I gazed into her beautiful brown eyes, struck again not only by that charming combination of dark brown eyes and strawberry-blonde hair but by the lessons reflected there. They were lessons she’d taught me again that night, and they are lessons we all can learn or relearn – lessons for leadership and life from the eyes of a child.
My wife and I have made a practice of date nights with our little ones. On this warm May evening, it was my opportunity to focus on and be completely present with my four-year-old, brown-eyed belle. Her eyes flashed from mine to take in, discover, and explore the world around us; at the same time, she asked me again, “Why, Dad?”
Why? It’s a simple question that demonstrates childlike curiosity and a desire to learn, to understand. It reveals a willingness to challenge the status quo or that there is, in fact, a better way. This was lesson one, spoken in a single word and communicated through wondering eyes. The question contained a powerful lesson, challenging me to be curious, listen, understand, and pursue a better way. When we stop asking why with childlike curiosity, we miss discovering purpose, and we miss identifying opportunity – opportunity that breeds new ideas.
As we left the restaurant and our conversation continued, her next question reminded me of another lesson. This question was posed with that same tilt of the chin and curious look. “Why not, Dad?” I’d given her options, and she was appropriately challenging why the “or” couldn’t become an “and.” She reminded me that as we grow older, we often fail to ask, “why not?” because we either feel pressure to fit in and comply or we simply have forgotten how to think differently. When we ask, “why not?” with childlike curiosity, we open new possibilities, discover innovative (instead of incremental) opportunities, and eliminate sucker’s choices.
“Do you see the sunset, Dad?” This question captured the third lesson of the evening. It was asked as she pointed west from the top of the Ferris wheel. Of course, I could see the sunset. But I didn’t see it like she was challenging me to. The lesson was this: change your perspective and slow down to truly see. When we change our vantage point, when we slow down to reflect and consider, and when we choose (yes, it’s a choice) what to see, we discover meaning, beauty, and joy.
There they were: three simple questions and three powerful lessons from my child’s eyes. There is a lot we can learn by rediscovering a childlike perspective. Are you asking why and why not? And, do you see the sunset?
Joel Van Egdom, CFO