A Short Conversation with a Student

Many of our students are struggling to develop a good guiding question.  In my seminars the default response seems to be something around “happiness” or “success.”

Rather than telling a student, “that’s not a good question” I often engage them in a conversation similar to the fictitious (but common) one below.

My goal is not to hand them a better question, but to lead them through process of reflection.  More often than not, they self-discover the true nature of their question and why it holds interest for them.


My question is “The meaning of success.”


I think it’s important.

Okay, but how is it personally relevant?

What do you mean?

What in your life led you to consider this issue?

Well, I’m on the track team and am studying athletic training.


Success is important there.

I agree, but I’m not sure that’ll help you investigate anything in a meaningful way.  It seems to me that it’s rather generic.  Why athletic training?

I get to help people.  I enjoy that.

Can you combine the two?  How do the people you help define success?

You mean like “What helps people recover after injury?“

Yes, exactly.  This sounds more personal and relevant.  Why don’t you take a closer look at this.  And as this question stems from a wicked problem, I want you to think though what that might be.  If you develop an issue map and self-discover the complex system at work, perhaps a new question or two will emerge.



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