I’ve never run a marathon, or piloted an airplane, or learned to speak Mandarin. But I might! One day, I might do those things. They are within the range of things that are still possible for me to do with my life. It’s unsettling, though, to think of the things that I already know — for sure — I won’t ever accomplish. For example, I already know that I won’t be a pro surfer. At 2 years old, that option for my life was still open. At 32, it no longer is. I just won’t be able to make that happen now – no matter how badly I might want it. Even if I started training today, that ship has sailed. That’s what happens as we grow older. The list of things you know you won’t do gets longer. My maternal grandmother is in her nineties. She’s mostly in very good health but she can no longer travel by airplane. Anywhere overseas that she’s never been, she will never be. That wasn’t always the case for her but it is now. Day by day, things become impossible. For all of us. We should remember that. A random Tuesday of some random week might be your very last chance to…[fill in the blank]. Isn’t it crazy to think that, as a FACT, everything imaginable that can be done with a human life will eventually pass through those brackets? Some things have passed through them already. This year and every year, more will. They’ll pass through on a Tuesday. Or a Thursday. Or a Monday. Do you know what that makes today? Sacred. Continue reading What do you already know you won’t accomplish in your life?
I have a friend who gets irked if someone guesses correctly that she’s an only child. Is there anything like that for you? Are you miffed if someone is able to key in on something that you’ve not otherwise revealed? “Are you a crossfitter?” “Do you have, like, a tattoo on your foot somewhere?” “It seems like you’d be a vegetarian.” What’s most interesting for me about this question is a follow up question that’s more self-analysis than anything else: Why? Why does it irk you for someone to guess correctly? Continue reading What upsets you when someone guesses it correctly about you?
This isn’t quite the “What’s the best advice…” question. Instead, I’m interested in what advice has most RECENTLY spared you from a big headache. On a recent road trip, Emily told me “Don’t speed in Virginia because the troopers there are really strict.” We hadn’t been over the VA border for long (cruising 3 miles above the limit) when a cop car raced up behind us with his lights going and promptly pulled around to ticket the car in front of us that was going maybe 10 miles over the limit. Phew!! Without that advice, we would have been that ticketed car, for sure. What advice most recently helped you dodge a bullet? Continue reading What piece of advice has most recently saved you a headache?
Okay everyone. I’m gonna tell you a very embarrassing story. So on the very first day of 1st Grade, I pooped my pants. This is how it happened: My mom is dropping off my older sister, Jamie, and me right in front of the main entrance to our elementary school. I’ve been acting all cool-guy all morning like 1st Grade is no big deal and I’m gonna handle it just fine – even better than Jamie who’s going into 2nd Grade and has more experience than me. I step out of the car and my mom says, “Have a great first day of school you guys! Love you!” I feel a nervous fart coming on and start letting it out. I swing the door shut and it thuds closed at exactly the moment that the nervous “fart” turns into nervous liquid poop and hits me right in the underwear. Pooped my pants. Not a lot. Not enough to immediately jump back in the car. But definitely enough to know that I need a game plan. I stand there, shocked, considering my options as my mom drives away forever. I turn back to Jamie and I’m so dang cool and ready to tackle 1st Grade that I don’t say anything. Just walk on to my classroom. I spend the first hour sitting with one foot under my butt trying desperately to seal in the smell. The girl next to me asks, “Do you smell poop?” and I say “No! But maybe you stepped in dog poop…” When we’re done with “rug time” and are moving to our desks, I ask to go to the bathroom where I wipe my butt and underwear and pray to God that I’m not found out. If I can JUST make it through this day without becoming the kid who pooped his pants on the first day of school, I’ll live. I contemplate throwing away my underwear but the trash can is just a tiny thing with no lid and filling it up with soiled fruit-of-the-looms seems like a great way to get caught brown-handed so I just decide to ride out my poopy underwear all day. Desk work is okay because there’s more space between us all but “rug time” is the freaking worst. During rug time I sit on one foot, then the other foot, then both feet. But I make it through the day! I make it! And when my mom brings me and Jamie back home that afternoon my first order of business is throwing my underwear away to destroy all the evidence.
That was a rough day for 6-year-old me. But now, if I could be a fly on the wall, I would LOVE to witness that moment in my life. It would be so damn hilarious to watch kid me deal with that pressure!! Plus I’d be a fly! So poop smell all day would be, like, a bonus! Continue reading If you could go back in time and observe any moment in your life as a fly on the wall, what would it be?
And what was so moving to you about that speaker? Was it the message? The delivery? The particular moment and its context? In an age of ubiquitous TED talks and would-be TED’s that are all just one internet search away from your hand-held consumption, what powerful words have you PHYSICALLY been witness to? It could be a sermon, a conference key-note, a commencement speech, a friend talking about what matters to her… As long as you were there. For me, I remember instantly some of the sermons that Fr. Rick Frechette (founder of NPH-Haiti, the org I volunteered with in ’07, ’08, and 2010) preached right after the devastating 2010 earthquake that hit Port au Prince. In the tiny chapel on the grounds of the pediatric hospital he built, Fr. Rick preached that faith is big. But it’s also small. It’s so small that it’s about just one single person. You. What you do matters. How you reach out matters. How you comfort. How you heal. How you speak to others and how you touch lives matters. It matters more than anything else. Hearing him say that to the Haitians, the foreigners, the doctors, nurses, volunteers, UN personnel, logistics people, and everyone else packed into that tiny stone chapel with the sun coming up over the ruins of Port-au-Prince all around us and the exhausting day ahead of us all… I’ve never heard such conviction. It’s unforgettable. Continue reading Who is the best speaker you’ve ever heard in person?
This is a question to ask your friends and family. But instead of revealing something about them, the question is designed to teach you something about yourself. I came across this one when working with a life coach in late 2010. In the middle of our meeting, I had to call 5 people in my life right at that moment and ask them, “What shows up when I do? What qualities do I add to a room when I walk in?” Everyday life had never before (and hasn’t since) given me the opportunity to just point-blank ask that of friends and family. The calls lasted no more than 2 minutes each (and I said I’d call back soon for a real conversation) but the answers were intriguing and affirming and have truly stuck with me. When two of my best friends echoed, on separate calls, that I brought consistency of character into a room (meaning that the given crowd or environment didn’t change how I acted/spoke/joked), I took that to heart and doubled down on it. Ever since, I’ve tried very intentionally to bring that quality with me. Give this one a try! It’s a random question for sure… But you can say that you’re doing an internet experiment if that helps! I promise the answers are worth it. Continue reading What shows up when I do?
I like this question as one to ask your sibling(s). It somehow seems like the easy route to ask this of your parents. Parents are always LOOKING for ways to be proud of their kids. And for me at least, the thing that most recently made my parents proud would probably be, like, me going to the dentist. But my sister and brother could care less about my cavity situation. Siblings are harder to impress. So remember the times that you’ve made them proud. And get back there. Continue reading When did I last make you proud?
Tonight I heard Rev. Alan Storey speak. He’s a Methodist minister from South Africa who has done some amazing work in the post-apartheid communities of his home country. He’s also a white man. I was struck when he said, “It can actually be very empowering to learn that you are part of the problem. Because when you’re part of the problem, if you change just yourself, you are contributing directly to the solution.” That’s a heck of a thought. It reminded me of a sobering thing I heard when I was still living (and commuting) in Los Angeles and hating my rush-hour slog: “You’re not IN traffic. You ARE traffic.” So when it comes to any number of things – a broken political system, a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, bumper to bumper traffic – how are you part of the problem? That’s where you’ll find your power. Continue reading How am I part of the problem?
And on the other hand, if you could guarantee that they would NOT be like you in one way, what trait of yours would you pick then? I’m at the age now that friends, peers, and work colleagues are starting to have kids all the dang time! Babies everywhere! That’s gotten me thinking more about how parenting happens and what new parents hope to share (and not share) with their children. This has been a really fascinating question to ask. Give it a try! Continue reading If you could guarantee that your kids (and someday their kids) would be exactly like you in one way, what trait of yours would you make sure to pass down?
Instagram is your life curated. And more often than not, people are curating in order to make their food look amazing, their days seem interesting, their lives appear coherent. Even the “fail” posts on social media are humble-brags (“6am workout this morning was a DISASTER!”) or they’re endearing failures (“Mom’s birthday cake turned into a hot mess #backupplan”). What happened in your life over the past seven days that didn’t make it onto social media? (Because you thought posting it would make people think something about you that you wouldn’t want them to think.) I didn’t watch any sunrises last week. And I didn’t hilariously #epicfail set my kitchen on fire while cooking either. I’ll tell ya this, though. I developed a mystery rash/grouping of bumps on both my forearms. I have no idea if it was from doing yard work or what. Just appeared. Kinda itchy. I hope it goes away soon on its own and doesn’t get grosser. I’m a little embarrassed about it. That’s it. Fire up that new app, Average-gram! Because, all sarcasm aside, I think it would be a lot healthier for all of us to know and see that life for everyone else also is messy and unremarkable and doesn’t make for a good picture or a fun story all the time. What would I see on your honestly behind-the-scenes social media platform of choice? Continue reading If there were an anti-Instagram, what from the last week would appear on your profile?
Hi my name is Carlo and I’m addicted to checking email on my phone. Sometimes I’ll do it without even realizing it and then think, “Dude, you did this literally 4 minutes ago…” I have a friend who’s addicted to Q-tipping her ears after every shower even though she knows it’s not healthy. If my wife doesn’t exercise in the morning she feels horrible and lethargic all day long. I literally call it “crack” when I’m talking to her. I’ll ask: “Did you get your crack earlier today?” What are you addicted to? What can your teammates not go without? Continue reading What are you addicted to?
The French language famously has no single word for “home.” In Tagalog, the word “gigil” can only be defined in English as the emotion associated with seeing something so cute it makes you want to squeeze the bejeezus out of it. In Portuguese, “cafune” is a verb that means to run your fingers gently through someone’s hair. What precise or complicated thing do you say/do/feel/think often enough to want a single English word for it? For me, I’d love an English verb that means “to consider a possible course of action for longer than it would actually take to simply do it.” Not that I’m ever guilty of that or anything… Continue reading I wish there were an English word for… What? Fill in the blank.
So the third question in this series actually already appears in this section of “Questions to ask your gradeschool kid.” But I really love these 3 for how they work as a combo. And I REALLY love the effect they have when asked consistently, every single day. The benefits extend beyond kids and go right up to parents and the family as a whole. For the full scoop, check out this article by Meg Conley titled, “We Ask Our Kids the Same 3 Questions Every Night.” Continue reading How were you brave? How were you kind? How did you fail?
This is an interesting question because you’re not only thinking about the products or services to which you are very loyal. You’re also thinking about which products and services will even still be around in the very made-up-sounding year of 2046. For me? Costco. I freakin love that place and I hope, Hope, HOPE that we’re all still around in 30 years. On the other hand, there’s Facebook. Am I the only one who would be pretty shocked if Facebook was still a name that we all talked about in 2046? Only time will tell… Continue reading What brand (that you use today) do you think you’ll be using 30 years from now?
Emily and I just celebrated our 2-year wedding anniversary! We spent a long weekend camping and hiking up Mount Mitchell, which was awesome. This question came up one night as we were huddled up next to the campfire. It was a good one for inspiring some reflection and it also served as a reminder that you’ll never know 100% of another person. There will always be some mystery. One year ago, Emily didn’t know that I would enjoy learning to fix things in our home. One year ago, I didn’t know that she would be such an eager correspondent with my younger cousins in the Philippines. Being happily surprised in a relationship is largely a 2 step process: Step 1) Let yourself be surprised. Step 2) Be surprised. Continue reading What do you know about me now that you didn’t know 1 year ago?
This inspired list of 50 ways to live a happier, healthier life recommends (at #9) to fast from internet usage for 24 hours every week as a way of reconnecting with yourself and giving your loved ones the attention they deserve. I’m drawn to the idea of fasting as a practice. Are you? If not food or internet, what thing that you normally consume eagerly would you choose to abstain from for 24 hours? What do you think that kind of fast would do for you in your life? Continue reading If you had to fast from something other than food for 24 hours, what would you choose?
First, tell me about a time it brought you success. And then tell me why you suspect it might be holding you back now. Changing your context can very easily turn a strength into a weakness or limitation. Just ask Michael Jordan. Did you ever catch his 2009 trainwreck of an acceptance speech at the NBA Hall of Fame? Jordan is arguably the most revered athlete on Earth. He was better at basketball than I will probably ever be at anything. He got that way because of his ultra-competitive nature. During his playing days, “ultra-competitive” was a character strength. It’s hard to watch his often petty Hall of Fame speech and say the same thing. Just because it’s always worked, doesn’t mean it always will. Continue reading What rule, way of thinking, or policy has been successful for you in the past but may be limiting you now?
This is a short and playful question but it actually can tell you a lot about your teammates. Part of the effect comes from asking it just with those four words. This leaves a lot up to interpretation. Are people responding with the meal they most like to eat? To cook? The meal they’re in the mood for right now? The meal they’d choose if they could only eat that meal for the rest of their lives? No wrong answers. Let people answer as they will. This lightens the mood and springboards you right into your meeting. Continue reading Breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
The relationships I admire are all ones in which the individuals inspire each other continually to be better. Ask your partner this question. Celebrate the moment! And help your partner recreate the conditions that led to the best version of him/herself. Your relationship will benefit. And the world will benefit! Ask away! Continue reading When were you your best self this week?