Don’t Ask Why – The Hitman Policy

You’ve probably heard the old saying “Curiosity killed the cat.” Most of us, however, realize curiosity ain’t that bad. In fact, curiosity is a pretty powerful driving force. But that’s only unlocked if we use the right questions– “What if?” being one of the best lead-ins.

“I wonder” is another good way to get the creative juices flowing. Just be careful not to add one more word to that: why.

I’ve seen so many people stall their progress with that three letter word.

Wondering why isn’t a wrong thing to do. You’ll definitely want to have the tools of reason and logic in your arsenal. It’s just, I always thought “why” was more of a philosopher’s reflection instead of strategy that helps you. In my experience, understanding the “why” of something is rarely helpful.

Maybe you’ve heard, “There’s a reason for everything.” I’d totally agree, but that line of thinking sets up a bad cycle. More often than not, the reason behind something can be pretty dissatisfying. In turn, it only causes you to agonize over “why” again. Louis C.K. had a great bit on this:

Sure, the context is a little different, but the message is still the same: you’re hurting yourself and wasting time focusing on “why”.

You know what’s a good model for efficiency? Not a philosopher, but an assassin. Think about it: when a hitman gets a contract, s/he doesn’t bother with the why. Even if s/he understands the reasons for the hit, it wouldn’t really help. Instead, the focus is placed on two things:

  1. What is the task at hand?
  2. How can I accomplish my mission?

“What” and “How” are key. What time should the target be eliminated? What tools can I use? How do I hide the body? You get the picture…

Let’s try to reel it in towards something more applicable.

Let’s say you messed up and need to apologize. You could sweat over why this happened in the first place. Or, you could focus on 1) what needs to be done (the apology) and 2) how you can apologize (ice cream and a marathon of Daredevil on Netflix).

If you’re learning a language, you could stress over the grammar. Why does it work this way? Why can’t I use that word? Eventually, you’ll spiral into the worst why questions:

Or, you could think like an assassin. Narrow your focus. Stay on point. First, identify what is my message? Second, point out the many ways of how can I deliver it? Then, what grammar do I use to execute the tar– I mean, express myself.

Don’t forget, communication is a powerful weapon.

The best communicators aren’t trigger happy, nor do they turn the gun on themselves. They focus on precision and efficiency, and the Hitman Policy is a great reminder of that.

Published by Jon Dao

Formerly, the Conversation Coach

One thought on “Don’t Ask Why – The Hitman Policy

  1. My favorite word is “why,” but I agree with you that there’s a time and place for it. When I don’t have the luxury of mulling things over, focusing on the task as you mentioned above helps me actually get stuff done.

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