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The art of asking the right questions

Everything that exists operates according to the laws of logic.
In order to understand anything, it is essential to keep your thinking attuned to the same laws of logic.

If nature is operating to strict logical laws- but your thinking is not - then you will not understand what you observe- and you will be prone to arriving at erroneous conclusions.

Here is a list of fundamental attributes of everything that exists:

  1. Everything that exists, is real
  2. Everything that exists has a certain:
  3. Composition
  4. Internal structure
  5. Mode of action
  6. Location
  7. Time
  8. Energy
  9. Context

The list is intended to draw your attention to the principles that operate in all circumstances.

As such, these principles are called universals principles.

Universal principles suggest a set of 20 brilliant questions that can be asked in any situation and will yield valuable information to anyone who answers them.

1. Many things that people speak of - don't even exist

Mankind is fallible and has the power to construct ideas about things that don't even exist.
However, many things that don't exist, are thought to exist, by many people.

You must be very careful what you allow into the realm of "the real".
Be careful that you have logical criteria to distinguish "the real" from "the unreal".

Example: Place the following items into one of three classes: Real, Unreal, I don't know:

  1. Santa Claus
  2. Fairies
  3. Demons
  4. Ducks
  5. Ghosts
  6. Bad luck
  7. Alien abductions
  8. God
  9. The devil
  10. Angels
  11. Policewomen
  12. Life after death
  13. Previous lives (reincarnation)
  14. E.S.P.

All around you, people speak of these things. But not all of the above are real.

The key question is: Which ones really exist and which ones don't? And crucially "How do you know?"

Universal questions:

"Does BLANK really exist or is it a fiction?" and "How do you know it really exists and is not a fiction?"

2. Only real things exist

Obviously, not every idea is true.
You have heard it said that "Anything is possible".
Well, it isn't! Not anything is possible. Why not?

Because the universe obeys strict laws: We can call them "The laws of nature".

It is important to restrict your mind to the possible and exclude the impossible.
Refuse to waste your time thinking about the irrational.

Reject any person who asks you to accept the impossible as a subject of serious debate, under the guise of "keeping an open mind". Tell him that, unless he can show some evidence that his proposition IS possible, then it remains arbitrary; and it is a waste of time discussing the arbitrary.

"I'm sorry, but unless you can show me some definite evidence that what you say is at least possible, then what you say remains an arbitrary statement, and I don't want to waste time discussing random, arbitrary statements."

3. If you are to understand the nature of a thing, then identify the materials from which it is made together with their specific ratios

Everything is made up of some specific combination of matter and energy.
All material things are composed of elements.

There are a restricted number (94) of naturally occurring elements from which every material thing is composed.
Each material object has its specific constitution. It is made up of certain, definite things, in definite proportions.

This law is called "(Dalton's) Law of definite proportions". Example of definite proportions:

"You have one mouth- and two ears - and you should use them in the same ratio"

Here are the universal questions:

  • From what is this thing composed?
  • What are the component elements of this?
  • What are the relative weights of the components?

4. If you are to understand the nature of a thing, identify its internal organisation

Not only does everything have a composition, it also has an internal organisation.

If you disrupt the organisation of a thing, then it ceases to be that "thing".

For example: If, during the night, someone came along and dismantled your car; they didn't steal it; they dismantled it, and left all its components on your driveway: then your car is no longer 'a car'; it is now 'a pile of second hand spare parts'.

You would not be pleased; even though you have still not lost a single material thing.
So it is important for you to understand the internal structure of whatever you are thinking about.
Ask yourself "What are the component elements of BLANK and how are they organised?"
The above question is one that you can ask of anything. The answers to it will always yield valuable information.
Ask the others "What are the component elements of our policy with regard to this and how are we organising it?"
Memorise the question and practice it on some poor unsuspecting manager.

5. Everything that exists has a specific mode of operation

Everything acts in a definite way. It cannot act in any other way.
For example: if you reduce the temperature of water to minus 2 degrees, then it will freeze (at standard pressures). It cannot do anything else. It will always freeze.

This is why it is wrong to say "Anything can happen". Not anything can happen. Things can only act in accordance with their nature.
Therefore another excellent question is: "How does this operate?"

Other ways of formulating the same question are:

  • How does it do, what it does?
  • By what means?
  • What is the method of function?

The above questions are ones that you can ask of anything.
The answers to them will always yield valuable information.

6. Everything that exists has a specific location

Everything that exists has a specific location and is not in all places at once.
It therefore is restricted to a limited field, it has a location.

Therefore other questions to ask are these:

  1. What is this things location and
  2. What is the limit of its range?

7. Everything that exists, exists in time

Time is a measure of rate of change.
Things happen, one event, after another. And the perception of these events is what we call "time". Not everything happens at one time.

So the other questions relate to timing are:

  1. What is the time frame for this event?
  2. What is the proper chronological sequence?

8. Everything that exists has a need for and a method of utilising energy

Energy is the capacity to do work; i.e. energy is the capacity to act.
Energy is the non-material portion of existence
Everything that exists is in need of energy.
Without energy nothing happens.
Therefore here are some more crucial questions:

  1. To operate, what forms of energy (money) does this thing require?
  2. How does it obtain its energy (money)?
  3. From where (money)?
  4. How does it use energy (money)?
  5. How inefficient is it? (What loses should we expect to see?)

Please note: nothing is 100% efficient. Therefore during the course of any action, some losses are inevitable (this is called the second law of thermodynamics).

9. Everything that exists interacts in some way with other things

Everything that exists operates within a given context.

Everything is surrounded by its surroundings!

And your context interacts and affects your results.

  • This is why sometimes, you can do everything right - and still lose!
  • This is why sometimes, you can do everything wrong - and still come out smelling of roses!

We're surrounded!
Every truth is true, only given certain a pre-supposed condition.

For example: Water boils at 100 degrees centigrade, but not if you vary the pressure.
If you put water under extreme pressure then it acts very differently.
Similarly, if you put this woman under extreme pressure, she will act very differently.

Don't ignore the context. Always pay attention to the context.

Here are another three great questions:

  1. "What is the normal environmental context for this thing?"
  2. If you change the surrounding environment how would it change the action of this thing?"
  3. Can the change in the action of the thing be accounted for by a change in the surrounding conditions?"

How to ask brilliant questions

The below listed questions are ones that you can ask of anything. The answers to them will always yield valuable information.

Memorise these questions and use them according to need.

Existence questions

1. "Does this BLANK really exist or is it a fiction?"
2. "How do you know it really exists and is not a fiction?"

Composition questions

3. From what materials is this thing composed?
4. What are the components parts of this?

Internal organisation questions

5. What is the relative importance or weight of its components?
6. "In relation to each other how are the components organised?"

Mode of operation questions

7. By what means - does it do what it does?
8. What is this things method of function?

Location and spatial questions

9. What is this things location?
10. What is the limit of its range?

Time questions

11. What is the time frame for this event?
12. What is the proper chronological sequencing?

Energy questions

13. To operate properly what forms of energy (money) does this thing require?
14. How does it obtain its energy (money) and from where?
15. How does it use energy (money)?
16. How inefficient is it? (What loses should we expect to see?)

Relative context questions

17. "What is the normal environmental context for this thing?"
18. If you change the surrounding environment, how would it change the action of this thing?
19. Can recent changes in the action of the thing be accounted for by a change in the surrounding conditions?"

Memorise this statement

20. I'm sorry, but unless you can show me some definite evidence that what you say is at least possible, then what you say remains an arbitrary statement, and I don't want to waste any time discussing random, arbitrary statements.

About the Author: Chris Farmer

Chris

Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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