The Inviting Question

If you’ve ever engaged in one of those spiraling conversations with a three-year-old child that begins with “Why?,” you know that this powerful one-word question can be exasperating. When we don’t know the answer, we can feel inadequate. When an answer is complex, we may be unwilling to take the time to dig below the surface. When we do try to answer … and answer … and answer, we can feel like a quiz show contestant trying to outwit a very short host before the buzzer.

For seemingly inquisitive toddlers, however, pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene suggests that the question “Why?” may simply indicate that they find something interesting and want to start a conversation. They want more than a pat answer; they want to engage us. “Why?” is their invitation.

As invitations go, “Why?” invites much more than the particulars. It’s not merely who, what, where and how, it’s the driving force. Describing that force is not always easy (especially to a toddler), but it is essential for establishing relevance. “Why?” explores value. Is this person, thing or effort worthy of our time and energy? Whether we are three, thirty-three or seventy-three, “Why?” is one of the most critical questions we can ask.

In the early 1990s, while working for a hospital, I was trained as a member of a continuous process improvement team. I learned a lot from that experience, but one of my clearest memories was the colorful consultant who started each training session by imitating W. Edward Deming. In a slow, low, even-toned voice, he would ask, “Why are we here? Why are we here? Why are we here?” and then pause for us to contemplate. I don’t know if Edward Deming really sounded like that. Honestly, that was my first introduction to Deming as I had recently graduated from college with a degree in art and knew very little about management. But, it left an impression on me. In both work and my personal life, I’ve found “Why?” to be THE QUESTION.

If we are willing to accept the invitation, take the time, dig below the surface and explore that driving force, we can get to the heart of just about everything.

Today, thanks to Winnie Kao, Special Projects Lead for , who invited people to join her for the Your Turn Challenge, I am asking myself:

Why are you doing the Your Turn Challenge?

For me, this challenge offered the right mix of risk, commitment and reward.

Whatever has driven each person to participate in this challenge, we’re doing it together. That means I am in the company of others who think that there is value in this effort. It is giving me the courage to do something I should have already done on my own.

Seven days is long enough to make it matter and short enough not to feel overwhelming.

From past experiences, I know that the act of writing daily produces benefits beyond what you can imagine. However, “shipping” what you write does take it to another level. That is a reward that only I can give myself. I’m sorry to say that I have allowed fear to get in the way of doing this sooner. I’m doing this now to take a risk, grow and learn.

Finally, there’s no room for excuses. I’ve wanted to blog for a long time. Why? Because nothing happens when you keep your thoughts to yourself.

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