The Immense Value of Obvious Questions

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This is a quite long post, but it concerns something very valuable and useful.

Let us start off by using a concrete scenario as an example. Say you are building – or leading – an organization, a team or a company. Then best thing that you can do when recruiting or employing someone, is asking yourself: “Do they add clarity?” If they do, you want them on your team. If they don’t, you don’t want them onboard.

The thing is, people tend to waste a great deal of time, energy and resources on things they just assume are worthwhile, simply because others are doing it, or because they worked on them yesterday, and the day before that. Often they don’t know why they are doing what they are doing, though all along that is the primary question. We have to ask ourselves, time and time again: ”What is it we are actually doing here?”, in life as well as in work.

In doing so, we increase our clarity and we often find answers that are priceless, yet that most miss out on. The majority of people think ”I mustn’t ask obvious questions, because people will laugh at me”, whereas those in the avant-garde ask obvious questions far more often than complex and obscure ones, for the obvious questions are those that go directly to the core of the problem. They are usually not obvious at all. We merely think they are, because they lack a shiny surface, and are often found right next to you, or in front of you – in this very moment.

When children bombard you with why’s – doing so is not ignorant at all. On the contrary it makes perfect sense. Though as the years go by, most of us stop asking such questions, when our fear has grown, and our courage has diminished.

And the most obvious questions of all, have always been and are still to this day:

What are we doing here? And why?

It serves one best not being afraid to ask such – or other – obvious questions. In their wake, one might get energized again and rediscover one’s purpose here. Or otherwise, the answer might lead one to walk out of the door – if one realize this is the wrong place to be. And if so, this place had it coming, and better today than tomorrow. Also, such questions can be just as important for others to hear. So speak up.

Yet, this is not to say that just because questions are important to ask, or seemingly obvious, that they have as obvious answers. And that is just it. Far more often than not, the most challenging things to find out are the things you have just under your nose, never thinking of, exactly because you see and interact with them almost constantly. For instance, how often does the average internet user ask him or herself “Why am I on the internet”? I for one can’t remember ever asking that question, and still most of us spend a great amount of time here. Such inquiries are the most important ones in our lives. That question is just one example though, one of millions.

Now let’s say you work at that hypothetical company we talked of in the beginning, and your company has an internet presence, then you might feel stupid to ask “Why are we here? What purpose do we have on the internet?” but chances are that nobody has clearly asked that question for many years. Instead, many organizations (and individuals) just do things today, because they did them yesterday. You would likely get the answer “Because everyone else is on the internet!”, but that is a non-answer. It does not suffice.

We tend to think that we will be left behind, and be outrun, if we ask simple and seemingly obvious questions, but the opposite is actually true: The more simple questions you dare ask [and yes, it is a matter of daring, of courage], the more the smart people around you will feel “Here is someone with sharpness and guts! Someone who knows what they want, and how to sustain clarity!” And the more they will follow you.

This attitude – if you possess or develop it – of asking obvious questions, will attract the admiration of smart and driven people, but not of the narrow-minded. But then again; you don’t want them on your team in the first place, so letting them dislike you and walk away on their own accord, is in fact a win for you. People like that – who shun those with clarity and guts who dare to ask obvious questions – tend to prefer those with obscure agendas who have more facade than they do substance.

So ask it! You have nothing to lose, and everything to win. It all comes down to one invaluable yet elusive thing: Clarity. The nurturing of clarity is the very purpose of asking obvious questions. That is what you win, and what your team wins too.

In their boosting of clarity, obvious questions furthermore have central a role to play in all breakthroughs and great innovation – whether we’re talking of the wider world, or your personal life – for your life too, moves forward when you innovate, and think new thoughts and try new paths. Most great leaps begin with these questions that are assumed to be foolish or even shameful.

And on the other side of the spectrum, when one is asking complex and obscure questions, one is treading water at worst, and making incremental improvements at best. In either case you miss out on the potential of what is infront of you. What is infront of you is often a gold mine. You’ve just got to ask the right obvious questions, in order to get that gold.

If we cannot fathom that the answer and the power we need could be right here, we are destined to keep pursuing rainbows that we never reach. ~ Fomtriok

In conclusion:

Obvious questions are not obvious at all, and asking them is paramount, for they are the spring of clarity – and with it, the path forward unveils itself, and what is good tends to expand.

8 Comments

  1. At first I was annoyed by the concept of the simple question. Could it be? Then I sat with it, and let it permeate.

    An answer came. We have a beautifully inept way to complicate the hell out of things. This made me go through a few questions of intent today. Thank you. It moved me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I too get annoyed and a bit offended by myself in situations like that, when I ask myself certain simple questions. A part of us wants to think “It is out of my control” or “It is very complex, don’t try to make it simple”. That feels safer, than knowing we actually might have the control. As Sartre said: We are condemned to freedom.

      I am very glad you were moved by it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Powerful and insightful. Amazing piece! Philosophers spent most of their time asking themselves obvious questions such as ‘Who Are We?’ ‘What is the meaning of life’ – ‘Why are we doing the things we do?’ I wrote an article about this. Interesting that you are writing about Clarity, I am currently writing an eBook on this very subject ‘The Gift of Clarity’ – coming out soon. Watch out for it! Would love to hear your take on it as you have already spent time thinking about this subject. Stay tuned-in…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words Joanne! And that book of yours sounds very interesting. 🙂 Clarity is indeed a gift, and one that we can nurture and thus also give ourselves. I hope your book manages to increase the clarity in our world. It certainly needs it! 🙂 I’ll keep an eye open for its release.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your kind words😀🙏! Until the ‘Gift of Clarity’ comes out feel free to check out ‘This Is Your Quest’ 📖a big theme of this book is that “things are not what they seem, first appearance deceive many, the intelligence of a few perceive what has been carefully hidden”…

    Liked by 1 person

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