There is something in the persistent question How? that expresses each person’s struggle between having confidence in their capacity to live a life of purpose and yielding to the daily demands of being practical. It is entirely possible to spend our days engaged in activities that work well for us and achieve our objectives, and still wonder whether we are really making a difference in the world. My premise is that this culture, and we as members of it, have yielded too easily to what is doable and practical and popular. In the process we have sacrificed the pursuit of what is in our hearts. We find ourselves giving in to our doubts, and settling for what we know how to do, or can soon learn how to do, instead of pursuing what most matters to us and living with the adventure and anxiety that this requires.
The idea that asking how to do something may be an obstacle rather than an enabler ended my 1993 book, Stewardship. In the final chapter, there is the suggestion that How? is a symbol of our caution and reinforces the belief that, no matter what the question, there is an answer out there that I need and will make the difference. I pick How? as a symbol simply because it is far and away the most common question I hear. It has always struck me that I can write or speak the most radical thoughts imaginable. I can advocate revolution, the end of leadership, the abolition of appraising each other, the empowerment of the least among us, the end of life on the planet as we know it, and no one ever argues with me. The only questions I hear are “How do you get there from here? Where has this worked? What would it cost and what is the return on investment?“ This has led me to the belief that the questions about How? are more interesting than any answer to them might be. They stand for some deeper concerns. So in this book, the starting point is to question the questions.