When we’re young, someone always has the answers.
- Older siblings.
All of those people answer our questions when we can’t figure things out on our own. They were adults. They had life experiences. They had sagely advice. They had wisdom. At least it seems that way when we’re young.
Because of this, we’re trained at a young age to think that there will always be someone else who has the answers. But once we’re older, we realize there’s no ‘book of answers’ that’s given to every person on their 25th birthday.
It can be easy to grow up thinking that everything is black and white. There’s always a hero and a villain. It’s idealistic. It’s safe. It makes decisions, questions, and answers simple.
And then we grow up.
The decisions are more critical, the questions become more complex, and the answers have more importance. Suddenly, we’re not working on long division and there isn’t a teacher we can go to if we’re having trouble. Once we’ve aged out of school, the teachers are gone but what has replaced teachers (and probably parents as well) might be technology.
Not simply computers or robots or Wikipedia or iPhones, but technology that allows the best and the brightest to broadcast their thoughts and ideas to millions of people.
And this is where the new answers live today. The answers for our grown up lives.
- “5 things every successful person does”
- “3 things you should do every day right when you wake up, and the 1 thing you shouldn’t”
- “10 techniques to fix your life right now!”
- “The 12 things you’re not doing that you should be doing”
- “20 tips to land your dream job”
We see these articles being blasted out all over the internet. No matter what you’re doing on your computer, they’re impossible to escape. And why would you want to? These are smart, successful, and famous people giving advice about how you can become smart, successful, and famous.
Except that’s not how it works.
Advice is not one size fits all. Success is not one size fits all. Happiness is not one size fits all.
A Q&A with a billionaire can’t make a critical decision for you. A blog post can’t answer important questions that pertain specifically to your life. What worked for Mark Cuban or Arianna Huffington probably doesn’t apply to you at all. We’re all different people, in different situations, facing different challenges, living in different realities, and we’re trying to achieve different versions of success or validation.
This isn’t to say that these answers and advice are completely worthless. They certainly have value in the form of inspiration and there are surely common threads of success that carry over to most avenues of life. There is value here, but it won’t suddenly take you from someone who was miserable and unsuccessful to someone who is happy and successful just by reading and following a few bullet points.
But here’s the good news that we may have lost along the way:
You have the answers. All of them.
No one knows you better than you. No one knows your situation better than you. No one knows your innermost thoughts and fears better than you. No one knows your feelings better than you. No one knows how you’ll react in certain situations better than you. No one knows what you desire better than you. No one knows what’s right for you better than you.
For all these reasons, you’re in the best position of anyone in the world to answer your own questions. You just have to stop looking for someone else’s answers and start listening to the answers that are inside.
You don’t have all the answers right now. Life wouldn’t be much of a journey if you did. But you do have everything you need to figure it out eventually. It will take time. It won’t be easy. But it’s all there. It’s possible.
Realizing this and accepting it might be the most important part of growing up.
It’s at once a terrifying and empowering feeling to know that we’re the only person who truly has the answers to our own questions. But having it any other way would be far more terrifying and far less empowering. It might be easier, but it wouldn’t be better.
No one else has the answers. But you do.
Photo: Zach Dischner/Flickr