The Wisdom of Asking Questions

Recently, I came across a magnificent article about asking questions on Telegram titled "The Art of Asking Questions".

I must say, I am fortunate to have read this article on Telegram many years ago. At that time, I was amazed by its content, and later I learned that it has been translated into multiple languages and widely circulated.

The biggest takeaway from this article for me is:

  • Before asking a question, make an effort to try it yourself.
  • Clearly describe the question, list the methods you have tried, and ideally provide inspiration to each other.
  • No one is obligated to help you.

The first point is obvious, reminding me not to be a "handout beggar". The second point is crucial because if you can't even describe the question clearly, how can you expect others to understand and provide answers? The last point tells me that it is a great fortune if someone can spare time to help, and if no one answers, I have no right to complain.

These are all good habits worth emulating, especially in life or work, particularly in positions that involve frequent interaction with people.

Furthermore, I read a book called "The Art of Asking Questions". Reading this book alongside "The Art of Asking Questions" was a delightful experience. These two works have cultivated in me the qualities of being open-minded and questioning. Especially "The Art of Asking Questions" has given me a deeper understanding of what information and knowledge are and how they differ.

The so-called information may be one-dimensional, simple, easy to understand, and accept. On the other hand, knowledge is often intricate, but it can organize relevance and connect multiple dimensions of information after being sorted out. It goes deeper and broader, making it easier to expand and apply.

Let's take a simple example: the recent explosion in Lebanon. The cause is likely ammonium nitrate. So:

  • Ammonium nitrate is dangerous. - This is information.
  • Ammonium nitrate is the main component of solid explosives, mainly produced by the reaction of ammonia and nitric acid. It decomposes into different substances at different temperatures and is mainly used for fertilizers (inhibitors), blasting, fireworks, etc. There have been several explosion incidents in history, with the most severe being the Texas City disaster in 1947. A fire ignited 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate, causing a series of explosions that killed about 600 people. - This is knowledge.

When I first started working, I couldn't distinguish between information and knowledge, which often made me just a messenger, a simple executor, without going deeper into the subject.

Now, when I encounter information, I will preliminarily verify its authenticity using my knowledge, then validate it with other methods. After that, I will explore the origin and development of the information from my perspective, and finally, I will reconsider it from my own point of view, even transforming it and making it useful to me, even more fulfilling than before.

From a work perspective, this application is more practical.

For example, when I receive a requirement to implement a certain functionality, I will try to approach this information using the steps mentioned above, rather than just being a mindless executor.

This approach is very useful as it helps me see the essence of many things and enables me to think more deeply about a matter. By getting used to this, I won't easily believe in news that is sensationalized by the media or be easily influenced by their mind-wasting viewpoints.

Speaking of viewpoints, they are not always the same as facts. Many people on social media often engage in heated arguments because they cannot distinguish between the two and end up spewing venomous words.

I have observed many self-media platforms, and their flaw is that they mix too many viewpoints in places where facts should be described. This behavior is often intentional and accurately captures the psychology of the masses, always wanting to create sensational news. (I am very grateful to my mentor for advising me when he heard that I planned to become a self-media creator, he told me to be a useful person. Although in the end, I didn't become a self-media creator.)

Therefore, there are really fewer and fewer in-depth reports in China. Instead, I prefer to read foreign content that focuses on producing valuable content, such as "The Economist," "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic Monthly," and other weekly or monthly publications. Many of their contents are worth reading, and at least the viewpoints are more objective and neutral. If there are any domestic institutions worth reading, please leave a comment. I would be grateful.

After saying so much, I just want to emphasize that asking questions is truly an art worth studying, and I am on my way to doing so. Finally, I would like to end with a quote from Albert Einstein:

Asking the right question is often more important than solving a problem.

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