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Questions Without Answers May Just Be Poorly Worded

The dictionary: Man's Best Friend

The dictionary: Man's Best Friend

I just finished The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (full review coming later).  Ferriss makes a point late in the book that is really making me think.

[paraphrased] Questions without answers are usually just worded badly

Consider the question:

What is the meaning of life?

This question gets a lot of people worked up, but not because of the question itself.  Asking “What is the meaning of life?” is essentially asking for the definition of the word life, nothing more.  Yet people angst themselves into a lather fretting over it when they think they’re asking some like:

  • If there is a life after this one?
  • Is there a God?
  • What happens when I die?
  • Do I have a purpose?
  • Am I as meaningless as I feel?
  • Should I feel as significant as I do?
  • Is there a Big Picture?

These are all big questions that can (and should) feel important.  They are each worth exploring in your own way. However, several of these questions are not worded much more accurately than “What is the meaning of life?” Hopefully you get the gist of what I’m fumbling at.

If you have questions that eat at you, especially if they cause you feelings of existential dread or deep pessimism, ask this question, which is impossible to misinterpret:

Does my question ask what I actually want to know?

If the answer is no, reformulate the question and figure out what you’re trying to get at.  This might not bring you any more comfort, but you won’t spin your wheels grasping at semantics.

Break your questions down into more specific questions and save yourself some headaches.


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