Jerry Nixon @Work: Why you should stop asking “Why?”

Jerry Nixon on Windows

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why you should stop asking “Why?”

The Director is responsible for calculating the trajectory of long range ordinances on warships. His shells can travel like a freight train more than 20 miles in minutes. He accounts for ballistic conditions like wind, gravity, weather resistance, and even the corellas effect (which is Earth’s rotation). His accuracy can bust an enemy bunker. And, his mistake can vaporize friendly troops. When he adjusts his guns, he does so deliberately and with extreme subtlety.  In fact, near microscopic adjustments to the gun’s pitch will shift the target zone by several miles. Today, computers called Auxiliary Predictors do this work. As a result, fewer antacids are stocked in the shipboard infirmary. But the concept remains the same.

Where you start influences where you finish

In the land of the free, American’s experience an opportunity that doesn’t tie them to the socio-economic conditions of their birth. Nobody is told “no” because their parents were farmers. Nobody is told “no” because they were born into poverty. Instead, we are told “yes” on the merit of our work, our results, and our impact. But, how do we create impact? How do we create change?

You may know that with a thin string you can tie a young elephant to a small stake. He’ll stay. Repeat this for the rest of his life and the largest elephant will be confined to the same small stake by the same thin string. It’s because how we are taught defines how we think. And, everything is teaching us – including ourselves. Could the elephant break that thin string? Yes. Does he think he can? No.

I have children. And, I love them. We play together. We travel together. I talk to them. And, often, I say things to them intentionally. Things that I feel impact their worldview, their impression of themselves, and their understanding of themselves, good and bad. I also teach high school classes. Though older than my own children, I also say things to them intentionally. I don’t care to modify their behavior, I want to impact the way they think and how they see the world.

Why? Because where you start influences where you finish. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can put their heart and mind into the purpose of overcoming their past. It can be done. Nobody is stuck on a rut that can’t be undone. And, people change. Having said that, a naval Gunner can most effectively change the trajectory of a gun’s shell before it leaves the barrel. Once loosed, the influence of where it started is so strong that changing its final destination can be nearly impossible.


Why you should stop asking “Why?”

Here’s one of the things I say to my children and my students. I say it when they are trying to decide. It’s this: “There are two types of people in the world. There are people ask ‘Why?’ and there are people who ask ‘Why not?’.” Then, I usually explain what I mean like this:

Everything has a cost and everything has a risk. We weight every opportunity. But like anything, opportunities don’t come around every day and won’t come around forever. You can’t abandon discerning wisdom, but you also can’t measure an opportunity based on safety and ease.

There are two types of people in this world

There are two types of people in this world. The ones that when life asks them to take a risk they answer with “Why?” and the ones that when life asks them to take a risk they answer with “Why not?”

Why not? people make a difference, have stories, live life, and relish it. Why? people watch from the sidelines, collect regrets and don’t do much of anything out of fear and cynicism.

Hey, do you want to try rock climbing? Why? Hey, do you want to ride in a glider? Why? Hey, do you want to meet some of my friends? Why? Hey, do you want to work for my company? Why? Hey, do you want to climb that mountain? Why? Hey, do you want to learn to kayak? Why? Hey, do you want to make a difference in the world? Why? And so it goes.

Or, try this. Hey, do you want to… ? Why not? See the difference?

Risk is the cost for change. Change is the cost for experience. And, experience is the currency of opportunity. It is how you can make an impact. So, how can you change the world? How can you change your community? How can you? It’s not possible. Not until you start asking “Why not?” Perhaps it’s even better to say: it’s not possible until you stop asking “Why?”.

Right now, literally today, we are all juggling some type of opportunity. Something asking us to take some risk and make some difference – in our world, community, family, or ourselves. How we answer that challenge is the difference between “Why?” and “Why not?”

Choose wisely.