The Whys Have It

Strobist: Shoot-through umbrella 430ex at 1/4 power up and to my left about 2 to 3 feet from subjects. The cousins get together for a photo shoot at Grandma's house. There was very little cooperation. Note to self: Bribery works better than ...

But Why?

I am visiting my 2 year old (soon to be 3) granddaughter. If you have kids, you know what happens around their third birthday… everything becomes, why? And not just single, why is that? but a continuing stream of whys. Once I answer the first why, it is often followed by 4,5, or even 6 why questions in a row.

The Power of Why

If I become even slightly impatient with the steady stream of questions, I remember that asking why is one important way to learn. It’s unfortunate that we, as adults, stop asking why. We assume that we know the answer… so we don’t ask why. Or we’re afraid to look silly or worse, not all knowing. Somehow, by virtue of our age, we’re suddenly supposed to know ‘everything.’

Growing – Personally and Professionally

On a personal level, we can ask why of people we love to better understand their thoughts and feelings. This requires us to listen to the answer. If we just ask why and don’t work to understand the answer, we are missing an opportunity to connect to those we care most about.

Professionally, have you ever heard of root cause analysis (also known as the 5 whys) ? In this problem solving exercise, a series of why questions are asked in order to get at the ‘root’ of the problem. When there is an issue, we can keep asking why (of the people who best know the answer, i.e. maybe not the manager, but the worker) until we get some at the root.

Ask Humbly

When we ask why, we have to defer to the other person’s knowledge. This is not easy for those of us who think we’re smart and know a lot. I have to practice humility, daily. I have to remind myself that things change, often. Remind myself that other people know a lot, that they see things differently from me. And that is good. Every day, I look with gratitude at the people in my life, at the work I have the privilege to be engaged in, at the beauty of the world around me.

I don’t have to ask why nature is beautiful and powerful, I just know it is. It’s there everyday, unchanged in it’s power. There are other things that don’t require a why, but not that many. ‘Why’, fills in the blanks, updates the database in our heads, changes the way we interact with people in the world.


Photo Credit: The Three Hams  Make Less Noise

Never Try to Up Sell an Unhappy Customer

But I’m Not Wrong!

So, you’ve had a problem with someone. Your spouse, your customer, your kids… anyone. And now you need something from them. But you don’t want to apologize because:

  1. You didn’t do anything wrong
  2. You don’t like to apologize
  3. You’re sick and tired of taking other people’s crap
  4. The other person was wrong
  5. On and on and on…

There are 1001 and reasons why you shouldn’t have to say you’re sorry. All of them perfectly justified in your mind. So I’ll ask you this one question.

Do you want to be RIGHT? Or do you want to be HAPPY?

Some people will say, well, if I’m right, then I’m happy because I know I’m right. Oookaaay. If that’s how you feel, then you are all set. Or maybe you have a great example of how being ‘right’ is more important than being happy. I’m sure there are some. My point is that when we have conflict with someone, it may be because … we want to be right.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Of course the customer is NOT always right. But the customer is ‘righter’ than we are, because we need them. They are the lifeline to our business. They have the power to influence others, positively and negatively. The same goes for our friends, loved ones, co-workers. Every day we have a choice to be ‘right’. Every day we have a choice to graciously acknowledge that other people have a right to their positions.

Trying to convince them that their point of view is wrong… is, well, wrong. Even worse, trying to convince them that we are right (the up sell), is even worse. The best we can do is to listen and see if we can find a way to bridge the gap. We can maintain our dignity (no doormats allowed), and show that we are open to hearing something different.

I wish it were easier. I wish this was a skill we were taught in school, but like many important skills, we are on our own.

Image Credit: Steve  Steve Snodgrass

Holidays, Vacations, Life as We Know It

Holidays and Vacations

I took a vacation from the blog. Not on purpose, it just happened. I’ve been writing this blog off and on since 2008. So when one week turned into two turned into six… I realized that in addition to I celebrating the holidays, I was also taking a vacation; from my regular life, my regular responsibilities, my old self. As I celebrated a ‘speed limit’ birthday this month, I realized that there are all kinds of vacations. This particular vacation was very important to me.

Life As We know It

Every once in a while, I hope that you are able to take that same kind of vacation. It’s not like Disneyland, the beach or the mountains. It is the kind that allows us to look up at the clouds and take a long look at how we’re living. This isn’t easy. Who wants to question all the ways and reasons for the choices we’ve made? No one. And yet the importance of looking at our life – straight into it’s face – is important. Because there’s a big difference between living and surviving. If you choose to survive, because it’s easier… I understand. If you choose to live, even though it’s harder, much harder… I understand. You have my blessings to do either. It’s your life.

Photo credit: Cumulus Blue  Scott Robinson