Do you know him/her — today?

It has been a while since I read a book that brought so much inspiration to how I approach life. The last one that probably topped this book was “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. The new book? “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life” by Brian Grazer. Grazer is a Hollywood producer (known for Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon, 24, and his crazy spiked hair), and while reading about a Hollywood producer would normally turn me off, the book is about his lifelong pursuit of curiosity. He lives and breathes it and it has contributed to how he has lived his life and his many successes. The book showcases his “curiosity conversations” where he has been led to talk to anyone and everyone about how they live their life. He is a listener and learns by asking questions. He talks about curiosity in relation to his professional and personal life.

I was one of those kids that always asked questions. I always wanted to know more and was never satisfied with pat answers — I wanted to know why. I wanted to understand how things worked and how people ticked. I am also someone who often talks things out. One of my favorite times of the day is my drive home from work with Chris. We have been married for 12 years, and have had only one car for 11.5 of those married years. I am usually quieter on the way to work. It is my last few moments of silence before a long and full day.

On the way home it can take us anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on traffic and I find it the perfect time to debrief about our days. Sometimes I talk the entire way home because I have so much to share, sometimes it is Chris that talks the entire time, and others we banter back and forth and share intermittently about our day. When I get home I am off to go for a run, or catch up on a few more pieces of work to get it out of my head, so those minutes in the car are precious. They are one of the ways we connect and learn a bit more about what we each experienced that day. Grazer mentions this specifically in his book — how many couples do not ask each other or talk about their days:

“How many marriages that drift into disconnection and boredom could be helped by a revival of genuine curiosity on both sides? We need these daily reminders that although I live with person, I don’t actually know her today—unless I ask about her today.” page 160

And later on that same page…

“We don’t just take our relationships to those closest to us for granted. We take for granted that we know them so well, we know what happened today. We know what they think. But we don’t. That’s part of the fun of curiosity, and part of the value of curiosity: it creates the moment of surprise.” page 160

I love this. I am voraciously curious about Chris and what continues to make him tick. I am curious about those I work with, my friends, and family. How are they changing? What is bothering them? What continues to make them happy? Promise me to not take each day for granted. Ask the questions. Be curious. And, if you want to read a good book, pick up “A Curious Mind.”

From problem solver to listener

I have a hard time seeing a problem and not trying to find a solution. It is as though my mind works in a different way, constantly filtering information towards a solution. I see a problem that needs to be solved and I go through the library card file in my mind to determine if there is a current solution, or if it is something that I need to bring others in to help solve. There are often problems that have an easy solution, and others that can be easily solved if you bring in your network of resources.

The problem with the way my mind works? Sometimes it is not my place to find the solution. Sometimes what I need to do is guide others to a solution. Take Chris for an example. He might share a problem with me and the last thing he wants me to do is try to solve it. He just wants me to listen. So I take my hands and sit on them, and listen. Or at least I try to. Deep down I am probably still trying to solve it, but keeping my mouth shut. Other times whether with colleagues or with friends, their problems again are not always ours to solve. We can make suggestions or ask questions, but we cannot always solve the actual problems.

As I write this I see how much better I could be at listening — to Chris, my colleagues, and friends. Coaching sometimes means asking questions such as: Have you thought about ______? Or, have you looked at the other side of the problem? Or, maybe even saying: Put yourself in their shoes, would you handle something differently? I know I can do better at listening, I can do better at formulating questions to get others to think more. Maybe that is part of going from managing to leading.

I love the spiral that sometimes happens when you start writing about one topic and have an “aha” moment that leads you to see a gap or a hole in your life that might be a good area to focus on. I could be better about being directive to solve each problem, and take a step back to allow those that have the problems to resolve them on their own. Listen more, ask questions, and reflect.

#problemsolver