Lifehack: Before You Assume ANYTHING, Try Asking. Simple As That.

Photo: Serge Bielanko
Lifehack: Before You Assume ANYTHING, Try Asking

There was a time when I was never wrong. 

It's an elevated feeling, too. You can get really high, really fast on the fumes of your own confidence. To know deep down that damn near every single thought and opinion that flashes across the screen in your mind is right, there's real liberation in that.

I was young when it all came to me. 

When I was sixteen or seventeen, I'd walk around smirking to myself, always wondering how so many adults seemed so confused by things I was certain I understood. Life, with all its drama and lust and heartbreak, seemed way easier than everyone else made it out to be. 

I simply told myself what was up, walked out into the world — down to the bus stop or cruising around the food court at the mall — and I was sure that I'd be able to handle whatever came my way.

I was sure I was always right, no matter what. Because self-awareness and mindfulness and deep thinking about my shortcomings or my weaknesses never crossed my mind. I was a one-trick pony guided by a single voice: My own. 

I was a goddamn idiot. I know that now. 

People don't ask enough questions. We just don't. Far too many of us, maybe even most of us, have been programmed to shut ourselves inside ourselves at all costs. Introspection, the real kind, the kind when we turn our proverbial spotlights and magnifying glasses back on ourselves in an effort to better comprehend our own minds? That's the scariest sh*t in the universe to most people.

Fact is, most people won't even allow themselves to consider the very notion of self-examination, let alone wander down the path to make it happen. Why are we so afraid of ourselves? Why do so many of us refuse to ask sincerely what other people think or feel? 

I'm not sure there's an answer. Still, my suspicion is that it's just way easier to roll through life blaming others for all the trouble and heartache we're all forced to endure.

To ask someone we love, work with, sleep with, struggle with what they feel about things — or what they feel about us — would be to cancel out one of our greatest weapons in our never-ending battle against assh*les and bullsh*t: our power of assumption. 

We assume we know everything because we've convinced ourselves  we're right. We assume others know they're being dicks when they cause us grief. We assume, sooner or later, that everyone else will ultimately realize they were wrong all along, and that we were always right. 

Even when that particular result rarely happens, human beings still have this insanely strong ability to assume that the only reason no one has admitted that we're right — and that it isn't our personality flaws or toxic reaction to adversity that have caused anything to go wrong — is because they're just too f*cking stupid, stubborn, and downright evil to take all the blame themselves. 

Dear God, it's an exhausting way to live. No wonder half the world is asleep all of the time. And the other half are drunk or on Facebook

Lucky for me, I woke up.

It took me 20 years or so to outgrow the teenage know-it-all mindset, but it's been worth the wait. The effort to admit my shortcomings and denials when it comes to being a better person has been one of the most worthwhile things I've ever accomplished (outside of becoming a dad). I'm dead serious. 

It's all felt like a half ton of chains rolling off my back the past few years. Divorce, jobs, kids, depression — I haven't been able to perfect of any the sh*t that's defined me lately, but I've gotten a hell of a lot better at getting through each day without the mounting pain and blues that I always think I amount to.

About two years ago, I woke up to the one realization that so many people spend a lifetime fighting against: I'm actually wrong way more than I'm right.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING in this world has ever helped me more than rolling up on that truth. I spent almost 40 years as a human being who could never back down from criticism or questions about my reactions to things.

Deep childhood anger or sadness had led me to the point where I felt untrusting of anyone else. I rarely allowed myself the luxury of believing in another person. Even when I was in relationships, I was wary of outside influence or opinion.

A latchkey kid with a pop-off temperament, I rarely ever wanted to ask anyone else what they thought or how they felt or why something I might be doing, saying, thinking, or acting out might be hurting them or bothering them. 

I get worn out just thinking about how much of my life I wasted feeling pissed off at other people for not "getting" my thoughts and for disagreeing with my ways. In a world where being sexy is more important than it probably ought to be, I was quite possibly the least sexy person in any thousand-mile radius at any given time. 

Too many of us are messed up in the head when it comes to the ancient art of communication. Too many people are too caught up in themselves or too afraid of themselves to ask others what they think. Or maybe, more importantly, to ask themselves what they might be doing/saying/thinking/believing that's contributing negatively to any given situation.


I've got three kids now and they're my blood, my heartbeat, my waking-up-in-the-morning reason. My life makes sense because they make sense. One look at them in the fading evening always seems to at least dilute the toxicity I've been marinating in all damn day.

Life sucks a lot. People that deny that are liars. We all suffer and hurt way more than any of us ever imagined possible. Yet we persevere, sometimes just by continuing on along the same stunted path we've been on for decades now, sometimes by shaking up our inner self and trying on new mindsets in an effort to carve out just a little bit more joy and peace. 

More and more, there are times I think about when I'm going die. And I think about the only legacy I hope to leave behind for my kids when I do.

I want them to remember their dad as a man who tried his best even when he knew damn well he'd never be everything he wanted to be. I want them to recall long talks they had with me, talks when I told each of them that the best life they could possibly ever live all starts in their hearts and their minds.

Think hard about what others might be thinking and feeling. Don't ignore the questions you know you need to ask. 

We're all afraid of admitting so much of what we want to believe. But once you quit assuming and actually connect with the people in your lives by talking to them openly and honestly, trust me, you'll be unburdening yourselves in ways I never knew about until I was way older than you. 

Then, I want them each to raise a glass of cold beer to the sky and toast their old man. "To Dad," they'll say. "To the man who never stopped talking like crazy ... or trying like hell."