Episode #1323 James Ryan: Wait, What?

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Moe Abdou is joined by Harvard’s Jim Ryan to explore life’s other essential questions.


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James Ryan

Dean of Harvard Graduate School of Education View Full Profile

Life's Other Essential Questions

As an inquisitive and curious individual, I relish great questions; so when I stumbled upon Jim Ryan’s 2016 commencement address to Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, I was captivated.  His short talk was both genuine and thoughtful, still if you’re one of the ten million who saw it, you will undoubtedly remember that six minute stretch near the end where he shared six simple questions that are bound to have far-reaching impact.    

As the 11th Dean of the HGSE, Ryan honored the occasion by reminding his graduates “to resist the temptation of having answers at the ready…” and instead “…to spend more time thinking about the right questions to ask."  This, of course, is much more difficult than one thinks, but as you’ll pick up during our conversation, it all starts with a willingness to challenge your own thinking.  Here are a few of the questions that we explore:

  • What makes a great question?
  • Why listening is an important prelude to questioning? 
  • The five questions:
    • Wait, What …?
    • I wonder…?
    • Couldn’t we at least …?
    • How can I help…?
    • What truly matters?
  • The bonus question:
    • And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?
  • An approach to difficult questions