Column: Where is your mental maturity?

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By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

ST. MAARTEN — The older I get, the more I start asking why, and I start questioning all the answers. Maybe it’s a remnant of the child in me. When children are getting to the age of three, they start asking questions. It heralds a sudden upsurge in their intellectual development. The very youngest will simply accept that things are the way they are, like mother milk. Past a certain age the child with a greater degree of mental maturity will want to know why. You are an adult, where do you stand? Do you estimate that you have mental maturity enough to stop asking questions? Wow, I got you there!

At the age of around three, the process of “individuation” occurs. Children begin to become aware of themselves as individuals and start to see the gap between how the world is and how they want it to be. I bet that most of you still see the gap, but what are you doing about it? Be honest with yourself; most likely nothing! You do what you need to do and not what you want to do, and that’s how life continues to run smoothly. Right? Is that your way or his/her way? Okay, have it either way if that satisfies you. You see? That is where Individuation comes in, and it applies to our private life just as much as to business and even industry. Or…, one could just go by the option that what seems to be is better than nothing.

Most of what we do is a bunch of nonsense!
“Why” is not simply about curiosity. It is about asking for a reason. Ask the why-question to people in any kind of activity.

Most likely you’ll get the answer that they were told to do so or have always done it that way. Often the “Answer” to the “Why” is more like “Rocks are hard and water is wet”. People really start slipping and sliding with their responses, when more why-questions are coming thick and fast, and go on like a broken record of whys. One is becoming subject to be considered a nuisance. Who wants to be a nuisance? And so, that’s where the questioning stops most of the times.

What is considered a nuisance here, is where the most brilliant minds keep going on. People love to quote Einstein because quoting him gives an impression that one also has intelligence. A bit like rubbing off. What better way to show one’s intelligence, than agreeing with a genius?

It is funny though that there is a quote from the genius Einstein himself that you don’t see much; he said: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.“ That is what Einstein was all about! That may give you a hint why, where mediocre minds consider questioning a nuisance and the brilliant minds create a new theory and get a Nobel Prize!

Individuation is best for business
In business, individuation parallels specialization and increases efficiency. It serves as a means for individuals to find comparative advantage in their working environment or career.

For business it could create a comparative advantage in the marketplace. Isn’t that what most of us want, be better and make more money? Let’s think of that kid’s stuff above, put it into place here, and you will see that it is what is needed most in our business and our industry. It makes you wonder how we forgot what we did at age three. Keep asking “Why”! Why the heck are we doing this and especially why this way? Why isn’t there a better way? Individuation is the process through which a person or a business becomes its “true self”.

In psychology it is considered the process whereby the innate elements of personality; the different experiences of a person’s life and the different aspects and components of the immature psyche become integrated over time into a well-functioning whole. Take a pause, try to digest the bit of psychology, and read again but this time apply it to a business.

Individuation is stabilizing a professional’s personality, or a business; it is also a process of establishing a competitive edge! Understand why the why-questions are so valuable and we should not stop asking them? In fact, we should ask it more because we all know darn well that we ourselves, our society, our business and industry are not perfect.

Stop the world; start asking why!
Yes, I have come to the conclusion that most things we do in life or do in business are just a bunch of nonsense and what is worse that we keep doing it for no good reason at all. Some will blame it on the boss, some on the weather, others on childhood or their mother-in-law. Oh, almost forgot hurricane and recession. More asking Why can make us wiser, more competent and improve our mental maturity.

Cdr.Bud Slabbaert is the initiator and coordinator of the annual Caribbean Aviation Meetup conference which will be held on St.Maarten/St.Martin, June 11-13 ( The international results and solution oriented event brings airlift stakeholders from both aviation and tourism industry, as well as government authorities together. Slabbaert’s background is accentuated by Business Development, Strategic Communication, and Journalism.