I have said before that, someday, I am going to write a book. The title of the book will be Everything I Needed to Know About Management, I Learned from Raising Children (https://wordpress.com/post/worldaccordingtomichael.wordpress.com/241). Given the popularity of this blog, we can reasonably assume that the book would be a best-seller. So, of course, I would have to write a follow-up book, no? The title of that book would be, Everything Else I Needed to Know, I Learned from My Grandchildren.
You all know who Penelope is (https://wordpress.com/post/worldaccordingtomichael.wordpress.com/131). She is, once again, teaching me important business and life lessons. I thought I would share one with you.
As Penelope’s Mom and Dad adjust to the rigors of being parents of a newborn again (Henry Thomas arrived April 28th), Mary and I have had the wonderful responsibility of helping out by spending more time with Penelope. In addition to the endless building of Lego towers, bubble baths, and reading story after story, I also have been able watch a personality form before my eyes. It is fascinating to be unencumbered by the pressures of being a parent and to be able to focus on the larger context of seeing the world through Penelope’s eyes. Aside from making me recognize how clueless I was in raising Keaton and Matthew (and how lucky they were to make it to adulthood relatively unscathed), I am learning important lessons for life and business.
Penelope has been teaching me the most important lesson over the past few weeks – she has entered the “Why?” phase. A recent example –
P – “I need to go outside.”
N (for Nonno, millennials and non-Italians, google it) – “It is too hot to go outside right now”
P – “Why?”
N – “Because the temperature outside is very hot.”
P – “Why?”
N – “Because the sun is directly over the top of us and it makes it very hot outside.”
P – “Why?”
N – “Because, in summer, the sun is closer to earth than in winter, and that makes it hotter.”
P – “Why?”
N – “Would you like some ice cream?”
Despite my exasperation, I have decided that “Why?” is the single best question to ask in business and in life. The problem with leaders is not that we ask “Why?” too much; it is that we do not ask “Why?” often enough.
Why? causes leaders to constantly challenge conventional wisdom. Why? challenges us to continually search for deeper meaning. Mulder and Sculley (“X Files” – millennials, you know what to do) were right, “The answer is out there.”
“Why do we do ‘x’?” / “Why don’t we do ‘y’?” are questions that every businessperson should ask every day. The answer to those questions will yield multiple positive outcomes – it will generate new ideas, new markets, new products, and new clients. The worst case is that it will confirm existing ideas, markets, and products. But, instead of accepting the answer of a prior person, the questioner will learn so much deeper as a result of pursuing the answer themselves.
“Why does she think ‘x’?” or “Why do they believe ‘y’?” are questions that we, as human beings, should ask every day. The goal is not to agree with the ultimate answer. The goal is to understand the rationale behind the answer.
As business leaders and as people, we should constantly ask ourselves, “Why do I…?” / “Why don’t I…?” If we cannot answer our own “whys”, how can we expect to lead businesses, raise children, and live life? Of course, it is hard. Of course, it is frustrating. You may not want to know some of the answers. I know I don’t. I also know that I fear underachievement as a leader and a person more than I fear the answers to my “whys”. I cannot accomplish the former without addressing the latter.
In my time with Penelope, I am trying to instill in her my own fastidious nature. So, whenever she comes to visit, she likes to come into my office and help me “work”. One of the things she loves to help with is shredding paper. I save up my scrap paper during the week so Penelope and I can have a shredding session. On the way out of my office, she will inevitably pause to look at all the framed pictures on my bookshelves. She’ll point out pictures of Mommy and Daddy; Nonno and Nonna; Uncle Matt. Recently, she stopped at the picture of my Mom (known as “Bisnonna”)…
P – “Where is Bisnonna”
N – “Bisnonna is in heaven”
P – “Why?”
Please tune in for my next blog – “Faith”.
Michael C. Marcon is the Chairman of M3K Holdings, LLC (www.m3kllc.com) and Nonno to Penelope and Henry.