Carol Alt

The Dean and the Idea

By Carol Alt / Post / March 19, 2018

The longer I live, the more I realize that the statement “life imitates art” is true. While watching CBS News, I saw an interesting segment about Dean Ryan. Apparently Dean Ryan, the Dean of Harvard (and frankly, I can never mentioned the word Harvard without thinking of Dan Aykroyd in the movie Trading Places. HAAARH – VARD) gave a really great speech at commencement and it ended up turning into a book. That’s the short synopsis, at least.

But when I was listening and watching what he called “life’s questions” I began to see something familiar. In Dean Ryan’s words, the questions you need to ask in order to get ahead in life are essential in getting the right answers. Upon further thought, I noticed that these are the same questions that I ask in a scene when I’m breaking down a script.

Basically in acting we need to answer the questions who, what, when, where, why and how. That’s pretty much what Dean Ryan was saying in his new book, “Wait, What?: And Life’s Other Essential Questions.” He relayed the story where Einstein had once said, “if given an hour to solve a problem, and my life depended on it, I would spend the first 55 minutes thinking of the right question to ask. Once I have the right question, it would take me only five minutes to solve the problem.”

He broke down the main questions you need to ask when dealing with a situation either at work or in your personal life. They are the following:

  • Wait, What?
  • I wonder…
  • Couldn’t we at least…?
  • How can I help?
  • What truly matters?
  • According to Dean Ryan, we respond too quickly to situations. We don’t really, truly assess what’s happening and come up with the best solution; most of the time we just react. I, for one, think that this is a very good idea. Stopping and thinking is always the right response. However, if you don’t know what you’re stopping and thinking about, then stopping and thinking could just be a blank moment or two spent right before you continue reacting. Ryan gave that moment of pause form and substance.

    It is a terrific guideline that should be pinned on the wall in every workspace. Those five questions could make or break a company. When hotter heads are prevailing, this just might calm them down.

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    Edited by Jake Layton

    Carol Alt

    Learn more about Carol here.

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