Today is Thomas Edison's birthday.
He was a great inventor who tested the envelope by asking just one question, "Why?" That was the same question that got Socrates into trouble and any parent can tell you that a child who has learned that word will drive you crazy using it, because it ends up showing you your ignorance.
Too often we don't know why are do certain things and it embarrasses us to admit that and often makes us angry at the person who shows us our ignorance. We aren't omniscient so not knowing things is okay, but that doesn't excuse us from not learning new things.
There are many unknown-unknowns out there and as they are revealed to us we have the chance to learn something new.
The things that can make us most angry about the question 'why?' is when we find something that we do and maybe even cherish and we find that there is on good reason for doing it and that it is even bad for us to do that thing.
"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates said. And the only way to examine your life is to ask yourself, "Why?" Why am I doing this? Why did I do that? Why did that work? Why did that fail? Why?
"Why?" is the key question to making a difference. Drilling down through all the reasons why will lead to a thorough examination of what is important and what is not.
The test is "Does it still work for us?" Things are changing rapidly in the world nowadays and the only way to see if something is working is to test it. You need to drill down and find out if it is working or not.
RobertHeinlein wrote, "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
While we need to be specialists in our work but that does not we should be specialists in our lives. One of the reasons a warning didn't get out sooner for the tsunami was that the earthquake specialist didn't realize that a tsunami occurs when an earthquake occurs underwater, which can hurt people.
My greatest breakthroughs have occurred when I am not thinking about the problem in the context of my specialty but when I am doing or studying something quite different.
That is why reading from a diverse library is important. And reading quickly is even better.