The other day while taking my son to the doctor’s office to check his ears for infection, he was gabbing away in the back seat. He was talking about what he observed passing by and what seemed like random memories or topics. He’s four years old so his brain is developing in earnest. I was just trying to keep up with his wandering topics. When he asked about something passing by, I told him I didn’t know what it was. I had to keep my focus on driving for both of our safety. He then said something that struck a deep chord inside. He calmly stated, “When I don’t know something, I just ask why and wonder.”
As I’ve said before, there’s so much we can learn from kids and the people around us if we can just listen for understanding instead of listening to reply. His statement is a cornerstone of running the successful business of you. When we don’t know something, we simply need to ask why. When answers are not readily available, we need to let the unknown be unknown and allow ourselves to wonder.
The state of wonder is an amazing trait of children that we whittle away at while becoming adults. When exiting the nest our sense of knowing things creates a nice confidence to go off and experience the world. At some level it is an empty confidence built on limited experience. Our family and culture provide the framework of our mental model or internal picture of reality. As we gain experience, we fill in the gaps in our mental models. This is all and good, however without accepting the unknown in life we lose our ability to simply wonder. For a child the world is mostly unknown and wonder comes naturally. Most adults I know try to have explanations for everything. When they don’t wonder why or how things happen, they don’t explore the world around them. Rediscovering the sense wonder as an adult opens up our awareness to the mystery of life around and within us. When we are able to wonder about why, how and what even when we may have a mental model giving us answers, we allow others to be different from us. We allow the world to be what it is instead of making it conform to how we think and feel it should be.
So, the next time you think you know what’s going on or why things are the way they are, stop and ask yourself some questions. Practice the art of wondering.