When faced with a problem, your starting point is almost always going to be the questions “What?” and “Why?”
For example – say you’re witnessing some unfamiliar phenomenon. Your first thought is going to be “WTF is happening here?”
Or perhaps you keep making the same mistake over and over even though you think you are doing things differently each time. With mounting frustration, you ask yourself “Why is this happening?“
Welcome to the real world, where you’ll never find the right answer until you ask the right question. And knowing what the right question is isn’t always obvious…
This is why even very smart people get stuck, spinning their wheels and getting nowhere, over and over again. We are almost always blinded by what we don’t know, by our inability to reframe the question in a such a way as to give us the solution we desire.
First principles can help, but if you are stuck on something and can’t find the solution, step back and try to reframe the question from a completely different perspective.
It also helps to focus on the problem before going to bed, for as long as necessary. Let your brain work on it while you’re asleep – you might be surprised at the results.
But remember this: If you can’t crack a particular problem, you either don’t fully understand it or you’re just not asking the right question.