No right answer

// 2.4 min read

Seth Godin published an article on Medium the other day which summarises why our notion of online education (and indeed, modern industrialized education in general) is missing the mark, as well as pointing to a new direction. Having witnessed first-hand the power that programs like the altMBA have to bring about drastic change in the ability people have to approach the challenges they face in business, in art, and in life with joy and from a place of possibility—I’m convinced that these ideas are working.

One of the deepest lessons I’ve learned from being involved with the altMBA so far, from both my time as a student and now as a coach, is the simple revelation that there is no right answer.

Modern education, both traditional and online, has trained us to seek out the formula that will give us the correct answer to the problem in front of us. We crave the thing we can memorize that will get us full marks on the test. We crave the specific method we must use to tackle problems like these. When the goal is to produce an army of automatons who all think and speak and behave in predictable ways, that’s fine.

That’s not what we need anymore though—in life, in business, in the world in general—and it certainly isn’t what we as individuals want to sign up for. We need people who not only aren’t afraid to colour outside the lines, we need people who delight in it—people for whom breaking new ground is their comfort zone, and people who can lead the rest of us to the realisation we can think for ourselves too.

The idea that there is no right answer is best illustrated with two related, but seemingly contradictory ideas:

  1. There are plenty of wrong answers.

    Laziness. Selfishness. Apathy. Picking small ideas. Holding back so you have more to give later. Giving things a surface treatment. These are all ways of hiding. These kinds of answers not only shortchange yourself, they rob the world of your potential to make a difference.

  2. There are billions of right answers.

    How long should this blog post should be? How big should your team grow? What should you call your podcast? When should you take the plunge to go freelance? Which idea should you pick for your new business? What’s the best way to write a funny joke? How can we feed the world’s population sustainably? What should I do with my life? All of the questions that matter have an infinity of ways they can be answered correctly.

In life, there are only answers. You can radically improve the quality of the answers you produce when you stop looking for the formula, kill your craving the “correct” solution, and instead start trusting and taking pride in your inate ability to tackle things in the unique ways that only you can.

Coby Chapple (@cobyism)

@cobyism—a.k.a. Coby Chapple is an autodidact, systems thinker, product architect, pixel technician, full-stack algorithmagician, multi-media maker, cryptography geek, aspiring linguist, and generalist Designerd™ extraordinaire. Read more »