Monday, June 19, 2017

Question Everything: What questions matter to you?

The questions you ask determine the answers you get.

I question everything.  It's not always endearing, but it's what I do.  And when I post under the "Question Everything" tag, I tend to pose questions and not try to give answers.  It's more than just because I know I don't have all the answers and want to remain mostly neutral.  It's because sometimes, the answers are less important than the questions are.  Sometimes, the exercise of thinking through the question leads to new ideas, new possibilities.  But even more important than that?  Knowing the right questions to ask.

Let's say you're watching someone play taiko and taking a look at their skills.  Do you ask "how could I make them better?"  "Am I better than them?"  "What can I learn from watching them?"  Maybe you ask multiple questions, which is good!  But think of the questions in this case, not the answers.

If you can look back at the questions raised your head, what do they say about your thoughts and motivations?  What kind of answers do they lead you to?  I'm not asking what answers you actually get, I'm asking what categories of answers open up depending on the questions asked.

So let's take the previous example above, watching someone play taiko.  If you're asking questions about how to improve their skills, how to make them "better" (whether or not you have the opportunity to do so), then your answers are going to be more specific, more focused.  But are they slanted towards a sense that you can improve on what you see?  Or that you want to show off how much better you think you are?  Which category do the questions you ask fall into?

Do you compare yourself to them?  Do you ask if you're better than them?  Are you trying to find reasons to put your own skills down?  Or maybe trying to find ways to make yourself feel better?

Are you trying to figure out what you can learn from someone when you watch them?  Are you focusing in one area that you think is the most important, possibly missing out on other, maybe even more interesting areas?  Are you looking for something you think you might see, rather than observe what you actually see?

I could go on and on, but you get the point.  Your mindset will tend to determine the questions you ask, and therefore, the kind of answers you'll receive.  So here's a scenario: someone who can't play fast patterns might watch someone who is really good at it.  This person figures that by watching the player's hands, they'll have a chance to figure out better technique.  And so they focus intently, until they see something that seems useful in the hands.  But what if the fast hands come from being relaxed, which comes from using the body more efficiently, from the core muscles to the lower body?  The answers lie there, not where the person is focusing on.  By thinking they can find the answers in a specific area, the questions are limited and provide limited answers.

There are a lot of ways this can go, and as humans we all have biases and blinders to deal with.  I just want you to realize that a lot of the conclusions you reach are a product of the questions you allow yourself to ask.  What about the questions you haven't considered, that other people might ask?  What answers are you missing out on because of questions you haven't thought of?

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