To act without knowing why; to do things as they have always been done, without asking why; to engage in an activity all one’s life without really understanding what it is about and how it relates to other things–this is to be one of the crowd.
— Meng Tzu (Mencious) 379-289 BC
Think about it. We often wonder about why things are the way they are, and in our own minds, question why they should be that way. But when was the last time you asked why? I mean really asked?
Consciously and out loud.
About something important.
Of someone in a position to give an answer.
Of someone accountable.
And insisted on an answer.
With – and this is critical – the sincere intention of listening and learning.
I know I don’t do it enough. We continually see that our leaders and public officials don’t do it enough, but they are hardly alone.
It’s not polite. You might look stupid. The answer could be messy, could hurt people, could take up a lot of time. It might even bring unwanted (but necessary) work your way.
It’s too much of a risk.
Every toddler knows instinctively that learning and knowing begin with “Why?” As adults we avoid, repress, ignore, focus on the less troublesome whats and wheres, and even the hows. Most of the time it doesn’t matter all that much, but sometimes the consequences are grave. And it may not always be obvious when those times are.
Food for thought today and always.
I am an avid lifelong learner who writes and speaks frequently on the critical role of learning in our fast-changing world.