I’ve been asking myself that question for a long time. For me, it’s been a good question to ask. As a young person, I had a lot of “No, you can’t do that!” and “That’s not how to do it!” told to me, but I have a stubborn streak. Grownups are supposed to know better, so I listened, but as I got more experience in the world, I questioned the old beliefs, rules and dogmas. The title question helped a lot in sorting out what rules made sense and which ones really didn’t apply. One of the ones that didn’t pass the test was “statement made to me”, followed by “Because I say so!” In my mind that translated into “I don’t really know why I’m telling you to do this and I’m not going to put effort into figuring it out and explaining it to you. Just do it, because.”
One lesson I learned came of this conversation I had with my father as a pre-teen… Dad asked me if I would “like to” wash the car. I answered his question honestly, no. He blew up and went on a tirade about how he paid all the bills, and I should be grateful… and so on. If he had simply told me to wash the car, I would have done that with no problem. He tried a mind game on me, and it didn’t work. I was raised at a time when the father went out to earn money and the mom stayed home and tried to not be driven crazy by the kids. Dad clearly hadn’t learned the nuances of being around kids. My lesson from this was that parents don’t really have any training in parenting. They wing it! Grandparents are the ones who have been through it and can more reliably do a good job of parenting. This event helped lead me to questioning all the rules.
Asking “what’s the worst that could happen” is an exercise in thinking something through and really attempting to understand it. It’s a fact-based way of looking at things. This question has allowed me to make progress when others would have had me give up. It’s also a way of looking at things as if they were new, with no assumptions or history cluttering up the decision-making process. It is not a get out of jail free card. If I felt like going down a dirt road fast on my bicycle, asking a good question isn’t going to keep me from sliding off the road at that sharp turn and getting all scraped and banged up! That’s called learning the hard way.
Asking the question in the title lets you see what really could go badly and take precautions to prevent that from happening. It actually increases your chances of success. There is no magical thinking here, it’s just a tool for better understanding how things can go, so you can plan better and be more successful in getting the things done that you want to do.
This was more philosophy than plumbing, but it’s a new year! Heck!
Looking back over my working life of 50+ years, it seems clear that self sufficiency has always been the best way for me to be useful. Now, mix in a strong interest in water in its many forms and the wide world of animals and you'll know what's important to me.