By Sharna Goldseker
It seems that when I travel I find the space to do some extra reading and podcast listening that I don’t seem to do in the thick of the work week. So keep reading if you are interested in hearing my latest musings, or…
On this recent trip to LA ‹where I was invited to speak by 21/64 Trainer Jim Ferris¹ at his University of Southern California Center for Philanthropy and Public Policy‹ I was reflecting on the significance of asking questions. This trip, on the heels of a 101 Training we ran in Atlanta last week, echoed how I¹ve been feeling about flexing my ‘asking questions’ muscles. We were running through the Generational Personalities exercise and I could see some eyes glaze over at the list of events and conditions they felt they had to learn about their Gen X and Y children and grandchildren in order to work together. At the time I was able to say, the point of this exercise isn¹t to recall all the historical data of these generational cohorts, but to remember to ask the question, ³what did you experience that informs who you are and how you see the world?”
Of course, asking questions is easier said then done. When I get tired and the work piles up, my storehouses of energy erode, and my ability to ask good questions (let alone remember to ask a question rather than offer a solution) is often the first thing to go. My husband would attest that I suddenly have answers rather than patient questions for him at the end of the day.
So I turned to some of my favorite thinkers for inspiration and thought I¹d offer a couple of quotes, that I found as a refreshing way to lean back into the power of asking questionsŠ
Try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. –Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Letters to a Young Poet²
After reading the poet, I then listened to Parker Palmer on a panel at the 2014 PopTech conference who saidŠ
I believe there are ³Šfive habits of the heart. But if 5 are too many to hold onto, you really only need two, chutzpah and humility. The chutzpah to know you have a voice worth speaking and things worth saying, and you need the humility to know its vital to listen as you may not have it right at all or only partial grasp of the truth.
While I wrote about listening recently, it wasn¹t until I heard Parker Palmer that I was reminded: listening only begins after we have the humility to ask a question. So like Rilke says, we have to love the questions we are asking and want to explore them in order to be poised to listen to the answers, to hear them, drink them in, knowing one day they¹ll come together.
It made me ask myself, what are the questions I¹m really curious to explore today?
What are the questions you are living today? What are you excited to ask? What ideas are you contemplating for yourself, your colleagues, your clients/donors that will open you up to new possibilities for you and for them.