“No he’s cool.” “It’s alright, she’s with me.” Dang, it feels so good to have someone vouch for you! In my first year of college I showed up at a costume party hosted by Benny – one of my water polo teammates. He was an upperclassman and it was the first time I’d ventured socially onto “North Campus” where the Juniors and Seniors lived. An hour earlier, I was in my dorm room and couldn’t come up with a costume idea so I decided to use the materials I had at hand. Over the course of 2 months I’d polished off a lot of gatorade after practices and games. For some reason, I’d saved all the empty plastic bottles. I duct taped 3 dozen or so 32oz gatorade bottles all over myself to become “the human thirst quencher” and went rattling off awkwardly to the costume party. I eventually found the right room and cautiously stepped inside. Immediately, a guy and a girl I’d never met before screamed, “Hah!!” “Who the hell is this kid?” Other people looked over at me and I started regretting the gatorade bottles when, just at that moment, Bennie poked his head around a corner and said, “No he’s cool. Come on in!” And just like that, I was welcome. When has someone vouched for you? Continue reading When has someone vouched for you?
I know we’re not “supposed to,” but people gotta brag sometimes, man! We just do! It’s hard-wired at some level. That’s what makes this an awesome question to ask your significant other. It gives your partner the opportunity to boast and it’s an easy way for you to celebrate something together (even if it’s not a major life accomplishment). Everyone wants to be celebrated and admired! And what’s funny is that it feels psychologically similar to be celebrated and admired for not snoozing the alarm once this week as it does to be celebrated for landing a huge promotion at work. So celebrate the small stuff! Continue reading What are you proudest of about this week?
Answering this question brings up warm-fuzzy feelings about grandparents, it reveals cultural/ethnic details, it often leads to funny family stories, and it doesn’t take long to answer. Another PERFECT meeting starter question! Ask your team next time! Continue reading What do/did you call your grandparents?
It can be from any holiday or occasion! And it can be from any age range. Everyone’s got a costume they remember and love! Just a few years ago, I was stumped for Halloween costumes and was supposed to be at a party in an hour. I ended up turning a Costco milk jug into a Guy Fawkes/”V For Vendetta” mask. I was really proud of it! Still am.
Fast, free, recycled a discarded item, and got a lot of compliments! I’m tempted to put the design instructions online somewhere for Halloween revelers in a pinch. What getup stands out for you? Continue reading What’s the best costume you’ve ever had in your life?
My brother gave me this question. It’s a good one! I do have to say, however, that feeling like an adult has come in waves. I mean that one day I’ll feel very much like a bona-fide adult and then the very next day I’ll feel like a little kid that’s just masquerading around in an adult costume. Nonetheless, I think the VERY first time I felt like an adult (no matter how briefly) was when I took home my first paycheck from the ice cream store Baskin&Robbins. I was 15 years old and I remember my mom taking me home from the BR. My paycheck in hand, I thought over and over to myself, “I’m part of the workforce now. I’m part of the workforce.” Never mind that I had no idea how to even deposit my check! (I told you, adulthood comes in waves.) Continue reading What was the first accomplishment that made you think, “Yes! I’m an adult now!” ?
Fantastic question. More often than not, we find ourselves wearing the “consumer” hat and being defined by our consumer habits. So it’s a special thing this day and age to produce something in the world, whether it’s an app side-hustle, a home D.I.Y. project, or a pie from scratch. What a person has created lately tells a lot about them. This question is quick but still revealing (in a good way). Give it a shot to kick off your next team meeting. Continue reading What’s something that you’ve made that you’re the most proud of?
My older sister has given me some exceptionally thoughtful gifts over the years. But the VERY first one I ever remember getting from her made me so mad. At Christmas, my parents allowed us to choose just one gift to open early on Christmas Eve. I remember being perhaps 8 years old. My sister and I weren’t in the habit of giving gifts to each other at that early age. But underneath the tree, there it was: a small wrapped box from “Jamie” – my sister. I was so intrigued that I chose to open the gift from her early. I was so excited. I remember tearing open the wrapping paper and looking down at… a “fun-size” box of raisins. I was so pissed because 1) I didn’t even like raisins and 2) I had completely WASTED my early gift pick. But bitter memories aside, this is a really fun question to ask your sister or brother. Continue reading What’s the very first present you remember getting from me?
To turn young kids into problem solvers, they just need exposure to lots of situations where they can practice solving actual problems. Thankfully, these kinds of situations arise constantly between younger kids. When you see such a situation unfold, always remember to ask kids, “how might YOU solve that problem?”.
“I have no more white paint!” “And how might you solve that problem?” “Um… I could ask Ms. Julie for more.”
“Scott won’t share glue with me!” “And how might you solve that problem?” “Uhh, I could ask him to share with me.”
“I spilled my water!” “And how might you solve that problem?” “I could clean it with some paper towel.”
If a kid says, “I have no more white paint!” and your reaction is automatically “Oh… Sorry! I’ll get more white paint for you,” then you are fixing things for him before he’s had a chance (or the need) to think critically for himself about next steps. Make kids own the next steps and you’ll be setting them up for a lifetime of creative problem-solving! Continue reading And how might you solve that problem?
You know the genre of superhero movie in which the protagonist starts out as a normal person and then only gradually discovers that she is descended from a long line of superhero badasses with special powers? I feel like every parent, at some point in parenthood, is the main character in exactly this kind of movie. Find out what the low points were for mom and/or dad. And find out how they stuck it out to raise you so damn well. It will give you ideas if you’re a parent yourself or at the very least it will give you a new appreciation of your own folks. Good parents truly are heroes.
Continue reading Can you tell me about one particularly low moment you had while raising me? How did you get through it?
This is a really great question from a friend of a friend named Dan. He came across it at a house his parents rented in Portland, Maine. Here’s Dan to explain what about this question caught his eye:
“This was especially interesting to my wife and me because my college friends call me Uncle Dan… I am a year older than the rest of them because I spent a year as an exchange student after high school. I am old, sometimes cranky, sometimes wise. I feel older than my 31 years. My wife 26: carefree, playful, irresponsible. Her answer is 16 years old. Mine is 38.”
How about you? If you didn’t know any better, how old would you say you are? Continue reading If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you be?
Here’s how you know when to ask this question: If you find that you and your significant other are getting worked up and are on the verge of arguing about something that is a) not that contentious, b) not that consequential, c) not that complicated, or d) all of the above, then probably you’re hungry. Eat something and the peaceable answer will present itself! (Or you’ll just forget what you were getting all riled up about in the first place.) Continue reading How about we eat something first?
(This one’s a bit heady, so stick with me.) Many situations have close analogies. For example, I’ve never cooked pheasant but I have cooked turkey and chicken so I can probably guess a bit about what cooking pheasant is like. Or I’ve never lost the Superbowl but I have lost athletic events that I cared deeply about (in high school and college) so I can probably guess how Superbowl losers must feel. On the other hand, many situations simply do not have close analogies. Here’s the one that got me thinking about this question: I barely remember a time that I didn’t know how to swim. So I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone who can’t swim to be on a boat, or at the beach, or on a pool deck. I literally CAN’T imagine it because there are no close analogies for what that reality is like. You could say, “It’s like being afraid of heights.” Except it’s not. Because I could look over the ledge of a parking garage and it would make me feel uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t die after 40 seconds (which is the average amount of time a person can struggle on the surface of the water before submerging). A closer analogy would be walking around in daily life as a normal person except there are areas of your environment that are quicksand and you just know you have to avoid those places. Or pockets of blue poison gas that will kill you after 40 seconds. But that’s fantasy. I’ve never even seen quicksand. That’s why I can’t imagine what a non-swimmer’s experience of water is like. There are many other circumstances with no close analogies. Pregnancy. If you’ve never been pregnant, there is NOTHING in your experience that you can draw on to give you an idea of what pregnancy is like. (“Oh it’s like eating a really huge meal for 9 months! Oh birthing is like passing a kidney stone, I bet. I would guess that, nutritionally, pregnancy is like when tape worms were eating all the food I was eating.” Look! You sound batshit crazy just trying to come up with approximations.) Not knowing how to swim, being pregnant, being a different race than the one I am… To me, these things have no close analogies. What about for you? What circumstances have no close analogies? When you go through this thought exercise, you emerge with more humility, more willingness to dialog, and a changed posture that makes you more likely to learn from others. Continue reading What circumstances or situations can you think of that have no close analogies?
Dave Grohl has a profanity laced quote that I really appreciate. It’s a long quote but it boils down to these first two sentences. “I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you fucking like something, like it.” (Here’s the quote in full. I point you to it so as not to increase the F’bomb count here on WBQ by 10x in a single post.) I think he’s right on. So I’m working on really owning the things that I like even if there’s something about them that embarrasses me. This question, “What’s your guilty pleasure?” has mostly lost its edge because we live in hipster times, and throwback culture, and the term “guilty pleasure” is commonplace. So if someone says, “Oh jeez, well I’m so embarrassed but… I like listening to Backstreet Boys on cassette,” it doesn’t automatically strike me as a huge confession. Liking Backstreet Boys on cassette probably makes you the coolest person in more than a handful of circles. When people hear “What’s your guilty pleasure,” I think the meaning has shifted enough that we are actually answering the unrelated question: “What is quirky-endearing about you?” Quirky/endearing is not guilt inducing. For me, as a liberal arts English major, when among other English majors I’ve often left The Fountainhead off of my favorite books list. In that circle, The Fountainhead is taboo as all getout. Ayn Rand is universally trashed. Admitting that I loved it at first read and still re-read it now makes me worry that people won’t take me (or what I write) seriously. It makes me worry about not being accepted. I feel guilty of having done something wrong. That’s a guilty pleasure. Guilt. But I’m working on it… Continue reading What’s something that you’re genuinely embarrassed to admit is a guilty pleasure?
Maybe I’m not the only one. All growing up I thought that having a successful career would depend heavily on things like intelligence, talent, ambition, likeability, know-how… It’s a long list. Those things matter, certainly. But in adult life I continue to be amazed at how distinguishing a characteristic it truly is to simply DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU’RE GOING TO DO. You could take away so many of the other traits and skillsets and 5 Things Every Good Leader blah blah Bob Loblaw and have remaining ONLY great follow-through and you’d do fine. It’s with that assertion in mind that I ask this question about when you’ve delivered in your life. We should cultivate and celebrate follow-through moments more than we do. Big moments, small ones, all of them. Continue reading When you look back at all the times in your life that you said you’d do something and you delivered, which of those “follow-through moments” makes you proudest?
What about a butterfly? What about a hummingbird? If I’m being honest, and if we were talking about an all-expenses paid surf trip vacation to somewhere amazing like Hawaii or Indonesia or Australia, I could do a fly for sure. And I could do a butterfly if it were small and maybe just one flat color like beige or something. If it was a really intricate, colorful butterfly… I don’t know. I think I might struggle. And a hummingbird, hell no. Something about this question made me uncomfortable. It might have been the cruelty, or observing my own calculations, or feeling petty. I don’t know what exactly. But just for the discomfort alone, it’s worth including here. Continue reading For an all-expenses-paid, one-week vacation anywhere in the world, would you be willing to tear the wings off a fly?
In the early days of Facebook, there was a section of your profile that had two adjoining boxes: interests and then activities. One of my college friends (can’t remember exactly whom) had filled the “interests” section with lots of things – reading, running, listening to live music, learning some form of martial arts… And then in the “activities” section, he wrote simply: “Trying to make this box match the one above.” Clever. And poignant. It’s stuck with me all these years and reminded me to think deliberately about making my daily actions match my deeper interests. But I don’t always manage it as well as I’d like. Or well at all. How long before an “interest” gets demoted to the “to do list”? To merely an aspiration? I don’t know. But if I haven’t spoken ANY French at length in 9 years, how “interested” can I actually be in it? There’s no judgement around any of this. It’s just a question to ask yourself so that you can either 1) renew your commitment or 2) make room for newer, more relevant interests. Continue reading How long before an “interest” becomes merely an aspiration?
My friend Aaron came up with this question while we were talking about clubbing. It’s a good one. When was the last occasion that made you think, “Ehh, I think I might be getting too old for this”? I’m in my 30’s now so I’ll probably be thinking this a lot in the future. But then again, probably not any more than I’ve thought it throughout my life. The truth is, we’re aging out of things all the time. I definitely remember being 10 years old, in what would be my last year participating in a summer arts/enrichment camp for little kids and thinking “I might be too old for this next summer…” I also remember being 26 years old. After coming back from volunteering in Haiti, I’d been living at home for two and a half years. I thought to myself then, “Dude, you’re getting too old for this…” What is the most recent thing that you’d say you’ve aged out of? Continue reading What’s the last thing you’d say you’ve “aged out” of?
This is such a novel question – love it! Obviously answers will vary widely since some people cut their hair every few weeks and some people cut their hair very rarely. Measuring time by a “unit” like haircuts will do that. That’s what makes this one fun. For me, two haircuts ago I hadn’t yet turned 32. So that’s different! How about you? Continue reading How different was your life two haircuts ago?
This is another gem from “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices In Life and Work” by Chip and Dan Heath. I’ve listed this question here in the “Ask Your Significant Other” category but it’s better classified as a question you ask yourself ABOUT your significant other. As explained by the Heath brothers: “A blogger named Rochelle Arnold-Simmons uses the ‘assume positive intent’ principle with her husband: ‘When your husband does something and you immediately go to a negative place, ask yourself, ‘What are other possibilities that may be more positive than what you are thinking?’ Assume he is trying to help, assume he does not need to be reminded, assume it is not his fault. I try to always ask the question, ‘What’s another possibility?'”
Adopting this posture, “assume positive intent,” is a complete game-changer in relationships as well as work settings. It helps you to see around confirmation bias (the tendency to notice first the information that confirms your initial assumptions) and to make better decisions instead.
So the next time you get frustrated with your partner, how can you assume positive intent? Continue reading How can I assume positive intent?