If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they make a decent foot?

Cheetah + Diving BoardBack in 1976, long before there was a Google to field all of our queries, a young man named Van Phillips started asking the question above, first in his head and then aloud. Phillips felt his future depended upon finding a good answer and no one seemed to have one for him.

After having lost his left foot in a water-skiing accident at age 21, Phillips was fitted with “a pink foot attached to an aluminum tube.” Phillips left the hospital with instructions: Get used to your “new best friend.” Instead, he asked himself Why should I settle for this lousy foot? This question and the many others that followed guided him over a decades-long journey to reinvent prostheses. Phillips’s tireless Why? What if? and How prototyping and questions eventually led to the creation of the FlexFoot, which had its origins in a smart recombination of a diving board, a C-shaped Chinese sword, and the running ability of the super-swift cheetah. In the FlexFoot’s more advanced incarnation as the Cheetah running blade, it’s been used by people to climb Mount Everest and compete in the 2012 Olympics.

The multifaceted Van Phillips “beautiful questions” story is explored in depth in the book A More Beautiful Question.

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About the Author

Journalist and speaker Warren Berger realized that the majority of successful creatives and entrepreneurs he was interviewing over the years were great questioners. His wondering about “How can we all learn to do what they do?” led to this website and the writing of THE BOOK OF BEAUTIFUL QUESTIONS (2018) and A MORE BEAUTIFUL QUESTION (2014). Follow him on Twitter at @GlimmerGuy and subscribe to his blog posts.

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