Choose to be Curious, Life Lessons

Curiosity Across Political Distance

I’ve been trying to channel Walt Whitman’s wisdom, “Be curious, not judgmental,” but I confess I’m not always successful.

And, drawing on an old aphorism I used in my previous career — that if one person is asking, five more are wondering, I thought it would be interesting to have a conversation with someone who is genuinely trying to be curious across current political divides, both ideological and geographic. photo - Snyder Studio Shot

Enter Stacy Snyder, Arlington potter and founder of Together Virginia, a PAC devoted to  fostering conversations between Virginians with a particular focus on rural voters. Their goal is to encourage trust and understanding.

Which seemed like a grand place to start a conversation about curiosity and listening well…

Listen to Choose to be Curious #29: Curiosity Across Political Distance. 

Curiosity Journal, Life Lessons, Making a List, UnComfort Zone

Curiosity & the Fluid Career

surf2Yes, that’s me. On a surf board. In Hawaii. Admittedly, ten years ago. I thought it was a good image for a conversation about fluid careers and catching the curiosity wave…

I was delighted to be invited back by Dana Theus and Mary Brodie at InPower Women for another conversation about curiosity – this time in the context of the fluid career. When they invited me on the show, I think they expected to explore my own fluid career – which is a fine tale, but I offered something both personal and more universal. Let’s talk, I suggested, about “choosing to be curious about futures one might not yet have contemplated, about being intentionally open to the unknown, asking more questions about what emerges, and doing some rapid prototyping to see what might work, using that information to build and (re)shape that emerging future.” 

I hope you’ll listen to the whole show (30 minutes), but here’s some of what we covered and what has worked for me:

Following threads and finding fellow travelers. One of the biggest and happiest surprises for me has been the discovery of rich new networks and communities of people to whom I’ve become attached as I’ve chosen to be curious and entered into many entirely new realms of activity and interests.

0.8 Prototyping. Borrowing from Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, I’ve learned to try new concepts out before they are fully cooked (even before they are at “1.0” stages of readiness [hence: “0.8”]), and letting things fail, be messy, listening to and learning from others — and then trying again, with all those lessons in mind.

My simple rules: Drawing on the work of Donald Sull & Kathleen Eisenhardt, I like to think about the simple, most foundational guidelines that govern how/what I do:

  1. Choose to be curious.
  2. Change my point of view to see something new.
  3. Ask myself “how might I….?”
  4. Go toward the fear. (Fear, broadly defined, as the things to which I feel resistant)
  5. Iterate, reflect, repeat.

Curiosity Walks: I made this thing up, the “curiosity walk” — a mix of mindfulness and scavenger hunt. It’s a way to be more intentional and attentive going about a place, whether as a tourist or in our workplace. What can I see or learn by being just a little more curious about wherever I am? What’s actually going on? How do I feel about it – specificallyHow might it be different?

Aldous Huxley: Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you. — This reminds me to stay fully present with whatever is going on. What I choose to do with what happens will shape the lessons I learn, the patterns I discern, the habits I form, the possibilities I believe open before me.

Elizabeth Gilbert: Isn’t there something that interests you, even just a little?  A reminder that we needn’t be “passionate” about everything we pursue and that, sometimes, the best discoveries come from following a loose thread that interests us just a little, just enough that we choose to be curious…and see where it takes us.

Listen to InPower Women Coffee Break: Curiosity and the Fluid Career

Back Story, Choose to be Curious, Life Lessons

201

201 is an HTTP status code indicating a new resource was successfully created in response to the request

201, in binary (11001001), is the title of an episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation

Upon upload, I received a cheerful message from WordPress that my most recent blog entry was the 200th post on Listening to the Universe. That (1) came as something of a surprise and (2) makes this #201.

Upon reflection, I thought: right!  I’ve been at this almost exactly two years, and with two posts a week, every week, mostly reliably for those two years, well, here I am: 201.

And upon further reflection, I realized it was time to listen to the universe anew. Which in my case has meant deciding to hit the pause button on Listening to the Universe.

listening earsI put my listening ears on this week, both fabricated and figurative. As a Roving Reader at a local elementary school, I donned tiger-striped ears and read the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, first American woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S. to first graders; a charming confection about a child “zooming” with his mother in her wheelchair to Montessori preschoolers; and a story of Ella Fitzgerald’s youth that taught me a thing or two and kept the 4th and 5th grade band members on the stage in rapt attention despite the lunchtime din coming through the curtains behind them.  My fuzzy headband was meant to model good listening, but the kids didn’t need reminding.

I came home and put my listening ears on again, sans fur. I heard the deafening yawn of my own disinterest and knew, in my bones, it was time to acknowledge that my energy and focus are elsewhere. That this blog, in this form, was right for that time. That I’ve said what I found I needed to say, for now, here.

That it’s time to listen, deeply, to the voice that calls me in a new direction.

I invite you to join me on that journey. Much of it won’t seem very different from a lot of what you’ve seen here: in Choose to be Curious I share episodes of my radio program and plan for periodic and more in-depth writing on curiosity.  There are a few old Listening to the Universe nuggets you might recognize there already: the talk that got me started; reflections on the magical mix of curiosity and walking [this one too]; the roots of what I hope will be a robust body of work on leading with curiosity, and various interviews. It’s been fun to revisit them of late.

I began with this….

Then today, two days after my birthday, I find myself on a liquid diet, preparing for tomorrow’s colonoscopy. It’s a routine procedure and, other than a previous cancer diagnosis, I have no particular reason to be worried about it. But it is still a reminder that there are no guarantees. That life is short. So you should just do things and stop worrying about whether it’s good enough already.

Today I am reminded that my best decisions in recent months have all been about things that pushed me outside my comfort zone. That the universe offers up opportunities complete with encouraging messages more often than we realize — if we will only listen.

So here I am, taking a deep breath amid all my unvarnished work-in-progress dust, and plunging forward before I can second guess myself again. Spinning this out there among all the other stardust. Trying to listen when the universe talks. Trying to learn as I go.

The learning? I’ve certainly deepened my appreciation for the discipline of writing. I have a new reverence for the awesome accountability of wholly self-imposed deadlines and the power of operating outside my comfort zone.  I have a newfound and profound admiration for the the many, unexpected and unsettling places teachers lurk and of the innumerable lessons yet to come. It feels like two years well spent.

Please consider signing on to receive the Choose to be Curious blog posts, as you have received these. It’s been wonderful knowing you are out there, along on this journey in some form or another. Thank you for being a listening ear as I’ve tried to listen to the universe — and to myself. I am delighted to have found wisdom in both.

I hope you’ll join me next time. Until then — choose to be curious!

 

Life Lessons

Mosaic as Metaphor

I like the meditative quality of mosaic work. I can sink entirely into the task, focused only on the chips of glass and ceramic in front of me, attentive to color and shape and nothing else. Can feel the quiet, the only sounds the occasional crack of the nippers at their work and my breath, soft and even.

But there’s more to it than that. Something about putting pieces together again, assembling a coherent work, maybe even something pleasing, from jagged shards. Order from disorder, beauty from brokenness.

I think it appeals to me, especially right now, because it reminds me to be hopeful, that we can (re)assemble, even from what seems irredeemably shattered. We can pull the pieces together, play with the harsh contrasts, appreciate the colors and sharp edges. We can make something of it. Even still.

Life is a work in progress.

Life Lessons

Knowing They’re There

img_1333I heard them before I saw them, heard them almost the whole time I was there, the cacophony reaching over the trees, across the marsh, elbowing against the wind.

Only a small flock of the snow geese floated in Gordon’s Pond where I was walking, but hundreds (thousands?) flew overhead, making their way to somewhere just west of me.

I was a little disappointed. I wanted to see their glistening white plumage with its striking black underside. But I knew they were there, took pleasure in hearing them until the wind and the surf and the distance between us finally erased their clamor but not their imprint.

~ ~ ~

prideHe gazed at the flags with a kind of longing. “Look at them….” he murmured in amazement. The bright rainbow stripes wrapped around young shoulders, heads of multi-hued hair above them, warm laughter bouncing across the grass. He’d never been so close to such a public display of pride.

“Let’s go talk to them,” I suggested, “maybe get a picture.”

A grin cracked open his practiced, hardened face, all white teeth, vulnerability and validation. I can still feel the glow coming off him, days later. He had found his people.

~ ~ ~

with-my-friendsWalking back, we guessed at the impact, wondered at our place in history.

At nineteen, he hadn’t needed his parents’ permission to come to the march. New to the States, they had been worried and feared for his safety. But he came anyway, wanting–needing, really–to be there, to feel seen and heard.

“What do you want to tell your parents when you get home?” I asked.

“I want them to know how much support we have,” he said. “Not just from Latinos, but everyone. So much support...

He lapsed into quiet as the insight sank in.

~ ~ ~

Post Script 1/29/2017: I drafted this post before the insanity of the last 48 hours had begun to unfold. Lacking anecdote but not appreciation, I’ll add national park rangers, scientists and lawyers to my list. For all of those who are staying up nights, finding ways to use the justice system and knowledge and wisdom and common sense to combat what Trump hath wrought: thank you. It is not just good to know you are there, it is important you are there.

Life Lessons

What You Can Do is Often Simply a Matter of What You Will Do

cfyouthEvery fiber of my being is exhausted, but my heart is singing. The youth have come and gone, but their impact lingers on. Five-hundred thousand marchers, forty kids, one amazing mobilization.

They came with hope and left empowered. They left behind for the rest of us a renewed belief in what is possible.

I found myself returning the great wisdom of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth.

As the cheering continued, Rhyme leaned forward and touched Milo gently on the arm.

“They’re shouting for you,” she said with a smile.

“But I couldn’t have done it,” he objected, “without everyone else’s help.”

“That may be true,” said Reason gravely, “but you had the courage to try; and what you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do.”

“That’s why,” said Azaz, “there was one very important thing about your quest that we couldn’t discuss until you returned.”

“I remember,” said Milo eagerly, “Tell me now.”

“It was impossible,” said the king, looking at the Mathemagician.

“Completely impossible,” said the Mathemagician, looking at the king.

“Do you mean —-” stammered the bug, who suddenly felt a bit faint.

“Yes, indeed,” they repeated together; “but if we’d told you then, you might not have gone — and, as you’ve discovered, so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they are impossible.”

Life Lessons

Beloved Child

dim-day

We no longer walk before dawn, K. and I, having decided that one morning need (walking) ought not compromise another (sleeping), but sometimes I miss the soft shroud of darkness that made the time all the more intimate.

This week, K. speaks of the power of believing oneself to be a “beloved child [of god]” even when faith is shaken, even in the face of tremendous loss. I believe, if not in god, certainly in the beloved. My uncle is gravely ill, dying; a favorite cousin, a family friend and an old colleague have all recently passed. Barack Obama departs the White House today.

I feel the soft shroud of mourning, heavy on my shoulders, as I step into the dim day, remembering my beloved.