Choose to be Curious, Life Lessons

Infidelity

“Infidelity is the antithesis of curiosity.”

~ Tracy Schorn

Listen to Choose to be Curious #58: Curiosity & Infidelity with “Chump Lady” Tracy Schorn

Not surprisingly, Tracy has a lot to say about trust. That reminded me of Scott Nycum’s insights on the same subject. I put the two of them together for this week’s “Curiosity to Go” segment….

Listen to Curiosity to Go, Ep. 31: Trust Me

You can subscribe to Choose to be Curious on iTunes. 

What do you think about Whitman’s line: “Be curious, not judgmental”?

Walt Whitman - Be curious not judgmental. We discuss on choosetobecurious.com

More from the Chump Lady here and at @ChumpLady on Twitter and Facebook.

To hear more of Scott Nycum, listen to Ep. #12: Curiosity & Leadership and Ep. #27: Curiosity & Trust

Theme music by Sean Balick.

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Choose to be Curious, Life Lessons

Listening Well

“I like to ask, ‘What’s the smallest sound I hear?'”

~ Jocelyn Frank

 

Listen to Choose to be Curious #57: Listening Well with Jocelyn Frank

Listen to Curiosity to Go, Ep. 30: All Eyes and Ears

You can subscribe to Choose to be Curious on iTunes.

In an upcoming conversation with Matt Cronin about the craft of creativity and finding the heuristics and algorithms — the simple rules — for getting something done, we explored the craft of curiosity as well. In putting this week’s episode together, I realized that’s what Jocelyn had offered: a simple rule for listening well.

What’s the smallest sound I hear right now?

What does it take for us to be aware enough of our environment to even begin to answer that question? So many layers. Are we listening for volume? Dynamic range? Duration? Emotional significance? In the same space, at the same moment, do you and I hear the same “smallest sound”?

And what if that sound is a human sound, a person’s voice? A statement, a question, a call for help? Untranslatable, indistinct, speaking volumes with its smallness?

When we are curious in the face of sound, we are intensely present in the moment. We can’t listen well without being all in on the process. Listening for one thing, we often hear others.

We hear things we don’t expect to hear.

There’s the value of choosing to be curious about the sounds around us: it can surprise us, reward us, reframe us. People’s lives unfolding. Birds’, too. Commerce and construction and the breeze passing through. We can’t help but wonder “where did that come from? where is it going? will I hear it again?”

Every place has its own sound. My home sounds different than yours. This town’s soundscape is different than that’s. Could you pick out your soundscape in a virtual auditory line up? What makes it unique?

What’s the thing you didn’t expect to hear?

Go ahead – listen well!

Choose to be Curious about the sounds around you. What's your #soundscape? Listen in at choosetobecurious.com
Just walking by, you can hear the inmates playing basketball in our local jail. It’s part of our unique soundscape.

Be sure to check out Jocelyn Frank,  DC Listening Lounge and SoundScene.

For more from Elliot Carter, listen to Ep. #48: Curious and Wondrous Travel

Thanks to Virginia Millington for permission to use her clip recorded at the Bicycling Empowerment Network in Namibia. 

Jocelyn Frank photo credit: Kristian Whipple @kwhipplephoto kwhipple.com

Theme music by Sean Balick.

Choose to be Curious, Life Lessons

Lessons Learned

What might we learn from choosing to be curious about outcomes? Sharon Shutler spent the better part of 2017 supporting the effort to “flip Virginia blue.” Then she spent some time looking at what worked — and what didn’t. Now she’s sharing what she and others learned.

Listen to Choose to be Curious #55: Lessons Learned, with Sharon Shutler.

You can subscribe to Choose to be Curious on  iTunes/Apple Podcasts.

Michelangelo, the master artist, wrote, “I am still learning.” We focused on that spirit of life-long learning in this week’s Curiosity to Go segment, featuring both Sharon’s lessons learned and Marjorie Varner of Encore Learning.

Listen to Curiosity to Go, Ep. 28: I Am Still Learning.

PIX - You try to make sense of the pieces you have

Lessons Learned is available at virigniagrassroots.com

More from Rene Barger on SoundCloud.

Curiosity Journal, Life Lessons

Truth / Ode to Odinaka

My conversation with Felonious Munk, Calvin Evans and Odinaka Ezeokoli on curiosity, comedy and the power of observation was supposed to air today on WERA 96.7FM “Radio Arlington” but clearly the Christmas Elves were in a post-holiday lull and got up to some serious mischief, so you’ll have to hear the show on Friday, December 29 at 2:30pm ET here — and, after broadcast, the uncut version here. But in the meantime, there’s this…

Odinaka walked beside me down the corridor. “The word I would use is truth,” he said.

Odinaka, whose name replays with unexpected musicality like a staccato mantra in my head.

Odinaka, of the sinewy, elastic frame, equal parts expressive and exuberant.

Odinaka had hit upon something.

I had asked if he saw the observations that are central to comedy as an expression of curiosity. “That’s not the word I would have used,” he replied, “But I think it works.”  The conversation moved on. But he held onto the question and I’m glad he did.

It’s not the word I would have used, but I think truth works.

So: curiosity is the search for truth.

Patricia Hunt hopes to teach her students to find it among the stories masquerading as news. Writers Laura McBride and Tom King strive for some version of it in their own stories. So does Detective Sara Bertollini.

Which begs the question: if curiosity is truth seeking, what’s its future in a world that is less and less so inclined?

No wonder I’m out there making the case. Choose to seek truth.

Odinaka, self-described loving conscience and comedic sculptor.

Odinaka, younger, perhaps a little more deferential, a little less outspoken, proved to be the poet among them. Too much of him ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor. You’ll have to listen to the uncut version to appreciate what others will have missed.

Odinaka may get less air time in the conversation on curiosity, comedy and observation, but he’s the one who lives on in my imagination.

Odinaka, literally “in the hands of God,” for me now synonymous with truth.

 

Choose to be Curious, Life Lessons

My WERA Story

This week WERA-LP 96.7 FM “Radio Arlington” is celebrating both its second anniversary and its first fund drive. Both are pretty big milestones for a brave little enterprise that combines a lot of moving parts with not a lot of guarantees.

First, the pitch: please support Arlington’s only community radio station. You can do it right here, right now, and then you can read on in peace, secure in the knowledge that you’ve made an important contribution to the health and wellbeing of a wonderful community asset. Thank you. 

And now we’ll return to our regularly scheduled broadcast…

Before there was the radio show, there was the blog. Every week, twice a week, for two full years, I chronicled the path from where I was to…wherever it was I was going.  I wrote:

Lynn seasideI dodged cancer, wrote the last tuition check, mourned friends gone too soon and decided the universe was trying to tell me something. Life is short, it seemed to be saying. Don’t waste the free pass.

So I left the job I had held for a dozen years at an organization I’d loved for nearly 30. So did my husband. We stepped out into the unknown together – and here we are, figuring it out. My plan is to get a plan.

It’s like being the twenty-somethings our sons actually are.

So I’m listening to the universe, trying to learn the lessons it has to offer. Some of the lessons are awesomely big, some are tenderly small.

Every minor tragedy, victory or inane moment of my sons’ youth (and, admittedly, young adulthood to-date and likely well into our mutual decrepitude) has or will potentially be fodder for what I call a “Life Lesson.” I trust they’ve grown accustomed to my pronouncements in this regard. Here, I’m trying to collect the ones I’ve been learning – memorializing them for myself and anyone else who will listen.

Who am I to give life lessons? Just a girl grown up, with grey hair and laugh-lines to show for it. Daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother; hard-working, mission-driven former executive;  unrepentant volunteer; middling cook; reliable ear to the universe and others.

Life Lesson #1: The unexamined life isn’t worth living — and the best things in life are shared.   ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ

In the course of blogging, I chronicled my deepening relationship with Arlington Independent Media, WERA and community radio, not really knowing where it would take me, but enjoying the journey.

The adventure began at the Central Library, in the Fall of 2014. I attended the Leadership Arlington Homecoming “LEAD Talks” — like TED Talks, but way less intimidating. A lovely talk on the Five Precepts of Service stood out as both instructive and inspiring. I decided I wanted to give such a talk.

A year later, back at the Library, I fulfilled my promise to myself — with a talk about curiosity that proved far more fateful than I could ever have imagined. At the end of the event, Arlington Independent Media’s director of community programs Jackie Steven shared exciting news: a new low-power FM community radio station was launching soon  in Arlington. She urged us to visit and learn more.

I took my curiosity to AIM to check out the new station.

I was clearly the newbie in the room.

These guys were serious. They’d been DJs in college. They had recording equipment in their basements, maybe even their living rooms. They had opinions about FCC rulings, recent and historic.

They had their prepared program proposals at the ready.

And, yet, they were so gracious. They were delighted to have new people show up, thrilled to share what they knew, eager to encourage interest and involvement. I give them real props for this mark of true enthusiasts, that newcomers were welcomed and embraced, rather than regarded as just more competition to be crushed.

I never really thought about radio before, but now I’m checking my calendar to book basic studio training, and supplemental audio editing skills after that. It’s fun to be contemplating yet another learning curve on the winding river of this new life.

Life Lesson #28: You never know where life will take you – especially if you let it.

I began to experiment with audio blogs. I took classes. And then it happened…

boothI tested the mics and set the levels. I prepped the auxiliary track. I cued us up. I managed friendly banter with B., and a not-too-shabby segue to my clip. And it all worked. And it was all fun.  And I thought: wow.

I pulled the headphones off to friendly applause, flushed with the realization that I can do this. That this hypothetical can become actual in a not so unthinkable way. That even if the station doesn’t pick up my show, I can make a credible podcast, anyway.

That I can see myself doing this.

Days later, I got the call: my proposal to do a show about curiosity had been accepted. When did I want to start broadcasting? “Don’t let me think about it too long,” I told the caller, “I’ll start in May.”  That was just six weeks away. I had no programs. I was barely trained. But I hustled and the big day quickly came: ingestion.

I just ingested my first episode.

That doesn’t mean that I have swallowed the flash drive I was carrying in my sweaty palm, although it feels a little that way. It means I just took the irrevocable step of uploading for broadcast the .WAV file that is my first radio show.

It’s gone, or up, or in, or some place that shows go before they are on the air.  That happens on Wednesday, at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, at WERA-LP 96.7 FM. oh my!

It’s a B+ effort – good, not great; plenty of room for improvement, but credible for a first try. I could recite you all the places that could use more clean-up, that aren’t exactly as I’d like them.  But that would be true if I’d spent another 1,000,000,000 hours on it…and life is short.  I could recite all those places, but I’ve chosen to learn their lessons and move on. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Too much time on this would take the joy out of it — and what’s the point of that?!

Walking to the studio this afternoon I realized the lesson felt familiar, a little like the pottery class I took some years ago. I learned then that there comes a time with every pot when you just have to stop.  More messing with it won’t improve it; it will only collapse the whole thing in on itself. What was once a charmingly slightly off-kilter bowl will suddenly be a sullen lump of mud if over-worked.

The show began to feel like that. Improvements weren’t; tinkering risked clunkers. It was time to stop.

And — to go. Forward. On to the next show, to the new lessons, to a better version of good.

Life Lesson #41: The perfect is the enemy of the good.

And so the show was birthed. With it came accounts at Mixcloud, SoundCloudFacebook, Twitter and eventually iTunes. I’ve grown competent with field mics, mixing clips, and booking talent; with Canva, Spinitron, and even GarageBand. On the first anniversary of what I’ve come to consider my “curiosity adventure” I celebrated:

So, I feel pretty confident the universe has spoken. fullsizeoutput_301

One guest wrote to me after our interview that he though I had found my calling. A cousin described my picture in the WETA segment as radiant. Another guest, early on, said simply: “Look at you: you gotta!”

True enough: I gotta. I wake each day with conceptual threads weaving in my head. I keep long lists of conversations I still want to have. My email is a mess of leads and shows in various stages of incubation. My shelves are a tumble of related reading. My Christmas list? Probably Pro Tools apps and some decent headphones.

What a difference a year makes. What a difference a leap makes. What a difference.

In my most recent show, I paid tribute to analogies, a “Choose to be Curious” staple. At the close of each show, I ask my guests to make an analogy to curiosity with whatever word we pull from my jar. Here’s today’s: Community radio is like curiosity because it allows us to unearth treasures hidden in our midst…it encourages us to listen to new voices…and it provides a vehicle for discovery and adventure.

If you didn’t donate before, can I persuade you to do so now?

And, because I lack all restraint (see “unrepentant volunteer” above), in addition to the premiums offered by WERA in the fund drive, I’ve added an incentive of my own: If you donate $250 or more to WERA’s fund drive, I’ll take you and five of your friends for an Arlington #CuriosityWalk — a never-before-performed feat of ambulatory delight! My goal is to give away three of these. Think I can do it? Me, too.

Thank you!

avatar fund drive 5

Choose to be Curious, Life Lessons

The Strange Pull of What You Really Love, or: Wait, What?

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.” ~Rumi

Choose to be Curious is a show all about curiosity. We talk about research and theory, but mostly it is conversations about how curiosity shows up in work and life. This week’s conversation was all about the intersection of those two and discerning the “strange pull” of what we really love.

Listen to Choose to be Curious #38: Finding One’s Calling with Mohamed Ali

My conversation with Moe — meandering as it was, gentle, thoughtful, not racing to any conclusions or hard stops — reminded me of the discussion that unfolded with Revs. Carolyn Richar and Junsen Nettles in an earlier program about curiosity, spirituality and faith. “It is,” said Junsen Nettles, “about the journey.”

Listen to Curiosity to Go, Ep. 11: “It’s About the Journey”

All of which kept drawing me back to a new favorite book entitled, Wait, What? by James E. Ryan, current dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and soon to be president at University of Virginia. Built on his 2016 commencement speech, the slim little volume elaborates just enough on what he calls the “five essential questions of life.” Honestly, the speech isn’t much of a speech – short, not entirely polished, unassuming in an oddly reassuring way. But it’s message is a zinger. It gleams. Mesmerizing in all the best ways. It’s the kind of distillation I’d love to make just once in my life. My hat is off to Mr. Ryan.

Wait,Lest I keep you in suspense any longer, here are the five questions:

  1. Wait, what?
  2. I wonder…
  3. Couldn’t we at least…?
  4. How can I help?
  5. What truly matters?

and a bonus question, from a poem by Richard Carver, And did you get what you wanted from life, even so?

Sit with those a moment and feel their heft.

Deceptively simple, not even all questions. Pithy. They are an embodied choice to be curious – a choice to bring energy and optimism and a commitment to good to each moment. I find them profoundly empowering. They anchor curiosity in a value even greater than itself, one bound up in a desire to understand, contribute, leave the world a better place. They are a call to action, a summons to the journey that is a life well-led.

I would like to live in a world where to call people “incurious”is the worst that can be said of them.

I would like to live in a world where to call people “incurious” is the worst that can be said of them. Not only because I think it is a damning statement on its own merits, but because right now we have so many other much more dreadful behaviors to eradicate and I’d like them all gone — gone, with just “incurious” left to be addressed.

Ryan’s “big five” are an antidote to the incurious. Go through life asking yourself those questions in moments large and small and see what that does to your mindset. This is the stuff of radical transformation. All we need do is ask…

To use another favorite curiosity frame: How might we approach each situation allowing ourselves to be surprised, with active inquiry, open to options, asking rather than presuming, anchored in what really matters, finding satisfaction in the journey, even so?

 

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.