Is there a better question than “what do yo do?” I am not sure if the askers wants to know my response so they can categorize me or if they are waiting to share their story. Do they want to place me into one of two categories: useful or notuseful? What if I answer astronaut, Banksy, or $250 million lottery winner? Would those responses disrupt their sorting process? What if we consider better questions, like those recommended on LeadershipFreak blog (also consider the bonus material at the bottom).
Some questions I entertain as follow-up questions: What borders have you recently crossed? What insight/realization changed your perspective? Who inspires you and how can I sample their message/work? What ‘help wanted’ sign would you post if you knew a response would come within the hour? What is your super power?
Perhaps the best response to “what do you do,” is to ask better follow-up questions.
Our first choice is not always the best choice. The first option may be convenient and meet a need for perceived progress but the results can be less than desired.
Do you click the first link during a Google search, even when the first result has clearly paid for search engine optimization? Did you propose to the first person you dated, on the first date? Did the pilot of your flight land the plane the moment they saw the destination city? Did we nominate the new Board Chair based on the first name mentioned in a passing conversation?
Taking a moment to consider options often leads to better results. In our rush, frenzy, and scattered moments, we settle for anything that looks like a decision. Is it better to make any ferry, even when it heads to the wrong island or is waiting for the right boat a better choice?
What if we commit to looking for at least three options when we reach a decision point? How might three choices change our deliberations if the available answers range beyond yes or no? What other opportunities might appear when we make room for curiosity? How might adopting a three option mindset exponentially change the impact of your work?
This morning a blueberry fell to the floor from my spoon and rolled somewhere out of sight. I spent a few minutes searching before it was corralled. I was amazed to find the berry four times further away than the immediate area underfoot where I located my initial reclamation effort. The search and rescue annoyed and amazed me. If I had dropped the blueberry intentionally in hopes that it will roll away like a bouncy ball and it had just landed flat I would have been disappointed. However, I found myself aggravated because this blueberry traveled far beyond what I thought was possible.
How often do we under/over-estimate an object’s potential? Fundraising campaigns intended to raise millions fall silent despite a sophisticated marketing campaign. A blog post finds an audience even though the topic was a random observation. A passing comment at a conference spurs a new organizational strategy. Or, a single discouraging look brings us down.
Our intentions and reality rarely play on the same scale. We should anticipate serendipity, surprise, and lack of correlation. If we embrace a culture of inquiry then we might ask, ‘what else might this be,’ when unanticipated events appear. Perhaps we might spend more time preparing for a broad range of results and less time selecting the spot to place our soon to be won trophy.