7 Lessons on the “Ultimate Questions” of Life in Douglas Adams Quotes

Most people have either read the book, or watched the movie, ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. If you have not, it is all about being foiled in trying to understand why 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. (That gets the most common HGG quote out of the way)

This book was just one in a series for Douglas Adams. Throughout his writings we can glean some great insights into answering the questions of the universe, or at least in discovering our individual purpose.

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Whether you are a fan of science-fiction or not, I believe you will find life advice via Douglas Adams quotes enriching, or at least amusing.

Seven Answers to “Life, the Universe and Everything”:

  1. Sometimes life will take you down unexpected paths, but this doesn’t mean you have lost your way. In fact, if you are willing to embrace the journey, you may find a more fulfilling purpose.
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We change as we go along, and our intentions should change with us. We can’t hold on to a path just because that is what we had planned to do.

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

When we embrace this journey, we can often be inspired to do what should have been obvious in the first place. Being ready to embrace the journey we are led on allows us to open our minds to the possibilities that exist.

It is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto non-existent blindingly obvious. The cry ‘I could have thought of that’ is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn’t, and a very significant and revealing fact it is too.

And, of course, embracing the journey means we’re not scared of the unknown.

Don’t Panic.

That is the great thing about life, there are so many adventures waiting for us if we let go of fear and allow ourselves to explore the possibilities before us.

Instead of saying ‘I’m afraid of how this will be perceived’, or ‘I have to do this because of X’, be willing to explore the paths that come before you, you may just find genius there.

2. We must be ready to learn from the actions we take. Experience will teach us where we have gone wrong, if we let it, and we can learn and grow.

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Sometimes, the only way to learn how to do something right, is to first do it wrong and adjust from the lessons you learn.

A learning experience is one of those things that says, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.’

Of course, we must be ready to take chances and have experiences in order to learn from them.

We all have a life to live, what we get out of it depends largely on whether we are willing to learn.

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.

We must be ready to learn and understand. Doing is only part of the equation, understanding is the part that helps us develop.

Ignorance may keep us happy, but it doesn’t make us right.

I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.

It’s not just from our own experiences that we learn. We must be willing to learn from the experiences of others as well. There’s no point in learning by experience when someone else has already shown us where that experience leads.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experiences of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

Don’t make life be a hard teacher. Learn what you must learn and move on.

3. Always be open and willing to explore new ideas or take on new challenges. Don’t give up just because other people say it can’t be done.

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Social standards tell us there’s a way to do something and that’s how you do it. To really get to your best self though, sometimes you have to break those societal rules and put things together in a way others are not.

Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself and see if we may not eff it after all.

A challenge may be difficult, but it is not impossible. We are too quick to apply the idea of impossibility just because it seems hard or unlikely. There are people that have gone before us to show us that what once was deemed impossible is, in fact, the opposite.

People are also quick to tell you that certain things are too risky to try. Sometimes, people will use the word impossible to stand in place of risky, different or difficult.

There is no point in using the word ‘impossible’ to describe something that has clearly happened.

Challenging ourselves often means going against the grain. This makes it even more difficult, especially if you are concerned about how others will perceive you, but not necessarily unprofitable.

The bird that would soar above the plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings.

Remember, just because this is the way it has been done, doesn’t mean this is the way it should be done.

Reality is frequently inaccurate.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to throw out the usual solutions and look at the problem from a new angle. Improbable doesn’t mean impossible, and sometimes what seems improbable to the casual observer is actually the best solution.

The idea was fantastically, wildly improbable. But like most fantastically, wildly improbable ideas it was at least worthy of consideration as a more mundane one to which the facts had been strenuously bent to fit.

Be willing to at least consider a new idea before you throw it out. Some of the best ideas have come from things that were deemed unnecessary to explore.

4. What you offer to the world is not going to be for everyone; don’t spend your time trying to make it so.

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This point is true for two reasons. First, because some people were never meant to take part in what we have to offer.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of fools.

The second is because some people just aren’t going to like what you have to offer. This doesn’t mean you have to accept their opinion.

All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well-supported in logic and argument than others.

Let’s face it, some people are not going to come at you with reason. You do not have to engage with those people. Look for the people who understand what you are offering and let them be your guide.

Don’t create or think for the masses, seek people who are willing to understand. On the flip side, be willing to come at things with reason yourself.

5. Take Ownership of your life. Your life belongs to you, not someone else.

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When we are trying to live our lives based on someone else’s standards, we can lose control of ourselves.

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.

While we need to be open to other people’s ideas, ultimately our lives belong to us to live. Don’t let someone live vicariously through you, and don’t let someone else dictate what you will pursue.

6. You can’t expect immediate results. Everything worth doing takes time to develop. Expecting immediate results is irrational and will leave you disappointed.

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So many people want immediate results, and they’re not willing to wait to see things through. You can’t expect to get results or recognition right away; you must keep working at it and give it time to develop.

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.

A big problem with the desire for immediate gratification is, when it doesn’t happen, so many people give up. If they would wait it out, they might see results.

7. Listen.

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This is highly profitable advice, but rarely acted on. So often, we are so busy wanting to be heard, we don’t stop talking to let new information reach us.

People are often so desirous of joining the conversation, they won’t wait to have something of value to contribute.

After a few months of observation he had come up with a second theory, which was this – “If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, their brains start working.”

Listening can also save us a lot of trouble in the future. If we listen to the advice others give us, we may be able to avoid some of the trouble that comes our way.

“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”

“Why, what did she tell you?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

While you are not likely to be trapped in space any time soon, there is probably some trap waiting for you that you could avoid by listening to the advice of others.

Don’t get trapped with a Vogon, I hear they have awful poetry. Instead, take time to hear what others can tell you about avoiding tricky situations.

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Whether you are trying to hitchhike across the galaxy, or you just want to find your place in your own little piece of the universe, these life lessons can be applied.

And, for a bonus quote, just because I think it sums up the human experience fairly well:

I’ve come up with a set of rules that describes our reactions to technologies:

  • Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

  • Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

  • Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Do you have a favorite Douglas Adams quote I didn’t share that you think gives sound advice? What about another author? Tell me in the comments.


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