I try my best not to give unsolicited advice, especially to kids and teenagers (update: except for this blog, of course -- but hey, you choose to read it, so that's on you). I hated hearing the thoughts and stories of the "elderly" when I was growing up, and I found most advice to be trite and completely useless for the situations I was facing.

Of course, that's not true. The advice was usually, if not always, spot on. The thing I'm coming to realize as an adult is that advice isn't a thing that older people give younger people in order to stop them from doing something (although we really, really wish they wouldn't do it). It's something we give to them so that, when they look back on the situation they just completely fucked up, they'll know one thing to be true: it has been done before.

While it doesn't stop the pain, it at least grounds them in the fact that at least they're not alone.

One piece of unsolicited advice I do give to every young person I get the chance to: Always, no matter what the situation, ask yourself one important question: "Why?"

"Why" is the single most powerful word in the English language.

Why? Because it has the power to compel a response which cannot be avoided, even from yourself.

Why? Because if someone can't answer why (especially yourself), you know one of two things: you're on the precipice of a discovery, or you're being conned.

Why? Because if someone is asked "why?" and they don't know the truth, they will stammer, they will cajole, they will deflect or they will lie. All of these things instigate a process we detect as humans. We can sense when we're being led somewhere we really shouldn't go.

If "why" is being asked about a process, a thing, an event or other thing, and the answer cannot be given, it's justification to investigate, and no one can stop you without betraying the fact that ignorance benefits them.

If "why" is being asked about your own actions and motives, you have no choice but to admit, no matter how momentarily, answer honestly. The justifications and fabrications your desires will convince you are true will inevitably kick in. But if you ask yourself "why" about what you're doing, how you're feeling or what you're thinking -- even if for a very brief moment -- you have the truth behind it all. Or, at worst, you've just discovered a part of yourself you need to reflect on and consider. You get a chance to grow.

No matter how old you are, what you are doing, where you are going, what you are thinking, what you are being told, what you are being sold, or what is being presented to you, always ask "why?" That is the one question which, no matter what the answer, tells you the truth about a thing -- especially yourself.