Choose to be Curious, UnComfort Zone

How to Change the World

Central Falls High School teacher Seth Kolker wrote:

The goal for our course on “How to Change the World” is simple and bold: by the end of the year, each student will have a working theory of how they want to change the world. All year, we’re going to meet inspiring student activists, lawyers, non-profit leaders, community volunteers, and elected officials who are working to make local change happen. And in April, we’ll travel to Washington, DC for a weeklong trip students are planning themselves.

And so they did.

It was, in a word, amazing.

I talked with the students about how curiosity just might help change the world.

Listen to Choose to be Curious #54: How to Change the World, with the Students of Central Falls High School

Now you can subscribe to Choose to be Curious on iTunes.

The students’ visit also provided an opportunity for an exciting cross-collaboration between Arlington Independent Media’s TV and radio productions. I was delighted to partner with Nathan Bynum and his Youth Can Change the World program to feature the budding activists.

Listen to Curiosity to Go, Ep. 27: You(th) Can Change the World

* * *

I hadn’t thought about the effect seeing their own words — designed, and in print — would have on the students.

It was profound.

I told them: if you stop and listen to one another, you’ll hear how eloquent you are.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the students of Central Falls High School:

Choose to be Curious, UnComfort Zone

A Double Take on Lynching

Historian Susan Strasser has written, “History is not a collection of facts, but a way of thinking about how things change…I believe history offers a way for us to become honest with ourselves.”

That’s the spirit with which we approached the difficult fact of lynching. We chose to face it directly, to be curious about our own history, the hidden enormity of the terror, and our own responses to it.  Historian Susan Strasser and poet Marcia E. Cole joined me for this important conversation:

Listen to Choose to be Curious #53: A Double Take on Lynching, with Susan Strasser & Marcia E. Cole.

For more information on lynching, visit Equal Justice Initiative.

You can now subscribe to Choose to be Curious on iTunes.

We all have stories to tell, some happier than others, all with something to offer the future. Valeria Gellman and others collected stories from legacy businesses in Arlington, VA and turned them into a delightful WERA series, The Local Shop, as part of an effort to help communities prepare for the change that is coming there.

Listen to Curiosity to Go, Ep. 26: A Great Impelling Force

Curiosity to Go segments air on Arlington in the Morning, WERA’s morning drive-time show. Tune in around 8:15 a.m. on the morning of a show’s first broadcast to hear the segments live. Streaming live at 

Go ahead, choose to be curious!

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

UnComfort Zone

Out/Rage and In/Sight

waterphotoThe battle is fierce, the war far from over. Sides are sharply drawn, passions high, entrenchments deep. I speak, of course, of the state of my inner psyche. I am at war with myself – and I suspect I am not alone.

Outrage is not a natural state for me. But it’s increasingly where I find myself: on unfamiliar, alien ground that feels dangerous, even hostile. I’m unsure how to navigate, uncertain which survival skills are most applicable, which practices actually an impediment. The anger feels entirely justified, but highly toxic. As much a risky place to stay as it is to abandon. I’m not sure which way to turn or what I can trust.

I’ve tried to parse the term — outrage —  tried to defuse it, own it in a different form. I have thought about the blindness of rage, the all-consuming heat of it. I’ve thought about the out part, the externalized expression, the dependence on a heinous other for existence.

I tried to think about its inverse: what is that? If not antidote, then what? Is there a way for me to sit with outrage that doesn’t consume me completely? What would help me (re)gain clarity? Is there room for insight in outrage?

And there I was: outrage and insight – not antonyms, by any means, but a spot upon which I could teeter long enough to craft some sort of strategy for myself. I’ve been reading the thought pieces on underlying values, the ones that explore how badly we’re talking past one another right now, how uselessly we’re relying on our own values to try to persuade others to see things as we do, ignoring their values as easily as they seem to ignore ours. Mine.

So Monday I’m sitting down with someone from the “other side”. I don’t want to talk politics with him. I have no interest in argument or persuasion. I just want to be able to sit with him and know him as a person. I’m hoping, maybe, for a little insight.


Choose to be Curious, UnComfort Zone

Challenging Racism

photo-marty-and-moeWords have pretty much failed me for the last week. I moved inward for reflection and contemplation. Processing.

Today’s “Choose to be Curious” was recorded several weeks ago — before the election — and was timed to coincide with the UN International Tolerance Day (November 16). It feels like a good place to begin regaining my voice.

My profound thanks to Marty Swaim, Monique Brown and the many other people who make Challenging Racism possible.

Listen to Choose to be Curious #15: Curiosity and Challenging Racism – with Marty Swaim and Monique Brown.

Curiosity Journal, Life Lessons, UnComfort Zone

Whatever You Do, Choose to be Curious

pix-whatever-you-doHonestly, I don’t know what to do, other than to do what I know to do.

I can’t bear to rehash it. I can’t listen to the pundits. I can’t dive down the catastrophe rabbit hole. I’m done with speculation.

I’m going back to curiosity.  Or, maybe, I’m going forward to curiosity.

I don’t mean the how could this happen hand-wringing that risks just more confirmation bias. I mean going to a deeper, more sober contemplation of the gaping, ghastly unknowing between world views, our willful ignorance about one another that seems to have both won and lost this race and is our undoing.

How different might this whole process have been had we all been asking ourselves what am I not seeing? What more is there to know?



UnComfort Zone

Leading with Curiosity

lead (lēd) v. – tr. 1. To show the way to by going in advance. 2. To guide or direct in a course. — intr. 1. To be first; be ahead. 2. To go first as guide. — n. 1. a. The first or foremost position. b. One occupying such a position; a leader.

I write as a recovering know it all.

Not, I hope, as an ugly, in-your-face, superior-than-thou know it all, but as someone whose former role as a senior executive with an especially long tenure in the organization was prone to make me and everyone around me believe, well, that I knew it all.

And that’s a trap, all the way around. A particularly tricky trap from which to extricate oneself, as it happens. It’s taken me quite a while to understand those golden handcuffs.

Which might explain my deepening fascination with curiosity and the fervor of my commitment to get more people to be less knowing. There’s nothing like a convert.

S. Leonard Rubinstein wrote, “Curiosity is a willing, a proud, an eager confession of ignorance.” That is to say curiosity is not something that may come easily to people who are accustomed to being the smartest one in the room or are invested in the supremacy of their expertise.

thinkerWhat does it take for a person in power to step back, shut up and really listen? What happens when curiosity is our first move?

What does leading with curiosity actually look like?

And, more to the point, how can I lead with curiosity?

I’m trying to be willing and eager; to embrace my ignorance.

Honestly, that’s not hard this month as I tackle the steep learning curve that arcs toward my newly-approved radio show  (beginning May 4; every other Wednesday at 10 a.m. Eastern time [US] on WERA-LP 96.7 FM, streaming live on, and available after broadcast on Mixcloud). Is it a surprise that I’ve named it “Choose to be Curious”?

I’m up to my eyeballs in new FacebookTwitter and Spinitron accounts; grappling with the mechanics of audio recording. I’m chasing interviews. Struggling to clarify my own thinking enough to craft cogent scripts. Loving the challenge.

Loving being new and dumb and eager and willing.

So much to be curious about. I’m letting it lead me – and maybe that’s the secret.