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How to Answer Impossible Questions

  • 2 min read
Questions can be the most powerful technology we have to increase the quality of our life. I spend a lot of time searching for better questions. I remember the first time I shifted from asking “How much time will this take?” to “Why does this get to take my time?” It changed the way I lived my life. Some of the most important questions however are impossible to answer. Why? Because they require us to know things that we simply don't...yet. Yet, being the operative word, and the key to finding the answers we seek.
I spent much of the last 12 months working on building new kinds of educational programs. It was all new territory, so I reached out to subject matter experts. These were all very accomplished and successful individuals, so I took their answers at face value. It slowed the whole operation to painful meandering crawl. It was a major drain financially and emotionally for many many months. Then it hit me:
Though they knew what they were talking about, they didn’t know what  I was talking about! 
Yes, their skills and expertise overlapped with my efforts, but none of them had actually done what I was setting out to do. That was the missing key. I needed to find someone whose "yet" was now "yesterday," I needed to find someone who had lived the answer.
Last week I had a conversation with someone who had done what I wanted to do. The first 15 minutes talking to someone with empirical advice, lived experience, provided more value than many dozens of hours of other expert opinions. 
I had finally found the person to ask my questions to. Though I received very helpful and immediately actionable answers, the most valuable thing they provided were better questions -- questions from the future. 
They gave me questions that I didn’t even know to ask, but would have inevitably caught me off guard. These were considerations they wish they’d back when they were in my phase of the process. It was nothing short of time travel. Not only did I leave the call with clarity about where I wanted to go, I also had critical information that would collapse the timeline for the getting there. 
Sometimes the most powerful question we can ask ourselves when setting out on any new endeavor isn’t how, it’s who. We want to avoid spending a lot of our limited resources reinventing the wheel. In addition to your list of tasks, try making a list of people that have been where you want to go, and ask them the question you’re trying to solve: How do I get there?

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