Ask Steve

This week I thought it would be fun to do something a little creative. Instead of writing full-length articles to explore certain topics in depth, I’ll make frequent shorter posts, and all of them will address reader questions that you submit.

My current to-write list has enough ideas on it to last me a year. It’s like a hydra. Whenever I write one article, it spawns ideas for several more, and new topic suggestions come in every day. It’s endless. I love it though because I never get writer’s block, and the constant influx of questions challenges me to keep growing and clarifying my thoughts. But this time I won’t be using that list. I’ll only consider those submissions that come in this week and which are specifically tagged for this series.

How to submit a question

If you’d like to submit a question, just use the regular contact form, and make sure the first line of your message is “Ask Steve.” That way I’ll know you’re submitting a question specifically for this series.

You’re free to submit as many questions as you want, but please submit each question as a separate message. Also, please include nothing but your question in your Ask Steve message. If you’d like to send me other feedback, please do that in a separate message that doesn’t begin with “Ask Steve.” This will make it easier for me to sort and organize the submissions.

Valid topics

For this series you can ask me pretty much anything you want. Feel free to ask questions about personal development, productivity, business, spirituality, philosophy, relationships, blogging, technology, moral issues, global issues, biographical questions, book recommendations, problem solving, or anything that loosely relates to the topics covered on this site.

There are some topics that you can safely assume will be rejected out of hand though:

  • Asking me to write your college paper for you. You’ll have to discern the causes of WWII on your own.
  • Questions which aren’t self-contained, such as requesting my opinion on a book or article I’ve never read. You can always take a stab to see if I’ve already read it, but I’m not going to read a separate piece just to understand your question.
  • Asking me to personally evaluate your web site, blog, song, software product, etc. If your work was inspired by your purpose, then my opinion is unnecessary because you already know you’re on the right track.
  • Questions that cannot be appropriately answered with plain text. I won’t snap photos or record audio or video for this series.

Selection criteria

I’ll mostly use my intuition to decide which questions to answer. But here’s a partial list of my usual considerations for topic selection:

  • Can I answer this question intelligently? Is it within my domain of experience/expertise?
  • Can I answer this question adequately in a small to moderate amount of writing, preferably under 700 words?
  • Will answering this question help people grow? Will it help me grow to answer it?
  • Would I enjoy answering this question? Would readers likely enjoy the answer?
  • Do I have a unique perspective to contribute, or can answers to this question easily be found elsewhere?
  • Have I already answered this question somewhere else?
  • How many readers would likely care about this topic?

Depending on the quantity and types of questions submitted, I may need to be more or less selective. I reasonably expect to receive at least 10-100x more questions than I can answer, so please don’t feel snubbed if your question isn’t selected.

Please try to keep your question under 100 words. Better questions will likely receive better answers. If you have to relay your entire life story to set up the question, I probably won’t select it for this series. Asking for personal advice is perfectly appropriate, but if you can generalize your question such that others might be helped by the answer as well, it’s far more likely to be selected.

Answering your questions

For this series, I’ll probably make a separate post for each question, although I may cluster a few questions together if it makes sense to do so. I plan to do this for the entire week, so I should be able to answer dozens of questions this way. You can reasonably expect to see more individual posts this week than ever before.

I’ll do my best to provide thoughtful, intelligent, and honest answers, although I reserve the right to use humor liberally. 😉

If your question is answered, I probably won’t email you to let you know. You’ll either see it in the series or you won’t. I may edit/reword certain questions for better clarity. And if I spot clusters of similar questions, I may answer a generalized version to address the entire cluster. In every case I’ll do my best to honor the spirit of the original submission(s).

Series duration

I plan to run this Ask Steve blogathon at least until Saturday, July 15th. Feel free to submit questions throughout the entire series. You can even submit clarification questions for answers that have already been given. At the end of the week, I’ll decide whether to keep going or to bring it to a close. When the series is closed, I’ll make a separate post to that effect. If readers find this series genuinely helpful, I may repeat it at some future time.

Viewing the answers

To conveniently view all the answers from this series in one place, just visit the Archives Page, and look under July 2006. The title of each post will begin with “Ask Steve,” so the collection will be easy to spot.

Why am I doing this?

I decided to do this for two primary reasons, both of which stem directly from my purpose, which is essentially to grow and to help you grow. First, I expect the challenge of answering dozens of questions in a single week will help me grow tremendously, as will the process of trying to write shorter, more concise answers. Secondly, I think this series is certain to help you grow as well. Most of my previous articles are not written in Q&A format, so this series should provide a tighter focus with an emphasis on solutions and insights.

I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about personal development. I have more questions than answers myself, and the more I learn, the greater my curiosity becomes. However, I have devoted my life to the daily pursuit of personal growth, part-time for 13 years and full-time for the last 2 years. I have extensive personal experience, a large knowledge base, and a unique perspective that may be of use to you. I have no other job, so this is what I do for a living… and a life.

Even though we’ve probably never met, I do happen to care about you. As you may already know, I follow a non-dualistic philosophy, so I do not perceive a meaningful difference between helping you and helping myself. To me they are one in the same because we are all ultimately part of the same whole. Our apparent individuality is simply the result of viewing that whole from different perspectives.

At the very least, you have a fair shot at getting a potentially helpful answer to your question, and it costs you nothing. The only risk is that you may not like my answer. 🙂

Update 7/18/06: The series has now concluded. Thanks to everyone who participated!