Redefining Adversity Through Questioning

When I began reading Warren Berger’s, A More Beautiful Question (2014), I found myself intrigued by the anecdotes scattered throughout the book. They highlight the success stories of some of the world’s most inquisitive individuals who later evolved into inspiring innovators, ranging from the origination of the popular sports drink, Gatorade, to Airbnb, a disruptor of the hospitality industry. However, regardless of the uniqueness of each story, they share a profound similarity: solutions come from asking the right questions.

Asking the right questions is something we, as problem-solvers, have control over. For example, we can opt to use the Why/What If/How process, as my fellow graduate school classmates and I demonstrated for our wicked problem project, which transitions from one line of questioning to the next until a solution is established. On the contrary, to form what Berger calls a beautiful question, “an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change” — one must perceive the circumstances they cannot change. One must perceive the defining moments of their past — the synchronistic events that have led up to present day. As Berger states, “It all starts with slowing down, stepping back, and trying to shift perspective in order to see your own life—and the problems, opportunities, and challenges worth tackling—more clearly.”

As an educator, I am constantly grappling with how I can inspire my students to invest in their learning and achieve the most positive experience in my classroom. Just as my wicked problem project taught me, I must not only teach, but more importantly lead by example. As such, my greatest source of inspiration has been unravelling the path that led me to where I am today and sharing my personal story with others in hope of motivating and educating.

Although I consider myself to be a reflective individual, I, like most, can get bogged down by day-to-day stressors. Therefore, to help crystalize and visualize my most pivotal event — donating 65 percent of my liver to my younger brother, Cameron — I created a custom My Maps with Google. To explore, click on the map below.

As highlighted in my map, upon preparing for transplant surgery, Cameron and I were faced with a decision. We could view our situation as the culmination of an unfortunate sequence of events and write it off as an experience of the past, or we could chose to seize it as an opportunity to bring about change in the future. As Berger notes, “When innovators look at the world around them, they’re often looking for what’s missing. But while questioning your own life, it’s also important to look, via ‘appreciative inquiry,’ not just for what’s missing, but also for what’s there.” Cameron and I sought the positive in the hand we were dealt.

My Most Beautiful Question

Throughout this process, my most beautiful question has become clear: How can I spend my life inspiring others? The future depends on curiosity and passion, and I hold myself accountable for helping equip my students with such characteristics. My goal is to make my students “winners” as described by Thomas L. Friedman, who stated, “The winners won’t just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime” (2013).

My story is proof that, sometimes, what may seem like the ugliest circumstance may actually lead to one’s most beautiful question.

Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Friedman, T. L. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as much as I.Q. Retrieved from