Work is not a spectator sport

There are conversations, articles and books that resonate with us over time because they serve as recurring reminders of the essential elements we need to incorporate into our daily work lives.

One article I recommend is a 2011 OpEd piece written by David Brooks in The New York Times. Titled ‘The Question-Driven Life’ it begins with the statement: “We are born with what some psychologists call an “explanatory drive.” You give a baby a strange object or something that doesn’t make sense and she will become instantly absorbed; using all her abilities — taste, smell, force — to figure out how it fits in with the world.”

I believe that curiosity is a key element to success in a career. But how many of us approach our work with the intense desire to learn of the average two year old?

How do we learn if we don’t ask questions? How do we make connections to solve problems if we don’t ask questions? Observation plays a key role in our success, but sitting back as a spectator does not give us the information we need to actively engage with our colleagues, clients and investors.

The concept of the question driven life fits nicely into the world where investigative skills define the work of the profession; research, science, medicine. However, today, in our information driven world, we are all researchers and problem-solvers.  In a world of Wikipedia, it’s best to get first hand information, asking questions of actual humans, face to face. And in finding answers we further develop our expertise and begin to identify connections beyond the scope of our initial task.

And we become more valuable to others, for the knowledge we possess and share.

Mr. Brooks concludes his article with one of my favorite quotes, encouraging engagement in work and life quoting the late Richard Holbrook‘s essential piece of advice for a question-driven life: “Know something about something. Don’t just present your wonderful self to the world. Constantly amass knowledge and offer it.”

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