When all we want are answers


Much has been written about how oversimplified and accessible things have become. Take for instance ; just a few weeks back as I was preparing to visit my specialist for my sinus treatment and to prepare for the meeting better, this time around I decided to spend some time on researching about the sinus – to understand the bones, the procedures and the medication that the good specialist was giving me (and squeezing me out in the process). I wanted to know how the nasal sprays that were prescribed actually work; I wanted to study the anatomy of the sinus and learn more on the symptoms and diagnosis. After watching a couple of youtube videos and a cursory reading on the topics, I had gotten most of my answers.

And that’s when it hit me – we live in a world where all we really want is just the answers. Depending on the question we ask – most of us just want to know how to do things. Sure, for somethings this has been very helpful. Take for example my anecdote above, or consider the fact if you want to learn how to execute a vlookup function on excel, or learn how to photoshop your images – the web is fantastic for answering such pin-point technical questions. But because we have gotten so used to having quick answers, herein lies the problem of instant gratification – and over time I have seen it happen more so when we work with people or dealing with communities.

We want answers on things that are entirely impossible to accurately answer – why is my co-worker so lazy? how can I make my subordinates work harder? How do I get my community to pray and be more spiritually formed? A few days ago I attended a mandatory formation and I heard the story about how one of the leaders in my community just was not keen on these formations and found it a waste of time. I suspected she must have been a pragmatic as her question was direct – “tell me how these formations can help me grow my community?”

I chuckled privately when I heard that remark – not because I found it immature or childish, or that I would think any less of the person asking the question. I chuckled because I knew 2 things – There is no answer to what she was asking and secondly these things take time.  There are things in life which you can’t just solve with the help of even the most sophisticated search engine algorithm. There are things in life that sometimes don’t or can’t require immediate fixing even though all signs points otherwise

Take for instance how we treat leadership – a favourite topic of mine. We expect our leaders, our superiors to have all the answers to our worries, or that they can magically solve our problems. We label leaders as ineffective when we find they don’t meet our “super-saviour of the world” expectations. True, we often love to hide behind the phrase – we are all human – but I would also think, there are people who don’t get what that phrase truly entails.  Many still choose to cling on to our pragmatic approach – that there’s a solution for every problem in the world.

Ironically, in my line of work, we are paid handsomely to do just precisely this – to solve problems, to design solutions and to guide people through their problem cycle. I have been trained over the years during my career as a consultant to “think like a consultant” and while I have truly come to appreciate the frameworks and and apply them vigourously in my work, I have also come to realise that I truly can’t solve everything, or try to make sense of everything.

To me, solving life’s issues in a reductive approach can sometimes be an illusion we kid ourselves into believing that we are masters of our own destiny and that we can simply solve obstacles that we face in our lives. In fact as I grow older, I am slowly learning to deliberately turn off my reasoning faculties, not because I don’t want to think, but because maybe perhaps it doesn’t really warrant any answer at this point in time.

There is a difference between wisdom and intelligence at the end of the day. And wisdom comes not by snapping your fingers and getting the right answer – it comes by allowing yourself the freedom to ponder, reflect, test, apply and revise all over again. Because in life, there is no straight answers for everything. The wisdom comes not at the end result itself, but from the journey and experiences one takes, and until we learn to do that more diligently and begin looking at solving problems not so much from a intelligence capacity, rather from an experience learning perspective – then and only then, I think we can learn how to answer the bigger questions in life.

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