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More than 10 years on: no progress to report

I don’t know whether to feel good or bad about this…

I’ve been thinking about exactly the same thing for more than the last ten years. And I’m still no closer to understanding things.

Back in 2005, I was the editor of my university’s student magazine. And this is the theme that I came up with for one on the six issues that year…

“Why?”

That was the theme.

And I’m still thinking about it. In 2005, I based a whole issue of a magazine on that one word, and now I’m basing a whole website on it.

After I moved to Italy in 2013, I needed a job, bad. So I opted to try do one of the few well-paying jobs going in that Mediterranean economic quagmire – teaching English. I signed up for a course in Milan on how to teach English and it turned out, the guy who ran it would have to be in the top 5 teachers I’ve ever had. His name was Morgan, and after a 4 week course with him, I, along with all the others in the class, felt like we had just been freed from military bootcamp. It was exhausting, but greatly beneficial.

Morgan’s teaching was inspiring, stimulating, intense. Teaching English was pretty much the last thing I’d ever considered doing, but he challenged me and all the others to be as good teachers as we could. And I took up his challenge. He also made me care about something I never ever thought I would.

He also once told us: ‘The Magic word is “Why?”‘

In ESL classes, you often get students giving you simple, one or two word answers. When this repeats, over and over, if you just ask the magic word – Why? – then it gets interesting.

Without realising it, it was something I had seriously thought about years before, and now years after, it’s the thing I still care most about. Why people do things.

Every thing we do is a decision. Whether conscious or unconscious, we forego any number of possible alternative to do that thing. And there’s always an interesting motivation for why people do absolutely everything. You’ve just got to look deep enough.

• ‘I drink at least 5 cups of coffee a day…’

Okay…Why?

• ‘I used to love to play the drums but then I just suddenly stopped.’

Yeah? Why?

• ‘I hate sports gambling with a passion.’

Why?

What each person says at first is mildly interesting, but you don’t learn anything about them really. If you then ask ‘Why?’, now you’re getting closer to who they really are. And maybe simply by you asking it, so are they.

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