Ten Important Questions

Last week I wrote about How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, a book I discovered which talks the reader through various exercises towards self-improvement.

I wasn’t planning to chart my progress on the blog, and I might not do after today (unless anyone desperately wants me to), but my mother’s staying and it’s really hard to write a blog post from scratch when there are humans in your house.

The first exercise was to grab a notebook and pen, and without thinking too hard about it, to write down 100 questions that are important to you. It doesn’t matter if you get some of them twice, or if they’re badly phrased or whatever. It’s just about getting an idea of important subjects.


The questions can be on any subject, from “Do I want a pet turtle?” to “Are we living in a simulation?” You also don’t need to worry about spelling, grammar or handwriting; it’s better if it’s messy, that’s a sign that you’re writing quickly enough. 😉

Once you’ve done that, you look back through your questions and group them into themes.


This tells you some of the things that are most significant.

Then you go back through again and pick out the ten that you think are the most important. Then you put them in order.


Once I’d done that, my ten most significant questions, in order of importance to me, were the following.

Ten Important Questions

  1. Is it more important to do something urgent with your life, e.g. investigate crimes; to do something important with your life, e.g. to change the sociopolitical landscape of the world; or to do something useful with your life, e.g. to make scientific discoveries?
  2. How do we bring down child porn rings?
  3. The world needs to change; is it possible to have this revolution through entirely peaceful means?
  4. To what extent am I ethically inconsistent?
  5. How do we differentiate between what our own prejudices tell us are bad beliefs, and actual bad beliefs that people only hold because they’re brainwashed?
  6. What do I want to do with my life?
  7. How can I make myself not care about whether my friends will hate me if I show who I really am?
  8. Do I actually want to work with computers at all?
  9. To what extent can social / abstract concepts be represented in algebraic form?
  10. At what point, if any, does a belief become knowledge?

I found this a really interesting exercise. I can’t say I was surprised about the themes that emerged – academia, changing the world, self-knowledge and ethics are all things I think about quite often – but having to put down 100 questions and then sort them into the most important ones to me was a useful exercise, I think.

This week I’ll be moving on to the next part of the exercise, which if I remember correctly involves mind mapping answers to one of the questions. But we’ll see later in the week.

Hmm, maybe I will blog about the whole process after all. What do you think? Would you be interested in reading that?


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