I like to have my thinking agitated – preferably with a good glass of wine, some sumptuous appetizers, and a few brilliant minds to shake up the discourse. Sometimes these intriguing conversations are accompanied with markers, flip charts and coffee, but hey, at least they’re happening.
Several conversations stood out this year – highly provocative, highly engaging and well…highly awesome. Out of all these cool tête-à-têtes I’m sharing the 7 most thought-provoking questions I was asked in 2014. Here’s to unleashing some “awesome agitation” in your life. Wine and food optional…but highly encouraged. 😉
Questions 1 and 2:
I’m a cool Aunt. Don’t believe me? Ask my nieces and nephew. This year they were reading The One and Only Ivan. Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this unforgettable novel was inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla. While the story celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships it is the deeper issue of how we regard (or disregard) one another that rattled my heart.
- How do “acceptance” and “belonging” influence your choices and actions?
- Where in your own life are you being held captive? (Socially, economically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, politically?)
Often captivity is created from our own stories about what happened, how we think the world works and our assumptions about others and events. Finding resources to shift our own thinking is a great way to set ourselves free. And…getting more involved in a cause that helps others gain more freedom sets you free too.
Many of us embrace the American Dream: the belief that what brings you success is hard work, not luck. (Though who-you-know can play a tremendous role in how “lucky” you get!) America has her issues, especially economically, so when GenNext speaker, Luigi Zingales, author of A Capitalism for the People, presented a real-world blueprint to restore true competition to our economic system I was all ears.
- What makes America exceptional?
It’s not hard to come up with systems or people to criticize. Washington, D.C. politics alone is an easy target. The more intriguing conversation is ignited from the question above that inevitably leads to the sharing of incredible personal stories and sparks genuine passion for contributing even more to America’s exceptionalism.
Sometimes we just get it backwards. Sometimes we realize it before it’s too late. 😉 Enter Danielle LaPorte, a wise-cracking, irreverent, modern-day philosopher, author and speaker about Desire. She once ran a future studies think tank and now is forcing us to work and play more creatively. If you ever wondered if following your passion really pays – she’s a prime example that it does. Danielle shifted my perspective this year with one fundamental question:
- What do you need to do to feel the way you want to feel?
Too many of us are chasing things that don’t generate happiness and fulfillment. We reach the finish line to find that the line has moved or that the line leaves us feeling emptier than we anticipated. LaPorte encourages us to define our core desires so our goals manifest the way we want to feel… along the way.
Questions 5 and 6:
There are moments when we have more questions than answers, when it seems like life is just a bit more “in your face” than normal. While these moments are often referred to as “dark times,” New York Times bestselling author and former Episcopal priest, Barbara Brown Taylor, encourages us to turn out the lights and embrace the spiritual darkness, for it is in the dark, she maintains, that one can truly see.
- How much more is in store for me if I can learn to walk in the dark?
- If outer darkness is the cloud where we store our inner fears, how much will the real world suffer from our collective fear of the dark?
In darkness we find courage, we understand the world in new ways, and frequently it is while we are in the dark that we grow the most. Added bonus, her prose reads like poetry…enjoy!
2014: a year of challenges for me and for too many I know, including family and friends. It’s been like the ABCs of tragedy: Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, prostate cancer, dementia, divorce, death… these words became a part of my day-to-day vocabulary. Not a fun language to speak. The most common question I was asked was… “Will he be okay?,” “Will she be okay?,” “Will you be okay?” Not helpful questions. No one is “okay” under these circumstances, BUT… everyone is stepping forward. It’s how we are all stepping forward that I find more curious and helpful. So when the moment was appropriate, and I was ready to hear it, a friend asked:
- What are you learning for what’s next?
And it wasn’t cheesy, or inappropriately optimistic…it just reminded me that we all need hope for a compelling future and when we are ready to grieve a little less and let go a little more, a future that only we can create, awaits.
May your 2015 be significantly meaningful.