Did You Ask Any Good Questions Today?

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Isidor I. Rabi holds a Nobel Prize for his work in physics. He was also head of the physics department at Columbia University, my alma mater. However, even with his renown and a connection that hits close to home, I’d never heard of him until yesterday.

The context of my initiation into Rabi didn’t have anything to do with his work and discoveries in physics. Rather, I’ve been reading, “Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up” by Harriet Lerner. Dr. Lerner drew a picture of how important it is for those in a coupled up relationship to ask questions of each other. To help make this point, she told the tale of how Isidor Rabi credited his mother with his scientific success.

When young Rabi would return home from school, the mothers of his friends would ask, “What did you learn today?” A pretty standard question for parents to ask, right?

However, Rabi’s mother would ask her son, “Did you ask any good questions today?”

This instilled a lifelong quest for knowledge in Rabi. And, were any of the rest of us in his shoes, maybe we’d have Nobel Prizes today, too!

Asking intelligent, philosophical questions, being willing to ask the question, “What if I look at this issue from another angle?” and simply trying to figure things out is so, so important. I truly feel if we spent half the time asking questions about how we can solve our problems, rather than just complaining about them, we would live much happier and more productive lives.

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