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Why we should never stop asking why

By Staff | Apr 12, 2019

Ever been asked to speak at career day at the local middle school? If you haven’t, trust me when I say it’s an eye-opening, slightly nerve-wracking experience.

I volunteered with the Calhoun County Farm Bureau to speak at Ag Day on March 26 at the Manson Northwest Webster Middle School about my travels to Vietnam and South Korea a few years ago with the Iowa Corn Growers’ I-LEAD leadership group.

Then I headed west to Sac City on March 29 to share my “True Confessions of an Ag Journalist” program during the Sac County Farm Bureau’s I Am Ag career day, where professionals from veterinarians to bankers spoke about the pros and cons of their careers.

Throughout the day, each speaker is assigned a classroom, and we share our story 12 times in 25-minute segments. I always go home from these events exhausted, but I hope I added value for the students and helped spark their desire to keep learning.

What always amazes me is how different the response is from the sixth graders to the eighth graders. The sixth graders are excited to learn and have no fear of asking questions. In fact, many of them are quick to raise their hands to ask questions and share comments.

Everything changes when the eighth graders walk in the room. Many of these kids want to show you just how bored they are. Some convey clearly through their body language and comments that don’t want to be stuck in a classroom. Their eyes tell you in no uncertain terms that they’re just waiting to defy anyone who dares to challenge them to think and learn.

Undaunted, I tell every group of students I work with that one of the keys to being a successful writer/storyteller/journalist (or any leader, for that matter) is to be like the little kid who never stopped asking why. Always nurture your sense of wonder and curiosity. Not only is that how we learn, but it makes life more fun!

Why do we lose the why?

This experience made me wonder why so many people lose their desire to ask questions.

Awhile back, a Newsweek story called “The Creativity Crisis” described the signs of declining creativity among our school children. The article noted that preschool kids ask their parents an average of 100 questions a day. Wow! By middle school, however, kids basically stop asking questions.

It’s also around this time student motivation and engagement drop like a rock. Why? Our educational system has tended to reward students for having the answer, not for asking good questions. Ask a question, and you risk looking ignorant.

Yet knowing how to ask the right questions in the right way is essential to career success, more enjoyable conversations, stronger interpersonal relationships and effective leadership. I can only tell compelling, clear stories for my clients and through my books when I ask the right questions.

As a writer and storyteller, I often work from a set of open-ended questions that encourage sources to open up so we can go beyond the superficial and dig deeper to get to the good stuff-the defining moments, the setbacks, and the dreams that add life and vitality to any story.

Here are some of my key questions

– What’s your motivation (for your work, or your life)?

– What three things inspire you? (These can be people, books, movies, art, places, etc.)

– Think back to when you first hit adulthood. What did you think your life would be like? What was your plan A? Are you still with Plan A, or did you move on to Plan B?

– What obstacles did you overcome to get where you are today?

– What’s some of the best business advice-or advice for life-you’ve ever received?

Next time you want to engage in a conversation with someone, or next time you’re interviewing someone for a job, try a few of these questions. Let me know how it goes.

No matter what, never stop asking “why” about the world around you. We need more critical thinkers. Also remember the words of playwright George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

Darcy Dougherty-Maulsby (a.k.a) Yetter-girl grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and is proud to call Calhoun County home.

Contact her at yettergirl@yahoo.com and visit her online at www.darcymaulsby.com.

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