The Five Whys: Because Poems
Less than a week before our neighborhood pool opened, my friend’s youngest son broke his arm while attempting to do a “clap push-up.” What you do is execute a push-up and, as if that isn’t enough, clap when you get to the top of the move.
Maybe it’s a “push-up clap.” Either way, unless you’re Rocky or training to box Rocky, I don’t think it’s a fantastic idea.
“Why would you do that?” I asked my friend, who said, “Because boys,” and we laughed. But after a pause she told me about the Five Whys analysis method for determining a root cause. Basically, you start with a problem or dilemma and begin asking “why” until somebody either loses their mind or you find the root cause.
I think 3-year-olds would be phenomenal at this.
For fun, my friend and I tried out the method out, imagining how her son might answer:
1. Why did you break your arm?
Because I was doing a clap push-up.
2. Why did you do a clap push-up?
Because it looked fun.
3. Why did it look fun?
Because my older brother was doing one.
4. Why was your older brother doing a clap push-up?
Because it was the end of the day and it was almost time for me to go to bed, and I never want to go to bed, so my brother and I were messing around, and he showed me about the clap push-up and told me to try it.
5. Why would you do what your brother says?
Because he is 15, and I am 10, and I’m trying to keep up with him. Because I have so much fun with him. Because I didn’t think I’d get hurt.
What struck me about the exercise was that the more we asked why, the longer and more reflective the answers became. Consequently, our understanding of why he might’ve done this deepened.
I also found this to be a lesson in voice. That is, she and I had to step into what we knew or observed about him in order to answer the questions and find the root cause. This allowed us more insight into who he is.
While I know I would break more than an arm if I attempted a clap push-up, I get why my friend’s son wanted to do it. Bedtime is NO FUN, and brothers — younger or older — are the best. I’d probably attempt a clap push-up if my brother asked me to do it too.
Try It: The Five Whys
This week use the Five Whys method to discover the root cause for a problem or incident you experienced, but see if you can respond in another person’s voice. Then write a “Because” poem in that person’s voice, using the problem as the title. Here’s my attempt:
Why Attempt the “Clap Push-Up”
Because I didn’t want to go to bed
GOING TO BED IS BORING
Because my older brother gets to
He says it’s because
he can do a clap push-up
if I can do a clap push-up
My brother shows me how
My brother the highschooler
My brother the soccer player
He is not at home as much anymore.
“Now you try,” he says
I scramble to my hands and knees
pop my knees off the floor
lower myself down
to pop myself up
My brother is the first
to sign my cast
“This is my fault.”
Photo by Keith Yahl, Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Callie Feyen.
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I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.
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