Tag Archives | Curiosity

Pocket Watch


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Yesterday, as I waited at the Crosswalk With the Fake Button And The Light That Changes In Its Own Sweet Time, I noticed a grizzled old guy in a white t-shirt and jeans. I noticed him because he had a silver chain going to the watch pocket of his jeans. Nobody does that any more. Which made me curious, did he really have a pocket watch? What did it look like? So I went over and stood next to him as we waited for the light to change.

He started talking to me – First about not crossing against the light because he’d talked to a guy who’d gotten a $250 ticket… the cops hide just around the corner and watch, he said. (Mental note.) Then I commented on the watch chain, and asked if he really had a pocket watch. He pulled it out and showed it to me: Nothing fancy, just an old Timex. He has a collection of watches, he told me; in fact, he thought he even still had his high school graduation watch… somewhere… “I wonder if it still works,” he wondered out loud.

The light changed and, as we crossed the street, he told me about the weird (his term) things he collects in addition to watches. Probably the strangest, he said, was his collection of axes. Axes? Yes, axes. He has everything from very small hatchets to very large axes. He has about 50. He’s currently searching for one used by the lumberjacks in the redwoods. The axe handle is more than 40 inches long, and the axe head weighs a ton. (He told me how much but I don’t remember.)

“You’d think those guys had to be big and tall to use an axe like that,” he said, “but I read that on average they were less than 5’7”. They must have had big burly arms, that’s for sure.”

He went on to tell me that he has lots of hobbies in addition to collecting axes. For example, t-shirts don’t have pockets any more, so he makes leather pencil holders you wear on your belt. (He showed me the one he was wearing.) He also makes leather jewelry, and Native American jewelry with bone beads.

All this in the space of less than a block and up an elevator.

We said good-bye as he got off the elevator. “I enjoyed talking with you,” I told him. And I did. Although I didn’t get to do much talking. I’m glad I was curious about that watch chain.


Curiosity leads to Connection.

When has Curiosity helped you Connect to someone else?

Image “Old Pocket Watch” Courtesy of Aleksa D/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I Finally Get It


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I finally get it.

Thanks to tripping over a blog post by Julie Daley, I just had an insight into something that has been puzzling me. Puzzling me, in fact, since I accepted the calling to work in the world of Grief. Since I realized that working in the world of Grief is really working in the world of Connection.

The puzzle?

Where does Curiosity fit into it?

Curiosity, which has been my focus, my bandwagon, for several years. My joy, my playground. My secret weapon.

Grief. Connection. Healing. Curiosity.

“One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?”*

A puzzle. And my fear, at the bottom of the puzzle, was that Curiosity didn’t belong here any more, and I really didn’t want to give it up as a topic. Because it’s fun to explore, to write about. Because it is important.

“Three of these things belong together
Three of these things are kind of the same
Can you guess which one of these doesn’t belong here?
Now it’s time to play our game.”*

Actually…

Now I see that it is like the others, and it’s so obvious to me I wonder how I didn’t see it before.

In her post, Julie wrote about knowing and not knowing, about admitting what we don’t know, and owning what we do know. And something in what she wrote reminded me that Curiosity is what connects us to others. Curiosity is what is happening when we reach out to someone else, when we admit we don’t know, and we’d like to.

Curiosity is what bridges the gap between me and you.

Curiosity is what powers my reaching out, my desire to Connect with you. I don’t know, and I’d like to. To connect with Life. I don’t understand, and I’d like to.

Connection and Loss, Joy and Grief, are intimately intertwined. So Curiosity, as a fundamental aspect of Connection, is part of that dance.

<Ding>

And I have to laugh, because I have known this all along. After all, one of my handles is “Believes Curiosity and Wonder can save the world.”

Grief. Connection. Healing. Curiosity.

They are… connected.

I know it in my bones.

Yes.


Does this resonate with you? What do you know in your bones?

Please leave a comment.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*That’s right, Sesame Street. “Three of These Things” by Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss, c 1970.

Skeptics and Cynics. And Coincidences.


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“He was so cynical, it was impossible to deal with him.” My friend told me about a prospective client she had been talking to, and went on to describe how one of her mentors had recently talked with her about dealing with people in the sales process, and how the hardest two categories were Skeptics and Cynics. “What’s the difference?” she wondered aloud.

I almost spit my coffee out on the table. My friend had just voiced a question I’d been asking myself for several weeks. How weird is that?

I can’t even remember what started me thinking about it, but it has floated through my mind several times recently. In and out. Here and gone again. Unresolved. And here it was again, this time in a voice outside my own head.

I managed to swallow rather than embarrass myself, and we started talking it through.

What is the difference between a Skeptic and a Cynic? Why is one easier to deal with than the other? How can we tell them apart?

Here’s what we came up with:

Skeptics are at least a little curious, whereas Cynics are not. Cynics are sure.

So, how can we tell which one a person is?

Well, we decided, by asking them questions. Not by asking, “Are you curious?” but by asking other questions, and by paying attention to how they react.

The idea is that a Cynic is probably not open to being questioned, definitely not open to changing his or her mind. The Cynic is potentially threatened by the possibility of being wrong. The sureness of their views makes the world a safer place, and their egos – and their places in the world – are at stake.

A Skeptic, on the other hand, is willing to listen, willing to consider the possibility that something else might be true, or possible, willing to change his or her mind. Willing to be (at least a little) vulnerable.

Curiosity. If someone responds positively to Curiosity in us, and if they are willing to be Curious, this is a sign that what we’ve run up against is healthy skepticism. But if someone doesn’t respond well to our Curiosity, is not Curious about other possibilities, if someone is Sure, or feels disrespected by being questioned, then it’s a good bet that this is a Cynic. Even if they don’t see themselves in that way.

Conversations with each of them will be very different. In the sales process, my friend pointed out that a Cynic probably isn’t someone it makes sense to spend a lot of time on. But a Skeptic, now that’s someone she could work with.

Curiosity. A tool for learning about someone’s outlook, and a tool for communicating with them.

A puzzle I had been unable to unravel by myself quickly dissolved when I explored it with a friend.

What do you think? When have you encountered Skeptics and Cynics, and how did you know which was which? When have you found yourself being Skeptical, or Cynical, and how did it affect your course? How do the two feel different?

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Garden. Stand. Glow.


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Breathing Into a New Year

I am not immune to the seasonal reflection and contemplation that goes on this time of year, and like millions of others I find myself reflecting on the past year, my successes and failures, realizations, and what I want for the coming year.

It isn’t just about flipping to a new year on the calendar, though. 2012 was a year of huge transition for me, and I have spent the last two months on a sort of working vacation. Working. Treading water. Breathing. Contemplating. Being Grateful.

But over the last two weeks, as my schedule has slowed down slightly and we have passed through the Winter Solstice and the end of the Mayan calendar and entered 2013, I have begun to look forward. That has manifested as three exercises (so far) that have been very fruitful. I’d like to share them with you here, as you may find them helpful as well. (And going public, and the accountability that can bring, is probably a good thing.)

A Personal SWOT Analysis

A what?

It started when a friend invited me to send her my resume, as she wanted to share it with her client. I took some time to review it first and do some updating. One of the things I had highlighted was helping my clients perform SWOT analyses. What’s a SWOT analysis? It stands for

Strengths

Weaknesses

Opportunities

Threats

with Strengths and Weaknesses being Internal factors and Opportunities and Threats being External factors. The idea is to brainstorm these, and only then set goals and plan initiatives that have a good chance of succeeding based upon your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

I looked at my resume and thought, “Hmmm, this might be a good time to do that for myself.”

So I did.

It’s been an interesting process (which is still in process, especially the Opportunities and Threats part). Here are a few highlights:

  • This has been a great opportunity to be reminded of my strengths. I have a lot of them. I tend to take them for granted. (Is there anyone who doesn’t, at least at some time?)
  • This has also been a reminder of something two different wise people have said to me at different times in my life: “Your strengths taken to extreme can be your greatest weaknesses.” One example? I am extremely persistent and tenacious. Taken to extreme, I can be quite stubborn (good Taurus that I am). This doesn’t always serve me (or those around me), especially when it’s time to walk away from something.
  • I have a number of opportunities available to me, and I had an idea for another one as a result of this process.
  • Examining the Threats is important, especially since most of them can be prepared for and overcome. But they have to be recognized first.
  • Regarding those Threats, I realized that they, and the Opportunities, aren’t all external. Those Weaknesses can pose threats to my success if I don’t manage them. As for the external Threats, I need to watch my feet, and be aware, not wary.

That Amazing Question Again

Then, on Sunday, Chris Brogan’s newsletter arrived. In it, he asked this version of my Amazing Question: What would you attempt if you believed in yourself a lot more than you do today?

Hmmm. Excellent timing. I emailed Chris, and he challenged me to answer it for him. So I did. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Schedule more workshops – at least one every month.
  • Actively promote my coaching – by calling people, sending emails, launching a newsletter.
  • Get back on a regular – or at least more frequent – blog schedule, even if the direction changes.
  • Invite new Captains Curious guest posts.
  • Create a new photography site.
  • Create a site for my jewelry and either begin selling on Etsy or actively schedule shows and parties.
  • Submit a proposal for the magazine article I want to write, interviewing other women named Susan Blake.
  • Finish the rewrite of “Remember to Look Up” and publish it for e-readers through Amazon etc.

Damn. That’s a big list of Opportunities. But completely achievable – if I believe in myself. Since it was fed by the Strengths and Opportunities lists I had recently begun, I know it’s all possible – Weaknesses and Threats not withstanding.

Boil It Down

And then Chris’s next blog post arrived, his annual “My Three Words” post, in which he describes choosing three words that will be his touchstones for the year, his guiding force to keep him on track. They are the words that represent the Big Vision for the year.

So, here is my response to his challenge to come up with three words that represent my Big Vision for 2013:

Garden. Stand. Glow.

Garden: The first word that actually came to me was Renaissance, because I have a lot of interests, a lot of talents, a lot of avenues I want to pursue. I am a Renaissance Woman. My commitment for 2013 is to respect them and to pursue them all: Coaching. Writing. Photography. Music. Jewelry Making. Partnering with horses in Equine Guided Experiences. They all feed me, they feed others, they feed each other, and they have the potential for literally putting food on the table – if I act like I believe in myself (see above). I am a Renaissance Woman, but an even better term that describes this, and embodies action, is Gardener. A garden requires tending – planning, tilling, planting, watering, pruning, weeding, harvesting. And this is about action, not just interests and talents. Also, a good garden is filled with a variety of plants, not just multiples of only one plant, and that describes me. A polymathic garden. So my first word is Garden.

Stand: As in, stand in my power. 2012 was a year filled with repeated reminders that I am powerful. And that I often either discount it or take it for granted. Especially my Intuition. I built a varied and successful career on mostly left-brained, highly analytical abilities, but events in the past year have repeatedly plunked me smack dab in the middle of my right brain. My work with horses is part of that. Where before I have often discounted my intuition, I am finding that it is indispensable and usually accurate. Part of respecting my garden of talents, interests and skills includes trusting that intuition. It guides my curiosity and I can employ my curiosity to validate it. This year I commit to standing in that power, so my second word is Stand. (I also like the visual connection to a “stand of trees.”)

Glow: As I tend my Garden and Stand in my power, I see myself start to glow. That glow serves as a beacon to others. The glow of a candle in the window, a campfire in the forest, a lighthouse on the coast. Come this way! It helps us find each other, connect, engage. No hiding my light. My third word is Glow.

* * * * *

There you have it. Three exercises for the New Year, the new age. It is all part of a work in progress, of course. I encourage you to try them! Please share the results here in the Comments, or feel free to reach out to me.

Want to Make a Difference?


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In a recent post I told the stories of three friends who have either recently embarked or are getting ready to embark on Great Adventures. I’d like to say more about one of them.

LaVonne Ellis – Complete Flake, Voice Coach, Customer Lover, Writer, Adventurer

I first met LaVonne Ellis soon after I started blogging. I joined a couple of online communities for bloggers and people wanting to promote their businesses ethically and responsibly online, and LaVonne showed up in both of them.

LaVonne didn’t just show up, she welcomed me. And in the faceless, potentially anonymous world of virtual “communities,” that meant a lot. Then she started following me on Twitter. So I started following her blogs and Tweets. (Two years and one week ago today, in fact!)

As it turned out, part of LaVonne’s fascinating story is that she used to work in radio. Which, of course, means she has developed (or was born with) a wonderful Radio Voice. And one of her businesses was providing services as a Voice Coach.

Well at about this time, my frustration with my voice was reaching critical mass. For ten years my speaking voice had been deteriorating, making telephone work, public speaking and online presentations well, difficult. To say the least. And my frustration hit its last nerve when I was interviewing someone over the phone and she said, “I think we have a bad connection, can I call you back?”

Sigh. “No,” I said, “It’s just my goofy voice. It’s not the connection.” *hungheadinshame*

So I reached out to LaVonne, who was offering promotional half-off half-hour voice coaching sessions. I ponied up the money and sent her my pre-session questionnaire with a recording of me interviewing someone. I was so excited to get started!

She turned me down.

LaVonne Lives By Her Ethics

LaVonne read my description of my voice problem, and listened to my recording, and declined to work with me: She said it appeared to be a medical condition which had not been confirmed and could be serious, and said her strategies wouldn’t be effective for me. She encouraged me to see a medical specialist, and she immediately refunded my money.

I was crushed.

I had finally worked up the nerve to do something – again, after being disappointed by multiple doctors who couldn’t solve my issue and brushed me off to others – and she turned me down.

She did The Right Thing.

LaVonne could have taken my money and coached me and then said, “Hmm, too bad, so sad.” But she didn’t.

And it kicked my ass into trying one more time to get my voice diagnosed – this time successfully. Which has led to a two-year process of discovery, which is still going on.

I later reached out to LaVonne to thank her, and she told me how bad she had felt about saying no and disappointing me. But she did it anyway. The right thing.

Tough love.

Customer Love

Not long after that, LaVonne and much of the online world read a post by Naomi Dunford, “Make Them Love You. THEN Ask For Money.” Like many others, LaVonne was inspired. Unlike everyone else, LaVonne decided to do something.

And she invited us to come along.

And the Customer Love Challenge was born.

I won’t go into all the details about the Customer Love Challenge – you can read the backstory here.

What I will tell you is why it matters to me, and why I hope it matters to you.

Why It Matters

The Customer Love Challenge quickly grew into a Phenomenon. A website was born. Tweetchats were held. A community formed. A free ebook was published. 28-day Customer Love Challenges were launched. Formats were experimented with. Budding business people who really didn’t have a clue – or an audience – found support and encouragement.

Nearly all for Free.

For Love.

LaVonne provided a catalyst that helped people (us) focus their (my) attention on their (my) customers rather than exclusively on making money. She helped people (me) put the horse where it belonged, before the cart. Love your customers, she taught, and the rest will follow. And she led by example.

She provided a platform, a forum, for people to connect and support each other in figuring this stuff out. Guest posts were solicited and published. Ideas were incubated and loved into life.

Ironically enough, LaVonne helped me find my voice – as a writer. I wrote four guest posts for Customer Love Challenges in less than a year and a half. I am not alone when I say the opportunity she provided me to develop my thoughts in this area and be exposed to a wider audience meant a LOT to me. And I met a TON of fascinating, inspiring, hilarious, creative, dedicated people, many of whom have become friends and some of whom have become colleagues. Several of my Customer Love confreres, including LaVonne, went on to write Captains Curious guest posts for my blog – what an honor for me! And that is just an example of another of the lovely benefits that grew out of Customer Love – members found people with complementary skills who could help each other out.

In other words, LaVonne helped me see the positive power of the internet for Good.

Evolution

As time went on, LaVonne noticed that many of the Customer Lovers, as we called ourselves, needed technical help with their websites and making all of the bits of online business work. So she branched out, and launched Trust Wanda. Since LaVonne had figured out how to do all this online WordPress, shopping cart, hosting, eeek, stuff for herself, she began offering that as a service. First to Customer Lovers, then to a broader audience.

And something interesting began to happen.

Just as many of the Customer Love peeps grew in confidence and began to stand in our abilities and plant flags on the tops of the mountains of our dreams – or at least make progress up the sides of those mountains – LaVonne grew in confidence too.

First, it became clear that the Complete Flake identity behind which LaVonne had been masquerading was, in fact, obsolete. A Complete Flake she clearly was not. So that website – and alter ego – was retired.

Then, LaVonne launched One Blue Berry and had us all hanging on the edges of our chairs, waiting for the next installments of her Green Card story.

And then, LaVonne knocked us out with her announcement about deciding to pull up stakes and set out on her Road Trip. Charles-Kuralt-style, LaVonne intends to set out and roam the continent (or at least a big chunk of it) and write about her adventures.

I, for one, can’t wait to read about them!

But first, she has to leave. Set out. Make it so.

LaVonne has helped so many of us make our dreams come true and find our voices (literally and figuratively). I want to help her make this dream come true.

How? Well, Moral Support is important and, I’m sure, always welcome. But there are other ways we can help.

  • Although the Customer Love challenges have run their course, you can still have access to three of the Customer Love tools to help you love up your customers and build your business on a firm foundation:
  • Hire Wanda – I mean LaVonne – to build or maintain a WordPress website. She’ll even help you with recording and editing audio files to post on your website. Interviews? Webinars? Piece of cake. With coffee.
  • And, of course, you can Chip In and provide direct financial support to the Road Trip in the amount of your choice.

LaVonne is someone who has made a difference in the lives of many, although she’ll probably blush to read that. Let’s make a difference in her life.

Please join me in supporting LaVonne on her Road Trip! I’m so curious about what adventures she will have, the people she will meet, the tales she will tell, and how she will be changed by it all. Are you curious? Let’s make it happen, and make LaVonne’s voice heard.

(My thanks to Jenny Thomas of DesisisterJen for inspiring this blog post. Thanks Jen!)

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Something Is Afoot


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Maybe it’s fallout from the world’s ongoing financial debacle.

Maybe it’s coincidence. (Although I tend to see connections in coincidence and not mere Chance.)

Maybe it’s how the planets are aligned.

Maybe it’s part of an awakening that seems to be happening.

Whatever it is, three different people in my life are preparing to take to the Open Road in the near future and embark upon their Adventure Of A Lifetime (Up To This Point).

The Great Adventure

It started last year when my virtual friend Drew Jacob announced his plans to walk from Minnesota to Brazil. More specifically, from the source of the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Amazon.

Seriously.

Why?

The word Adventure comes up, but it’s only part of the reason. A part of Drew’s drive to travel, to live heroically, to meet The Gods through meeting others – and himself.

Drew has been preparing for The Great Adventure since last summer, and he has been very transparent about his preparations, ranging from Spanish-language immersion in Mexico City to road-testing shoes to wrestling fear and doubt.

I have only met Drew through blog posts, comments, tweets and email. I love his commitment to living his ideals, and his willingness to ask Big Questions. And be vulnerable. And he cracks me up. Of my three friends who are setting out, he’s the only one who won’t be coming through California. So I’ll be following him online and trying to figure out a way to meet up with him somewhere along his way. Meanwhile, you can learn more about Drew and his Great Adventure at http://roguepriest.net. Oh, and while you’re at it, get his ebook, Walk Like a God. It is wonder-full.

On the lookout for Wonder

And then there’s my friend Kelly Nolan Shafer. Kel and I have been friends since high school, and she’s one of those friends you can lose touch with (I did) and then you re-connect and you not only pick right up where you left off but it’s even better than it was before.

In December, when I opened the Nolan Shafers’ holiday letter, I learned that Kelly, Steve and their twin daughters, Helen and Olivia, planned to embark on their own Great Adventure when school got out in June. Their plan was to pack up their RV and tour the U.S. and Canada for six months, meeting up with friends and family as they visit landmarks along the way. In fact, they’ve named their Great Adventure “Our A.T.L.A.S. – Adventures Touring Landmarks Across the States.”

Kelly and Steve will be home-schooling the recently-graduated-from-fourth-grade twins as they go. (Can you call it “home-schooling” when home is an RV? Hmmm…) I am sooo jealous. I don’t just want to go – I want to be a 5th-grader on the road being home-schooled in an RV, too.

Of course, Life has happened between December and June, as it usually does, but instead of letting it talk them out of it, they let it talk them further into it. So the Nolan Shafer clan is hitting the road…tomorrow! And their motto? “We’ll be on the lookout for the presence of wonder. . .”

Wonder. One of my favorite things! How can you not love that? Now you want to go, too, I’ll bet.

My thoughts and prayers go with them, and I’ll be following their adventures as they blog about it. You can follow them too, at http://ouratlas.net/.

A Complete What?

And then there’s my virtual friend LaVonne Ellis. I have a soft-spot for LaVonne for several reasons, not the least of which is that she is one of the Captains Curious.

LaVonne, curious creature that she is, has decided to set out on her Great Adventure next year, touring the country in a van and, like the others, letting us ride along virtually as she blogs her way around the country.

Not only do I adore LaVonne and everything she does, but she mentioned Charles Kuralt in her announcement (OK, I have to go check, maybe I made that up…no, she really did), and he is one of my heroes.

You can learn more about LaVonne and her plans at http://completeflake.com/road-trip/. You can sign up for her newsletter, and check out her most recent posts with updates on her preparations. And don’t be deceived – she is definitely not a Complete Flake.

Something’s definitely afoot.

Whether it’s economic/socio-political fallout, coincidence, or something more cosmic, it is pretty amazing that I know of three different Great Adventures that are in the works. And I’m sure they’re not the only ones – they’re just the ones I know about.

And, of course, there are plenty of people in my life who are on interior adventures, myself included. And that is an important point: External adventures are important, but we should not disregard the importance of interior exploration. It can be just a scary. And fun. And rewarding.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

Life is an adventure – what adventure are you on?


Image: Ian Britton, freefoto.com

Mystery, Horses, Curiosity, and Being Open


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I recently had a profound experience with a group of fellow coaches and the human, equine and canine members of the team at The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership. (You can read about it here. Go ahead, we’ll wait.)

A central part of that experience was just being present, being totally there, being willing to let go and wonder, What will happen if I do this? Paying attention. Being open. Not worrying if I got muddy or wet or covered with dog spit. That openness made it easier to improvise. To let things happen. What’s going to happen next? And being there for it. Our whole group did that, and our human leaders did that in response to what transpired and what we needed.

* * *

A friend recently called me to talk through a situation with an organization with which she’s been working. We got curious about what she was experiencing, about why she was reacting the way she was, and about her options.

I’ve been in situations like hers, and they call for being curious about the people around us, for seeing what’s happening and yet suspending judgment, for being present in the situation, and for letting go of our egos. For being willing to get muddy and covered with dog spit. To be in a situation where getting stepped on is a possibility, and taking precautions while still being open.

* * *

Which reminds me of  a class I recently taught on strategic management for a group of leaders and managers. One of the things we dove into was why strategies fail. A key factor is the existence of competing objectives, goals that aren’t talked about openly. These can’t be uncovered if we view the situation with judgment; we must explore the situation with curiosity instead. (My objective of connecting with the horses was made difficult to achieve by my secondary goal of not getting sunburned – I slathered myself with stinky sunscreen. Ah. Next time I’ll skip the sunscreen and wear long sleeves.)

* * *

After my experience with the horses someone told me I was brave. No, I said, I was just present. I stayed present with an open heart. It occurred to me later that the root of the word “courage” is the French “coeur,” or “heart.” To have courage is to have heart. (“Ya gotta have heart… all we really need is heart…”) To be courageous is to be… hearteous.

I know, that’s not a word. You know what I mean.

To be courageous, brave, is to show up with an open heart. To be curious. And to act.

Are you willing to show up and be open, to ask, What happens next?

To suspend judgment and really experience What’s happening now?

To dive into the mystery with an open heart?

Would you like to try?

Shoot me an email: susan at susantblake dot com. And enjoy this:


This video was apparently shot when the power went out during a Tommy Emmanuel concert, and he continued – with just two luminarias on stage and someone holding a flashlight in the balcony. In it, he tells the story behind one of my favorite pieces of music.


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Image: bk images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Curiosity or Nosiness? Another Good Question with a Surprising Answer


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“I’m just not comfortable asking personal questions. I won’t do it.”

This is a real problem for someone whose work involves providing solutions to people, making products available that will protect and help them. Selling.

But without asking questions, how can you know how to help someone, what product or service they need?

“This is something a LOT of people struggle with,” I said. “I think and talk and write a lot about curiosity and it’s place in business and life.

“So let me ask you question,” I said.

“Is there a difference between Curiosity and Nosiness? If there is, what is it?”

She thought for a minute, then her face lit up.

“I know!” she said. “Nosiness is when I ask a question like (she leaned over conspiratorially), ‘What’s your bra size?’ It makes me feel better about myself.

“Curiosity is when I ask a question that’s about you, that can help. There’s genuine interest. But nosiness is when I ask a question just to make me feel good about myself, to make me feel Better Than You.

“Is that the Right Answer?” she asked.

“I don’t think there is a Right Answer,” I replied, impressed. “But I think it’s an excellent answer.”

In that moment, she gave herself permission to use her natural curiosity to help her clients, and she gave me a new way of looking at curiosity.

I love my job…

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Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Surprising Power of Asking Good Questions


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Once upon a time…

I was working with a client who was experiencing some challenges with his interpersonal skills, especially with people with whom he was unfamiliar. (Who among us has not faced that challenge at one time or another?)

After working with him and observing him for a while, I gave him this assignment: Today, focus on making eye contact with people. That’s all. Just look them in the eye.

At the end of the day we debriefed, and I asked him: Did you pay attention to making eye contact with people? “Yes,” he said.

How did it feel? I asked.

“It felt like I knew them.”

* P O W *

That answer literally stopped me in my tracks.

It wasn’t the answer I expected. I expected to hear “It was uncomfortable,” or “It was really hard,” or “It was easier than I expected,” or “It got easier with time.”

No.

“It felt like I knew them.”

I am so glad I asked that question. I could have asked him something easy, like “How did it go?” To which a typical answer would have been “Fine.” It would have taken more questions to get to something useful.

But by asking a different question, I got a very different answer.

One that surprised both of us.

One that gave us a lot more to think and talk about.

“How did it feel?”

“It felt like I knew them.”

What a beautiful idea.

This conversation taught me something important about asking the right question. It taught me that when I ask the right question, amazing things can happen. Things that make both parties look at things differently.

I actually knew that. But it’s lovely to be reminded.

Ask questions.

Ask questions that are different than the usual questions.

Think of a question, then think of that question one level deeper.

You might be surprised by the answers you get.

And isn’t that wonderful?

Photo Credit:

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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To learn more about the power of asking good questions,
contact me: susan at susanTblake . com
.

Curiosity, Envy and Waxwings


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A flock of Waxwings just arrived in the giant oak tree that shades my patio. It doesn’t give much shade right now, as it has recently lost most of its leaves. I can see them sitting in the branches of the tree, silhouetted against a grey sky. Smaller than robins but larger than sparrows, they are about the same size as the oak leaves themselves. There must be at least twenty of them, and the Waxwings are doing something very odd.

They take turns dropping in waves to the ground. They’re not diving – it’s not quite that intentional. They just sort of flutter to the ground in waves, looking like oak leaves released by a gust of wind.

Then a few minutes later they fly back up to the branches of the tree – which is distinctly un-leaf-like.

They repeat this cycle for several minutes – dropping out of the branches to the ground below, then swooping back up into the branches, only to drop again soon after. In this gloomy almost drizzle, I get only glimpses of their Cleopatra eye-markings, flashes of yellow against buff, and pointed crests.

Up and down, up and down, up and down – to my neighbor’s backyard on the other side of the privacy fence.

I can’t see what they’re doing; I assume they’re eating. But what? What is over there? What have they got that I haven’t got? The neighbors probably don’t even know the waxwings are there, and wouldn’t care if they did. I do; why aren’t they coming to my yard?

Ha! Listen to me. Envy over visiting birds. It’s a fine line between curiosity and envy, between “What is over there that they’re so interested in?” and “What have they got that I haven’t got?” When did I step over the line?

When my ego got involved. Me Me Me. Feeling less than. Feeling self-righteous. Feeling better than. Less Than and Better Than at the same time. How silly is that?

I laugh at myself, then choose to sit back and enjoy watching them and just be grateful for that.

And maybe I will go peek over the fence.

Photo Credit: Ken Thomas (KenThomas.us (personal website of photographer)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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