… but by the nature of his questions.” This Voltaire quote has long inspired me, and after watching a commencement speech delivered by James Ryan, the new president of UVA, it got me thinking. How many questions do we ask each day?
While there is no precise data, there is some evidence that children ask about 125 questions a day, and adults, six. Even with a big statistical variance, I believe we do stop asking questions as we get older. There are many reasons: we know more, we think we know more, we don’t want to be embarrassed, we lose our curiosity … the list is long.
We do, however, collectively search Google 40,000 times per second. Maybe we’re actually asking more questions, just not of each other.
Now, back to James Ryan. Here’s what I thought were five wonderful questions he posed, what he called the Five Essential Questions:
Wait, what? The question that lies at the root of all understanding
I wonder …? The basis of curiosity
Couldn’t we at least …? A question that serves as the root of all progress
How can I help? The foundation of all good relationships
What truly matters? A profound question that gets to the heart of life
Watch the video of his speech for what he calls the bonus question.
Today, I’m going to start adding these very simple and elegant questions to my conversations. I wonder why I didn’t think of this before.