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Questions Are More Important Than Answers
July 15, 2008


Midlife Wisdom For Men Issue #109, July 15, 2008

=========== TABLE OF CONTENTS ==========

Quality of Life

Questions Are More Important Than Answers


Written by Noel McNaughton
(c) copyright 2008


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Welcome to this issue of Midlife Wisdom for Men.

We stress standard of living as the end-all to living a happy life. Our world is inundated with ads showing happy people buying 'stuff'. Government agencies measure the success of nations by standard of living.

But it is really quality of life that matters.

Young people can solve problems faster than older people. But because the proper questions weren't asked to begin with, a lot of problem-solving energy is wasted on solving the wrong problems.

We older fellows are better at coming up with good questions.

There are about 700 words in this issue, which should take you about 1 1/2 minutes to read.



Quality of Life

We confuse standard of living with quality of life. Standard of living is essentially a measure of material wealth.

When I was a kid growing up in rural Alberta, very few people had indoor plumbing on their farms, and few even had electricity. Every now and then the government would do a survey and announce that a lot of people were still living below the poverty line, as they did not have indoor plumbing or electricity.

We thought it was a joke. Maybe we had to use the little brown shack out back, but we certainly never thought of ourselves as being poverty stricken. In fact we felt sorry for the town kids that didn't have a farm to live on.

In the western world, we are so hooked on 'stuff', that we frequently sacrifice quality of life in order to get more stuff.

The good news is that by the time we reach our middle years, we are starting to figure this conundrum out, and are beginning to pay some attention to the other things that create fulfilment.

After we have enough stuff, we can increase our quality of life indefinitely by such things as having good relationships with the people in our lives, learning new skills (hobbies, etc.), becoming masterful at what we do, having a sense of personal mission, spiritual growth, and belonging to a club or service organization.

Pursuing the things that are satisfying for you makes your life more fulfilling, and it needn't cost a bunch of money.


Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. Satchel Paige


Questions Are More Important Than Answers

As we age, our ability to come up with answers begins to diminish. But our ability to ask good questions increases, largely due to the fact that we have enough life experience to know that things aren't always as they seem, and it is good to examine a situation from many angles.

When people have a problem, they want answers, preferably quick and easy ones. (Five easy ways to ..., four secrets of ..., etc.)

But no answer is always true, and often produces unforeseen results. For example, in the 1950s in a village in Borneo, experts at the World Health Organization recommended spraying the amazing new insecticide DDT in the thatched-roofed long houses to eradicate the mosquitoes that carry malaria.

The program worked. But no one thought to ask what effects the DDT might have on other life forms. The upshot was that the DDT killed some wasps that parasitized the caterpillars that fed on the thatch grass. Geckos ate the dead insects, which had a lot of DDT in them, and eventually the geckos died. The village cats ate the dead geckos, and they died, and then the rat population exploded.

The village ended up with no roofs on their long houses, rats eating their grain stores, and plague (again from the rats) ravaging the population. The World Health Organization made an appeal across Borneo for cats, which they then parachuted into the village, and the rat explosion was contained. More importantly, they stopped spraying DDT in the long houses.

This whole fiasco might have been prevented had the people at the WHO asked more questions about possible negative side effects before they atarted. And the older the people making the decisions, the more likely some good questions would have been asked.

Here's one recipe for becoming stronger, wiser and much more able to survive bad times, from

  • Don't seek to have all the answers; seek out more questions, even if they seem to threaten what you think you know.
  • Always distrust what answers you have now; they're probably less firm that they appear to be. Even Newton's laws turned out to be true only under certain circumstances.
  • Don't accept others' answers, however loudly they parade them as incontrovertible facts; almost nothing out there is as secure as that.
  • Above all, don't trot out neat, second-hand solutions. Stick to messy, first-hand problems, ask questions continually and find your own way forward


Football Final fever.

A man has two front row seats for the FA cup final, as he sits down, a man comes down and asks if anyone is sitting in the seat next to him.

'No,' he says, 'The seat is empty.'

'This is incredible,' said the man. 'Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the Cup Final, the biggest sporting event in the football world, and not use it?'

He says, 'Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away. This is the first final we haven't been together since we got married in 1970.'

'Oh ... I'm sorry to hear that. That's terrible. But couldn't you find someone else, a friend or relative, or even a neighbour to take the seat?'

The man shakes his head. 'No, they're all at the funeral.'


Unusual travel Web sites: - For only $5, this service will match you with a special seatmate on your upcoming flight. You can choose, "Find a Date," "Find a Friend" or "Find a Job." And matching isn't limited to onboard seating; you can also search for travelers who will be at your airport at the same time. So if you're looking for a date in LA, a business partner in Tokyo, or just someone to share a cab to Midtown, AirTroductions is there for you. =========================================

High gasoline prices can chew a big hole in your wallet. I have been using MPG caps in both my vehicles for about a year, and am getting 10% better mileage in my half ton, and 15% better in my car. Get details of my six-month trial here: Gas Caps. You could save some money too.


I Need Your Questions and Feedback!

Got comments? Questions? I'd love to hear from you.

Just email your suggestions and/or questions to . I look forward to hearing from you. And thanks.


Well friend, that's it for now. Again, if you enjoyed this and/or found it useful, and know of anyone else who might like it, please pass it forward. And if you have questions or recommendations, I would love to hear from you.

All the best, Noel

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