions.

We tend to take most of what our parents and grandparents did (and still do) at face value and don’t question it. We treat the definitions and interpretations that have been passed down to us by our parents and grandparents as something that is fixed. That’s called inertia and we act this way almost all the time because it is the easiest path for us.

And, what’s even more of an obstacle to our asking such questions, to us the fundamental questions mean:

“Something about our current worldview/ life philosophy might be wrong. And as a result of this finding we might come to the conclusion that the people whom we normally called weirdos aren’t at all weirdos. And since we are used to dividing people into ‘normal’ (those who share our worldview and life philosophy) and ‘weirdos’ (those who are silly enough not to share our worldview and life philosophy) someone has to be ‘normal’ and someone has to be ‘cuckoo’. If they’re not ‘cuckoo’ does it mean we were (or worse, still are)?”

Asking fundamental questions means:

  • leaving our comfort zones and giving up the feeling of security,
  • a change (often a huge one) might be needed and we all fear change because it means we lose the (illusionary) feeling of total control over our lives and agree to enter the new (potentially hostile) territory. That’s what our ancestors must have felt too when they decided that they’ll leave their cages (and I bet they procrastinated).

That’s why the fundamental questions are always being asked by those who:

  • are not afraid that others will laugh at them or that they might, oh sorry, will be labeled cuckoos / weirdos / crazy,
  • accept the simple fact they might have been wrong in the past and are willing to change their minds and won’t feel like they’ve just betrayed their past selves by so doing,
  • understand that the fact that they invested a lot of time, money and energy in something does not, in and of itself, mean that now they absolutely must stick to it,
  • are comfortable with being uncomfortable,
  • embrace change.

A Renaissance mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the center of the universe. Before him everybody believed that the Earth was at the center of the universe. This was the “truth” they’ve been telling their children.

Would Copernicus have been able to change this false belief if all he believed were the “facts” offered to him by people older than him? Of course not.

And yet, despite this obvious obstacle (the temptation to take everything we hear from people who appear more knowledgeable than we are at face value), thanks to his innate curiosity, he was able to come up with a contradictory, and also shocking at that time, theory that soon took the place of the old theory and became the new paradigm about how the world around us works.

Instead of being raised and educated with the belief that questioning authorities and status quo and asking questions is the best thing we can do, we are being forced to mindlessly memorize things that are presented to us as ultimate truths and, when asked, return them as “correct answers”. Schools do it and families do it.

We think that we should have an answer to every question our child asks us. That we will appear stupid or uneducated if we don’t. And the answers we give should be correct — that’s what we’ve been asked to do since childhood. And there was a penalty if we failed to return the correct answer.

Whenever we see more people picking a certain option (going in one direction, chasing after a certain goal, caring about a certain thing) we tend to assume that they can’t be wrong.

So many people can’t be wrong. If it was wrong we wouldn’t see so many people doing it. And if they are right, who is wrong? Someone must be wrong when someone else is right, most of us erroneously assume.

We end up either picking the same thing (because of this social proof — there is a history of people picking it), or feeling bad about having a different opinion / lifestyle / philosophy / goal in life etc. (also because of this social proof — there is a history of people picking it and we dared to think about something else).

Same thing that had been holding Nicolaus Copernicus back for at least 10 years from publishing his book Dē revolutionibus orbium coelestium. About 1532 he had basically completed his work on the manuscript but despite urging by his closest friends, he resisted openly publishing his views, not wishing — as he supposedly confessed — to risk the scorn to which he would expose himself on account of the novelty and incomprehensibility of his theses.

Remember the following line from the movie The Truman Show?

We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented.

This statement is very true and it applies to all of us. Parents are mainly responsible for the kind of reality their children will accept. More often than not it’s the reality of the world with which the parents were also once presented.

Those are stupid questions!

We decided that they are stupid. Who gave us the right to decide this.

Are they really stupid or do they merely go against everything that we believe in?

Things are just the way they are.

We decided that they are the way they are. Why? Because it’s convenient to us.

Are they really such or is it just our limited thinking/convenience?

This is how you approach work/ relationships/ parenting/ everything. Here are the clear-cut solutions to most problems.

We got used to certain patterns of behavior / one way of thinking about problems and want our children to approach things in the exact same manner.

We tend to assume that what we’ve come across in a book, talk, interview, blog post, etc. is correct/ true.

We assume that since this was published / aired it has to be correct.

It doesn’t have to be.

What if you’d have never read it?

What if this somebody would have never written/ said that?

What if you’d have never found out?

What would you use?

Reading, listening to someone’s talk, or watching it helps us understand the world and come up with our own ideas. It makes the process of connecting the dots easier. Even if we claim that our ideas/ thoughts/ theories are original there is always something, even if it’s this little, seemingly inconsequential, crumb that helped us draw our conclusions.

So by all means we should read/ listen/ watch. Especially read — a lot.

But after we have read/ listened/ watched we should say to ourselves

What if I were to ignore it? What would be different?

What if all I’ve just read or heard is essentially wrong?

What if my abandoned work/ article/ book could still have helped change someone’s life? What if it would have changed my life?

What if my seemingly stupid (in light of this new finding) thought/ idea/ concept/ understanding/ conclusion would have sparked another great idea/ thought in someone else or in myself?

Think where would still we be today if people had been too afraid to question the notion that the Earth is like a giant pizza.

Listening to audio.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (30 min. on scribd app).


Everest (30 min. on Netflix). Finished it.

One of Us (30 min. on Netflix).

YouTube videos.

Videos from Gary Vaynerchuk’s playlist called Stop Complaining

Great photographer I learned from today: Robert Capa

Recent progress on my third book: 0 min today.

My today’s answers on Quora:

Answer to Is a university degree a prerequisite for success?

Answer to What are my career options with a bachelor’s degree in history?

Music for this writing session: Ease My Mind (feat. Niki and the Dove) — Jai Wolf Remix(on Spotify, on repeat). Secrets by OneRepublic (on Spotify, on repeat). Boy by ODESZA (on Spotify, on repeat). Feel Something by Jaymes Young (on Spotify, on repeat).

My today’s route.

My today’s favorite.

My today’s photos on flickr Warsaw, October 20, 2017.