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Captains Curious: Living the Questions


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest member of the Captains Curious is Tara Joyce! To learn about the series and the other Captains Curious, please click here.

To be open and asking questions is often frowned upon

We are encouraged to see the world in black and white, as an either/or proposition with a right or wrong answer, and we are expected to chose accordingly.

We are told that those who “know” things are experts, and are here to help us make the right choices. We are taught that experts are those we can trust when we have problems. And we are led to believe that, by asserting our own “knowing,” we can create evidence of our own professionalism and abilities – and be experts, too.

To not know and admit it, to be open and asking questions is often frowned upon. We are made to feel ashamed for “not knowing.” We are made to feel that we need to be certain of things — that we need to have the answers before the questions have been asked. This “knowing” is seen as an accomplishment and proof of our abilities.

Many of us build our careers around this false belief, that if we live as the expert, we will know what’s best. We fool ourselves into believing that we already have the answers, despite the fact that we do not yet know the questions that need to be asked.

We hold on to answers to questions that have not been asked, and this causes us to live in fear of our own, and others’, curiosity and wonder.

Living in Questioning

What I wonder is, what’s so bad about “not knowing?” What makes me less professional or able if I don’t have your answers? I believe my curiosity and wonder, my need to question, is my greatest gift. It allows me to think beyond the answers spoon fed by others in their attempt to assert their “knowing.” It allows me to see that there is never a right answer, only an answer that works best for me.

My openness to “not knowing” gives me permission to live in questioning. And as experts busy themselves trying to be seen as right, I, curious about the world and all that I do not know, am busy trying to see everything.

Curiosity and wonder live and thrive in the exploration of Why? Great solutions are found in the Why? Through the use of questioning, I give permission to myself, and my clients, to brush off the chains created by “knowing.” Through questioning, I dig deep to uncover the real reason behind why something “must be done this way” and help myself, and others, to move past assertions of “how things are” to find the solutions that feel true to us.

Living in Creative Tension

In Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline, Senge states,

“The gap between vision and current reality is a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.”

Living in creative tension is living in curiosity. Our curious Self sees, in the gap of “not knowing,” a safe place to problem-solve, to dream and to focus on living our questions.

As someone full of wonder, and as someone who helps others use curiosity to grow their business, I see the “grey area” of life, outside the “black” and “white” world, as my home. In creative tension I feel safe, as this is where I am free to be a beginner and open my eyes, heart and mind to the authentic answers within myself, and within my clients.

Your own creative tension, your own place of living the questions, is the place where curiosity lives and is the place most ripe with the solutions you need. Living without fear of “not knowing,” and ignoring those who “know” without questioning, we create our greatest possibility to close our gap between what is and what could be.

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I, Tara Joyce, can be found exploring business, design, consciousness, communication and culture on my blog, Rise of the Innerpreneur or as @ElasticMind on Twitter. I can also be found working with business owners to close the gap between their business vision and their business reality through the use of design, which, of course, involves a lot of questioning!

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Would you like to submit a guest post on the subject of Curiosity? Send an email to susan {at} susanTblake {dot} com with the subject line: Captains Curious.

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3 Responses to Captains Curious: Living the Questions

  1. Jesse May 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    Literally, right before reading this post, I was involved in an exchange on Twitter that was started by my asking a question.

    I almost didn’t ask. I hemmed and hawed, and these thoughts went through my head: “I’ll look dumb.” “It’s better to pretend that I know.” “Just ignore it, maybe someone else will ask.”

    What the heck. I asked.

    I learned something. The person with the answers was very helpful and even thanked me for asking.

    I call that a Win/Win!

  2. Susan T. Blake May 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Tara, there are so many gems here! But I think what really strikes me is that my favorite “experts” are always learning, always questioning. I am reminded of something my dad used to say, to the effect of “Intelligence is knowing all the answers, it’s knowing how to find the answers.” And that knowing how to find the answers boils down to asking, and not pretending.

    And I love the parallel you draw between living in creative tension and living in curiosity. Yes.

    Jesse, Yay You for asking! Definitely a Win/Win!

  3. Susan T. Blake May 31, 2011 at 9:06 am #

    How wonderfully timely that iJourney.org should run a post today with an excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” about the importance of Living the Questions. You can read it here: http://www.ijourney.org/?tid=747

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