This is a special tribute to the guest of our most widely received podcast of 2021, Will Wise, co-founder of We and Me and co-author of Ask Powerful Questions: Create Conversations that Matter. Will transitioned from this world in November, less than two months after our conversation with him was released. Join us for this tribute episode in honor of an amazing teacher and man.
Hi, this is Adina here with today's episode of Courage to be Curious with Adina Tovell. And we are well into December at this point very close against the holidays, and also winding down this year season on our podcast. And it is really with tremendous respect and sadness that I wanted to share with the courage to be curious community about the passing of one of our guests this year. Many of you will remember our podcast episode in September, with Will Wise, who was co author of ask powerful questions, create conversations that matter, focused on creating powerful connections, and the co founder of We and me with Chad Littlefield. And it was interesting, because when I was interviewing Well, I actually had no idea that he was battling cancer and that he was ill. And if you listened in on that episode, you'll know that it was one of the lengthiest episodes that we've ever recorded. Because the conversation was just so incredibly insightful and dynamic that I just couldn't let it go. And we kept continuing. And then at the end of our conversation when we came off of the record, and I could see well, and he asked, take a seat, because he had been recording standing up that he and I talked about the battle that he had had. And it's with really tremendous sadness and a great sense of loss that I'm sharing with you that on November 12, he passed and left this world for his next place. And so on this episode, I really wanted to share a tribute with you to will wise because honestly, I know that I will go back to that episode and listen to it many, many times in my lifetime.
In this very brief moment that I had the opportunity to encounter will through our email exchange leading up to the recording, and then in about the hour and 20 minutes that we had together. In the recording of the podcast, I experienced this essence of him as just such an incredibly beautiful soul insightful, wise, and present. And there's so much I learned
not only from what he said, but the way in which he said it and the way in which he carried himself that I wanted to take this special time to really honor him with this tribute.
And the day after he passed his wife and business partner shared some things on the caringbridge journal where they had been communicating with his people who cared about him throughout his journey. And Chad, I suspect it was Chad post.
He shared something there that I want to share with you because it very much speaks to what we talk about here on the podcast, what I believe I stand for encouraged to be curious, and I wanted to offer it as a gift to you.
And then following my sharing of this, we're going to link you to the full episode with well. And if you didn't have an opportunity to listen to it the first time, I invite you to really make space for it. Give yourself this gift as you're winding down the year. Give yourself this gift of an opportunity to be taken deep within and into deep connection with yourself.
Will used to ask the question, are you ready for your life to change?
Well taught college students and he would begin his classes this way. Are you ready for your life to change?
And if your answer was no, he was happy to show you the door. And most people would ease into a question like that, like let's get to know each other first and then I'll ask you this question. But will had a shocking and perhaps startling kind of directness to him, which not only came across in his interactions with others, but really guided him and how he lived his life as well.
And he would remind us of the following.
You are what your deepest desire is. As is your desire, so is your intention. As is your intention, so is your will and as is your will. So is your deed, as is your deed, so is your destiny.
It's not possible to capture who will is easily with the English language is dyslexia but probably
Ray. But the real reason that words won't be nearly enough is because we'll focus so much of his effort on who he was being and less on what he was doing. No matter the circumstance, he was adamant about being present, being happy, being the best listener that most of us have ever met. And being curious
whether you were a student, a friend, a son, a daughter, or the wife to well, you experienced him as being curious. He wanted his being to continue.
Well, here are three of my favorite of wills favorite questions. Three things he continually invited people to be curious about.
The first question and he invites you to take about 60 seconds even if you pause this podcast right now to consider this is what brings you joy.
What brings you joy.
Will saw this question as a gateway to creating your future. On the day will dyed his oldest son Cypress pulled out a fortune cookie out of a box that will kept on his desk to remind people to create their future rather than leaving it up to a cookie
cypresses fortune read something like every moment is a golden one to the person who recognizes it.
Cypress then looked out at a small group of family and friends and said, Dad realized this, he truly did.
Being a master of turning each moment into one worth remembering. Will was known for pulling a bouncy ball seemingly out of thin air and tossing it out to an unsuspecting recipient. At the beginning of a class or in the middle of the mall. He'd reached into his pocket, the true permanent home of the bouncy ball and infuse play into the space. Clay was Will's greatest teacher. He was committed to it, and the joy and learnings that came along with it. And even in pain, he would find a way to play. He would love for you to move forward toward joy in each choice that you make.
The second question that will loved is what is this moment teaching you right now?
silence was one of wills favorite ingredients to a conversation that matters. And that means that it's time to pause again. Take that 60 seconds. What is this moment teaching you right now.
While wil was one of the best teachers, he knew that he was no match for experience, who was the ultimate teacher right up until his last days, even
when he was struggling to utter a single word.
He was trying to share how to approach life even while you're dying. He used to say that the moment you stop learning is the moment you start dying.
Please on wills behalf keep learning so as to keep living.
And the final wills favorite three questions.
What is a crossroads you are at?
What is a crossroads that you are at? At this time.
The outdoor educator a non traditional school principal and will love seeing lessons in nature. climbing rocks was just a meeting with fear. canoeing down the river was a one to one mentoring session with control. Traveling into a cave was your chance to go to stare darkness head on in order to understand your light. Even more clearly,
will understood that in each moment he had a choice. Listen to understand or listen to when openness or the need to be right. Learning or knowing
exploring possibilities or making assumptions.
Perhaps the crossroads that we'll we'll most commonly encounter was the choice to be driven by fear or living to love.
You often faced fear
But rarely, if ever, did he ever choose it.
In fact, he chose expansive love, over and over again. And you can to
each surely like it, if you did.
I'm so grateful
that I had the opportunity to meet worldwise. In really what was the final weeks of his life,
the conversation with him will have surely changed me.
And I hope that you allow it to change you, as well.
So take a moment taken wills energy, those three questions. And then I invite you to listen to our full episode that aired in September.
And if you are looking for a way to reflect more deeply on your life, through this lens that we'll look at life through,
then stay with us next week. Because our last podcast of this year is really about how do we reflect on life, and on our year that has passed and anticipate and get ready for the year that is to come
with this deeply held belief that every moment is precious. And what we are here to do is to love
thank you Will
I have here with me Will Wise who is one of the author of so many things right? Well as he's co founder of me to be mean, we we had me,
we have me, I figure I should do that to you since people are always doing that to me, right?
speaker, coach, author of ask powerful questions, create conversations that matter. You see if you're watching in the video, you see my little tags sticking out from all the places that I've perused this. And mostly, you know, Will is a self identified chief, we ologists creating wheeze from a whole bunch of me's that are floating us floating out there in the world. And I would also say a fellow fellow traveler, who was really curious about people, and about the way we relate to each other and communicate with each other. And that's one of the reasons I'm so excited. Well to have you here with us today. So thank you for joining. Thank you. I'm honored.
I will be telling you a little bit more about what will does in the professional world both as we go on and at the end and things like that. But let's just sort of begin with saying that, you know, Will, I would describe it, I want to just that you are the person who really helps us to start making that mind shift from the me into that way where we're in relationship with each other. And before I even ask you anything, I just had to pull this one line out of your book that I want to say, if I could make this the tagline for today's episode, it would be so beautiful, right? It says, you have this line here that says Are you ready to dance with the mystery? Huh?
Are you ready to dance with the mystery? So let me just ask you how is this work? about asking powerful questions? Like dancing with mystery? Wow.
you're like super question asked.
Like I've been on a few podcast. This is a great place to start. What a beautiful place to start.
I also feel like we're starting at 120 miles an hour. I know right? Like none of this like Oh, tell me what you do and what inspired you to write the book like okay, yeah, but let's talk about the interesting.
So I still appreciate your courage to be curious.
And I do really think it takes a certain amount of courage
see the line again that you pulled from the book?
Are you ready to dance with the mystery?
The reason why I ask is because just recently I set it different slightly different but are you ready to dance with the mystery is
for me, letting go of the routine
Stepping into the unknown.
we have lots of people in our life where we could be really predictable of what their future is going to be like, right? Just cut and paste and put it into the cut and paste their past and just put it in their future in their life is going to be pretty predictable.
the invite to the dance to dance with
the divine, the mysterious that the unpredictable and the unknown,
is moving from a place of predictability into unpredictability. And one of my students recently really attached to this idea of
creating a moment
and allow that wonder to turn into awe.
And just be awe inspired.
In every single person
that you run into, know something that you don't.
And if we can
be open to whatever their life experience has been whatever it is taught them, even if they have views that are different than our own, what shaped them, what's caused them to be the way they are currently in the world.
Is a dance with the marvelous the unknown, the sacredness the
the divine, if I'm so bold to say.
And when we can step into that mystery.
There's a way that somehow our own hearts get lighter, their hearts get lighter. And we're actually seen and heard and understood maybe for the first time. That's the world I want to live in.
I love that. And it's interesting, because this, you know, sometimes we hesitate to use the word divine, right and work like this, I found myself hesitating. I saw that and my kids went to Quaker schools. And the core tenet of belief in Quaker schools is there is that of God in each of us.
And, you know, in this work, as you said, as we pursue these conversations is we seek to know and understand each other. It is that work of let me see if I can touch and connect with that divine within you. And if I can share that piece of Divine within me.
And that in the work that you do that.
That's what's happening, right, like that's the spark and the beauty and the magic of what's occurring. That's the mystery.
Yeah, just now, you just
made something clicked for me. So when I graduated from college, and graduated with a degree in forestry the first time
decided to do Peace Corps, because I wanted to connect with people who are close to the Earth. I had this thought that I would find it in Peace Corps. And before I went, I did a little bit of research to this country that I knew nothing about, they had no knowledge of, and that was Nepal. And in Nepal, when they say hello, they put their feet together and put their hands together and they stop and the world stops for a moment and they say no Mustang
and one translation. And I just got so excited about before I laughed, was everything good in me salutes everything good in you.
The spark of the divine within me salutes the spark of the divine in you.
And I took that translation and made a real rainbow and wrote on this day and made cards for people as a way of saying goodbye as before I went off on this journey. And I didn't know I didn't maybe I didn't even realize until this moment you brought it forward that that might have been
one of those early moments that created
a change within me that you could actually see the brilliance the the divine in someone else. And you could take a moment to salute it and just acknowledge it not
Thanks for that memory. You're welcome.
So now that we kind of started off, as you said, going right, you know, at 120 miles an hour into something beautiful for people who are listening and watching, we'll back up a little bit and give them I almost feel like we've just sort of dove in, because I just couldn't wait to get engaged in dialogue with you. And to let people know, a little bit more what they're in for today. I mean, I think they have some sense, but what the treat is, that's the gift that's going to come from this conversation.
And you know, the work that you do that comes forth and ask powerful questions, but as part of team building work, and conflict, resolution, and engagement work and coaching and things like that, is really about laying out a process in order to help people learn and develop cultivate the skill, right? The skill of both asking questions, but asking questions for the purpose of connecting the divine within one to the divine within the other, right. And so, in the book, you lay out levels,
through a pyramid of you know, what are the core components here that enable us to connect in a way, so I've got so many other places to go. But I want to make sure everybody who's listening kind of gets the framework, because we're both in on a secret that we haven't let everybody else in yet. Go ahead and share that pyramid.
So in the book is a pyramid, let me just say a little bit about where it comes from. First is, I was training facilitators to walk into a room full of strangers and talk about things that nobody wants to talk about race and gender and long term conflict and climate change. And during that process, we were creating the curriculum, to most meet the needs of the facilitators. So we're learning.
when you think about that, okay, you're gonna train people to walk into a room, one thing you might come up with is, well, they have to ask open questions.
Yet, there's a style and a way of being
that impacts not just a question that you asked, but who you are being while you ask it. So that causes us to kind of back up a little bit and kind of puzzle pieces together so that people could navigate a path and really
check in with themselves about who they are being before they walk into that room, and then
walk the path in such a way that would give them strength.
And so the pyramid starts with intention on the bottom.
And another way of saying intention is to be in a place that I'm willing to know you.
check yourself, right, am I walking in this room as if I'm gonna be the expert? Or am I walking into this room venturing into the unknown.
And then report is the next level of the pyramid. And one way to say that report is I see you.
Next is openness.
I hear you next is listening,
which is I get you.
And finally at the top is empathy.
And I'm with you.
And these five layers, the intention rapport, openness, listening and empathy, we kind of distinguish in the book in such a way that even if you think you know something about listening, that it might crack something open, new for you and allow you to listen in a new way. I was just doing a listening training for a bunch of social workers who you would think, you know, got a lot of experience with listening.
And what we recognize in that is that wisdom shows up in the nuances. Listening is one of these things that we're going to be working on for our entire lives.
But how do I get out of my own way and listen to the word as it's being uttered without my own biases and opinions and judgments? And step into this unknown?
Yeah, so those are the five levels of the pyramid. Thanks for asking.
Well, I'm gonna ask that we're gonna go a little bit deeper into them. Okay, I don't know this might just prepare yourself for listening. It might be about a five hour podcast because there's so many.
I hope you have a little bit wide open afternoon. Well, you told me some things got me around so I hope it's wide open.
intention, you know, it's the first level of the pyramid. It's something we talk a lot about in the spiritual practice world, we talk about it in the mindfulness world. And sometimes I find it's elusive for people, what do we actually mean by intention?
And when you're helping to give people an understanding of intention versus goal, or you know, aim or something like that, how do you best describe that to them?
What you're pointing to something that's so true, it's so true that you don't know this, nobody knows this. This is like, new like hot off the press.
This is our journal, ask powerful questions, guided journal, in mindfulness journey to skip the small talk and create conversations that matter.
And it's in the Amazon warehouse, and it's at our other warehouse, but we haven't told the world about it yet. But it is a
journey to allow people to get really clear about what the intention is. And I'll share this quote with you, that's one of the first pages you are what your deepest desire is. And as is your desire, so is your intention. And as your intention, so is your will. And as your will, so is your deed. And as is your deed, so is your destiny.
And that's from an ancient Vedic text. And what I love about this quote is, when I was trying to access people's greatest good, and measure ability to ask questions, and for them to be able to access it,
it became really clear that intention comes from within. And goals and purpose are usually outside and they're usually task oriented. And they're
usually the environment pushing in. But intention, what you can experience with intention is for you to really check in with yourself and say, what is the world that I'm aiming to create?
And how can I create that world, and then to be able to speak it at the beginning of a meeting, or when people come together, and get really clear about that intention, and to speak it with some elevated emotion.
What it does is it creates a clearing,
it creates the rules of the game that you're about to play.
And taking 60 seconds to get really clear about your intention can transform the next 16 minutes it can transform your life for your project. And that allows your brightest, your best self to come forward and to be a part of that game.
And so to answer your question, on a deeper level, what we found when we were sharing this with groups is people were kind of asking that same question. And I remember being in Barcelona, working for an
organization that had hired us to come in.
And I was speaking with the CEO, and he immediately and translated man who speaks three or four languages, translated intention into purpose, like, whoa, hold on, let's back up, like, let's go into what's driving you. And how can what's driving you shape your will, and shape your deeds, and shape the destiny that you're trying to create. So that was one of the reasons why we created the journal was to allow people to walk through a guided process that would help unlock that for themselves. Because you're right, it can be nebulous, it can be hard to grab ahold of, but once you do, and you speak it, transformation can happen all around you all the time. I think you also wrote the journal because you're going to write everything I ever thought about writing before I do, but it's good because then I'll get to claim other things directly.
Because you did such a beautiful job with this book. I was like, check. I don't need to do that one because we'll did a way better than I did well, and I did it so it's good. Um, the thing about intention, I think, you know, is also this piece that it's it's felt, right? I mean, we feel it come up, it rises up inside
and it can only rise. And it can only be heard and understood if we're quiet enough, and we can trust enough to what we're hearing and experiencing, and I only raised this, I asked about intention, one, because it's the base, it's the foundation, it's totally the foundation for your work, for being present for asking for connecting. And we use the word a lot.
And I really want to just think, as we think about it, it's something it's a deep practice to be able to really connect with intention. And we have to stop pause long enough to be able to do it, we have to, as you said, shut out everything on the outside, and trust that there is something inside worthy of listening to
which I think is really beautiful.
And then what you're bringing clear for me and to share with you and your listeners is that.
You know, I've done lots of different types of programming and created lots of different curriculum. And
I can spend a lot of time thinking about the curriculum and the programming and where I want the students to be and what I want them to be thinking about.
Working on the book helps me realize
that I should spend the majority of my time on intention.
Because I could show up in a room without any curriculum.
But if I got really clear about what my intent is, and was able to speak it, and speak it in such a way that other people could either buy into it and say, Okay, I'm on board, or they could say,
create a counteroffer. Right, they could adjust intention, so it fits for them.
Whatever we do after that, will be that dance with that mysterious piece, right? It allows what the least, most of the intentions that I'm creating around connection, that would allow people to show up fully and to engage.
To spending my meditative time, my, my time deriving their the moment, away from the curriculum pieces, and getting really clear about the intention has been really fruitful for me. And I've seen it in people that really grabbed ahold of this, that CEOs and I'm coaching can walk into a room really not knowing how the meetings gonna go. But stating a really clear intent and inviting people to jump into that,
that suddenly people are leaning in on the edge of their seat contributing, rather than leaning back on their seat and just consumption consuming. Yeah.
Oh, it's beautiful. And I'm glad that you brought that forward. And, you know, we could go up each level of the pyramid and go into each level of conversation. But I have so many other things I want to ask too. And I did feel it was important to start and just spend a little bit of time on intention, because I think what you're saying
is absolutely like the mechanics, the curriculum, that whether someone changes the time changes the room, like all these other things could change. But if the intention is really clear, then it's just magic. Like it is magic, right? It's the magic of how things will flow in that direction and allow the outcome to appear in a way that we might never predicted never seen coming never even would have dreamt of. But that is the power of having that strong intention.
and this so let's talk about connecting with people and I have to bring up the story it not only was the opening story in your book, but I'm excited to see you sort of chuckle about this too. But
one of the opening stories in your book is about being on a Greyhound bus. And how a question that somebody asked you make stimulated a major transformation in your life. So I want to invite you to share that story. And then I will make you chuckle on the backside of it with something so I want to invite you to share my intention right and having you share it is really when we think about connecting with people and I'm sure you encounter this all the time. I've heard this so much Well, I'm afraid all offend them. I'm afraid that I will impose upon their space. I'm afraid of it.
I don't know if it's polite to ask that we have so many reasons that keep us from asking, and then keep us in those separate, very distinct we spaces.
And we're not seeing what happens when we just do. And so I'd love for you to share that story. And then I'm gonna make you laugh on the other side.
Well, I will say about the story is
I don't know how clear I am in the book about this. But up to that moment on the Greyhound bus, I had the ability to hide. So I grew up on the streets, not knowing where our next meal was gonna come from where I was going to sleep at night, it was a lot of unpredictability. And so being able to step into the light and receive help, or to be able to be in the shadows and to be invisible.
And I had, you know, the wises adopted me.
I was put into foster care with them when I was nine and adopted with them when I was 12.
But by that time I had learned to, to really hide. And if I was in a room full of people, I would be in the corner, just watching.
And so when I was on this Greyhound bus,
I call it the cloak of invisibility, right, and we just put this cloak on and just hide.
And this Amish man, this big smile, big beard, the brimmed hat.
Just looked at me and saw me even though I was being invisible, like, I can't do that.
And he asked what my story was. And we started a conversation. And the turning point in that was he
was thinking about adopting.
And that blue, every stereotype, the Amish do this for me, I now live in Amish country. And every stereotype that I create about them gets blown away. There's exceptions to every rule. And when he was talking about adopting, there was a way that his world paws his face, froze, he was really nervous about even mentioning it.
And I had a sense that he was breaking through
stereo stereotypes of his own and rules and such as his own engagement based upon his society.
And I had a strong sense in that moment, that if I could share a bit of my story that would unlock his store and allow him to live to his tourist potential.
And I shared a bit of my story. And I told him that it changed my life. And my boss, I was headed off to college or to navigate whether or not I was going to go to college, and
that wouldn't have been possible. Without the adoption, I would have probably died, or, you know, got involved with drugs and such. And
when I shared that with him,
I could see him lean forward and be curious, even more so.
And we really had an honest conversation in which he saw me for the first I hid my adoption, like crazy. When people said, I looked like my adopted mother. I was like, yeah, right, I would just not a lot of numbers. There was no jeans, I didn't really look like her.
But it was easy for people to believe.
And when I got off that boss, maybe for the first time in my life, I was floating, because he saw me.
maybe I haven't had this clarity until just now and you asking Thank you.
And my story was a gift for him
and allowed him to unlock his tourist potential and who he wanted to be in the world. And suddenly his doubts and his insecurities could float into the background and he could see a path that was available for him that wasn't available before we met.
So I felt like
I might have had an impact on a child who I'll never meet
my family who
Get to grow and blossom because of one man's courage to be able to ask, what's your story?
What a great question.
Yeah. And there's the thing about we never know, when we might be someone else's Angel. Right.
And you both were for each other, because he got you to toss off that cloak. Yeah, you know, you opened up, just like he had created a slight little crack and then the aperture open for him to be able to see something unfold in his life that might have been hard to be thinking about.
Yeah, and in that moment, I saw that I had my story might be a gift for him. But I had, I was totally clueless, that in sharing my story,
that he was actually given a gift to me.
And the book would have never been created.
If it wasn't for that critical moment of him being able to
just be brave enough
to pass time with a complete stranger, as we were heading north on a highway that was boring.
And I like bringing up this relationship between safety right, we can all play it safe, stay in our own little corner, stay under our cloak, you know, not be not take the risk of being rude or intrusive. And then nothing will happen. Right? Everything will just keep marching along as it has always been. Yeah. If you want predictable, there you go indictable safe, and maybe not quite so interesting, but reliable. You know, you can stay in that safety seat. So
again, as I was preparing for this, and thinking, oh my gosh, there's so many connections here. So here's I'll give you the abbreviated version to make you chuckle. But it was April of 2017 wasn't a Greyhound bus. It was an Amtrak train.
And, as I've sort of told the story before, it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life, because we were recently into the Trump era. And as a child of a Holocaust survivor, or I had a lot of nervousness about all kinds of things. And this train pulled up, I was headed to DC, but it was a Sunday night. And so it wasn't a regular commuter train. It was going all the way to
New Orleans, actually. And I go down on the platform, and that train pulls up and I've written many Amtrak trains in my life and the doors don't open. Like we're all standing there on the platform and the doors don't open and they start lining everybody up. I've listened to a lot of Holocaust, Kindertransport translate, I'm like, flipped out well, like looked up anyway. They're lining everybody up to go one by one onto this train. And as I get up to the door, where the conductor as he says, How many people are in your party, and I say, one, he gives me a torn piece of paper with a number on it. I'm like, ready to bolt, like out of this train station as fast as I possibly can.
There, I take my number 196. And, or an I? Sorry, no, mine was 97. Right? 97. I'm on 97. And I get into the train chaos, I find 97 Eventually, this man comes up to me and is 96. And he comes and sits next to me. And you know, he's an African American man. He's very tall. And I say to him, you know, would you prefer the aisle or the window or whatever. And he's tall. So he but he wanted, he's gonna be on it all the way to Atlanta. So he takes the window. And I say, Fine. And, you know, the one question right, I just turned to him because I do have this habit of not sitting under the invisibility cloak, but actually of asking people questions wherever I go. And I just start by asking him, you know, what were you know, what are you going?
You know, you're traveling away from Philadelphia to Atlanta, like, are you going or coming? You know, I just started with a really simple, closed ended question, you know, nothing very elaborate. And it opened up a story that went on for nonstop for two hours of his life. And I won't go into all of the pieces of it, but I will share this with you in terms of how it changed people's lives. I said to him at one point, because we have a memoir of my father's life, you know, because there were just all of these pieces. And as kids, we didn't know a lot of them either. So my mom had hired a memoirist and I am listening to this man who had been everything from his story in Vietnam, growing up in North Philadelphia histories in Vietnam to being a photo journalist to having like, photographed everybody from like ice cube to Michael Jordan to the Obamas the Clintons Oprah Winfrey, like he's sitting there showing me like his whole portfolio on the phone, and his brother having been one of the founding freedoms
fighters in Philadelphia and one of Martin Luther King's driver. I mean, it's just going on and on like you couldn't, I was just extraordinary the breadth of like, what this man's life was right? And I'm sitting there, and I see him on point. So, you know, have you ever thought about writing the story of your life? Like, do your kids know who you are? Right? And he, you know, he kind of alluded to the fact that they, you know, they knew bits and pieces, but not really the story. And but how do you think that your life is where they have, you know, that it felt very bizarre? Well, the long story short is I call them back up a couple weeks later, and I said to him, so have you been thinking about this? And he said, Well, yeah, I've been thinking and, you know, I said, I could tell that he would never really get to it, you know, it'd be kind of a nice thing to think about, but he wouldn't get to it. And
so I said to him, would you let me do that for you.
so a few months later, I was off with a friend of mine to Atlanta with my dictaphone. And we went down, and it was, you know, the fact that was Atlanta, and kings home and all these places that we could go and get the full story. And, you know, it's not a Pulitzer Prize winner or anything, it was more for really creative for him and his kids. It's on Amazon, too. But it was, it was the gift of everything that you talk about in your book, right? I'm willing to know you, I want to see you, I want to hear you. I want to get you and I want to walk like a piece of this journey with you. And the impact on him. And I was just thrilled, like there was the gift in both directions. But when he called me a couple months ago, actually and said to me,
would it be okay with you if I want to add to the story, like add to his own story, right.
And I was like, the fact that again, this act of having done this, you know, and then opened it up to where, you know, for him to say that I want to expand on my story in this way.
And then just for me, the the thing of being able to be present witness to the miracle of somebody's life and to use something that I like so much writing, to put it into practice. So anyway, you had a Greyhound, I had an Amtrak?
I'll tell you what I love most about your story is sometimes when people pick up the book, there's mechanical things in there, like, ask an open ended question, for example. And you made it really clear that you asked them a closed ended question.
The mechanics matter less than who we are being while we do it.
And so you asking a closed ended question. You know, if you were in school, and there's right and wrong, you're living in that world that right and wrong.
Could be wrong. But push that aside and let go of right and wrong for a moment. There's a way that you showed up, be curious.
And had enough courage to be curious, even though
on some level, you are stressed out because of all of the history of the Holocaust was showing up in you in a mechanical form, right.
But you allow yourself to be curious and that curiosity is a powerful tool. People can
nearly touch it, right people can feel it. People know when you're being genuinely curious.
And when you want to see them when your intention is I am willing to know you.
And people are willing to lean in even if you're making a mistake, right? And the
pre story that you started with is people get all concerned about doing it wrong, that I might do some faux PA
and you might
and if you're in that place of curiosity, rather than in the place of judgment curiosity is his doorway into this mysterious world in which
especially right now people want to be seen and heard and
so if we can be that our curious selves and not get so hung up on right and wrong there's magic to be
well let me ask you this based on the pandemic because I'm imagine that you used to do a lot of your work in person and you probably over a number of months have been online like many of us how has the pendant
Demmick changed what you are has changed, but how might it have changed what people need most in terms of connection
really need most.
And some level
for many of the people that I'm interacting with the stress caused by the unpredictability of their lives.
As allowed people to retreat into focus, right, there's a way that when your brain is activated,
as a stress response, you focus in very narrowly.
And when you do that focus,
it's mostly about survival. How can I get through this next little bit?
It's related to food, water, and shelter, and maybe love.
And what I've been experiencing, and what I've see people that are thirsty for
is that wide perspective. And so instead of hyper focusing on one item to be
in a place in which the perspective is very wide,
moving into that unknown, moving into that unpredictability, and
you know, what I hear people say is things like, I craved the water cooler.
And I think what they're really saying is the unpredictability that happens at the water cooler, like, I don't know what we're going to talk about,
you know, the meeting after the meeting?
And so, to answer your question, in a simple form, I think what people want are craving, is the dance and that mysteriousness,
to dance in that world in which
I might discover something new about the person I work with.
And to be surprised and delighted in that.
that's my answer.
And my answer, I'm thinking,
when you were talking about it, I was thinking about the second layer of your pyramid wishes the report.
And that sense of Okay, can I get comfortable, can I feel safe with you to go from the narrowly focused in the my survival needs into
opening up into the expanse, willing to enter the space of the unknown. There's some level at which we want some security, we want some safety, we want to know that there's something solid to stand on.
And when you talk about report, mostly in the book, you talk about the report with each other, but you do have the story. I think it's Brad and here who and you talk about when you teach the relationship with self, right, that those are the foundations and whatever we can do in a space that builds rapport that helps us to know this is a safe place that these people, you know, are creating an environment where it is safe to now leave my comfort zone into something else. And or if I can feel safe enough inside, then I can elevate up to those places. Because we don't just stay in the narrow places we like we feel better and they expansive places. And yet that rapport buys, I think a level of safety that enables us to be willing to go hmm
yeah, we talked about rapport is building relationships of trust.
And maybe the pandemic is
elevated, predictable trust.
Like, I know that Sally is going to show up three minutes late for our nine o'clock meeting, right? That's just how it always goes. And so you get to
And yet, what we're inviting with asking powerful questions is
to move into this place where people are seen and heard and experienced,
for who they are.
Maybe for who they want to be.
And when my
The people that I'm working with, know that I'm willing to see them,
then they're willing to
in a way that creates a certain kind of psychological safety that we all can step into.
Rather than to create
an experience where I'm just showing up for my expertise, My expertise is to say that what we're doing is wrong.
And if I can show up with my full self and say, and move into the unknown, bring my expertise with me, and move into the unknown. Well, I don't know how it's gonna go this time in the past, we come into this, but it's a new world now. And if I, I wonder, right, this word that you brought up in the beginning, I wonder if then people can move in that place of wonderment.
Then something awe inspiring as possible, rather than predictable.
I'd like to if I were here and that were written in the book, I'd be like, Okay, everybody take your highlighter. Right. And but, yeah, but your highlighter to that in the sense that, I think if you know, we have the opportunity as we are right here, but you know, speaking to the world and say, why should you try this? Why should you even bother with this work? Why should you take the chance, even if it's a little uncomfortable, and it's mysteriousness and things like that, that this is the reason, right. And
I, as I said, I would be here with five or six hours with you, but I'm not going to get that I realized, I don't know, maybe have it back six or seven more times, vote, whatever it is, I, I feel like I would have so many things, but I would be so remiss, I feel like if we didn't spend a little bit of time talking about education, is you came up, I think it sounds like both in strands of informal education, and then formal education. And that is certainly my training of origin. And where I spent the first number of years in my career to is as a educator in the classroom as a curriculum developer and things like that, and
came to the moment where that bubble was burst about the fact that what we were doing in education was not actually as a lot inspiring as perhaps I always thought it was supposed to be.
And so I'm curious about your experience as being an educator.
How you were bringing this question, asking powerful questions into that work. And what you were encountering back as you were pursuing those questions.
I guess on a personal level, one of the things
that I wasn't really clear until it was pointed out to me is that I'm a learner. And I love to learn.
And I also have a learning disability. And that was never discovered.
K through 12. It was only discovered when I was a principal of a non traditional school that I was able to connect with students, the students on the fringe the way the rest of my staff couldn't.
And I didn't think I had a magic bullets. But when I got enough of the students coming across the head, similar enough diagnoses, I was like, wait a minute, me, I, I kind of have that. And I went and got tested. And sure enough, I have these things that now I can put letters after you know, my name,
not academic letters, or letters of diagnostic.
I'm in complete, unbroken rights. And so you You're brilliant in different in, you know, the ways that we think of as being different. Right, right.
one of the things that I came upon is
using listening as an example, that it wasn't really encouraged
and it wasn't taught
It's amazing to think about, you know, K through 12 program and they're not
what happens when you get out of your own way and really listen to the word as it's being uttered.
But even in my graduate work, right, there wasn't a listening component, right. And so
listening was one of these things that my wife actually helped make really clear was.
I was in teaching at university and seeped in academia. And we had a number of guests over at our house. And
after particular evening, when the guests left, my wife said, they didn't ask us a single question.
And then we noticed this pattern
when people would come, and we would ask questions and be engrossed in their story.
My business partner, Chad Littlefield, when he moved to a new town, he's had set up lots of these connecting conversations.
And after about 20, or 30 of them, he realized he had to stop the conversation halfway and say, now it's your turn to ask me a question.
And really be deliberate about changing the conversation. So one of the things that you alluded to early on in our conversation is that I think we're taught, and I unfortunately, think our education system does this
it inspires us not to be curious about the other, to be curious about the relationship and who the others are. And it might even inspire us to create otherness, in separateness from others.
And when my wife pointed it out, but people weren't asking questions, there was a way that I got annoyed.
Right. Alright, so that this is happening on a universal level, what can I do to
make it happen? And so
we have these cards called we connect cards, and
like conferences and events, you know, we hand everybody a card, and then we ask people to swap, you know, ask each other questions and swap cards and go around. And there's a way that the room lights up with energy,
not because of the cards, but because they're skipping the small talk and having a conversation that matters. And one of the things that I do is I pause
and say, What are you noticing?
What are you noticing about you're listening, and almost every time people in some form or another say I'm listening for commonalities, I can establish rapport and connect with somebody if I can find things that I have in common with them.
And I smile, and I chuckle.
Because I think our education system in the lunch room was like, where's my peeps? Right? Who is it that looks like me that experienced the world like me, I can sit down and be myself with them.
I don't think our education system inspires us to connect over differences.
I think that is the secret sauce that we all need to be jumping into. Wait a minute, you see the world very different than me, you've had a very different experience, how it costs? Like, what is that?
Like? I'm totally curious, right? Like, what would that be, like embedded into your conversations are embedded into how you dress and bedded into how you stand at the bus stop, right? Which show up and all that you're being
so, but I didn't have that experience. But if I can be curious about your experience with that those differences would actually bring us closer together than me looking for the things that are
So I guess my soapbox of right now is be curious about the things that are different than you
and to be an open listener and
explore that unknown. really
adventurous level, like be adventurous.
And I think that's where the divide that showing up in so much of our national dialogue would start to melt away and how grow
Would it be to bring somebody to a dinner party who is totally different than you to sit down and have a conversation?
It would be unpredictable.
You know, and to underscore what you just wrote, I think about the fact that no children are born curious, right? No, this will have no inhibitions. I just got the blessing of spending part of this weekend with a five year old and, you know, I it's just like, light up glowing all the time, and exuberant and asking questions, there's zero inhibitions at all. Yeah, to me, one of the sad parts that we encounter and coming from within that system is that
if our education system, really were restructured to inspire that curiosity, and inspire that I mean, inspired about astronomy, all those kinds of things and inspired about each other. Yeah, we wouldn't then have to be spending adulthood trying to kind of reverse that, right? I mean, because school almost reverses the natural inclination of humans in their curiosity, and shifts it towards things that are separate and competitive, and comparative. And that is what then leads to our separateness and our inhibitions as adults. And then people like you and I are out there trying to rework that.
So that people can find their way back to something that was never really rude. It was what was natural, right?
Yeah, I guess, two things come to mind about that is
I don't know about your parents, but
I think parents teach curiosity killed the cat.
Right, and it kind of just slides off the tongue. They don't know the rest of the poem, which is satisfaction, brought it back.
And to create an environment where we're curious, so somebody
recently reached out on our website, and
I think they're from a different country. And they basically asked the question about the report piece. So in the report piece, in the book, there's a tool it says, find something that somebody is wearing.
And ask an open ended question about.
And it's much more elaborate than that. But it's the essence of it.
And her question was, but what if it's a scar or a leg? Right? They only have one leg. And Chad wrote up this really beautiful response, which was accurate, and which he said, when somebody chooses what they're wearing, that is changeable. Right? And they're taking a moment to thinking about how they're going to show up in the world, and they put that on. If you ask about something that's unchangeable, then that's far riskier.
And, you know, basically was saying, start with the things that are changeable, rather than the things that aren't change. Well, I think there's a lot of wisdom in that. And we talked about that in the book.
And yet, as I was reading his response, I remember
one of my students in a classroom, in which we were sharing this tool, and he was standing, we were practicing it. And he was standing in front of me, and there was nothing that I was curious about, other than the scar on his forehead.
at this point, I already had a little bit of rapport, right, because he was a student of mine. But I asked them about the scars for it. And I got this story that nearly brought me to tears. And he was able to be really open and transparent about it. And I think the only reason why that works is we together, were creating a space in which we were curious with each other that it was okay to be curious that it was okay to be courageous enough to be curious, and that I wasn't going to get shot down.
And me taking a risk about asking them what scar I might have gotten deflected.
Oh, it was just this thing.
But instead, he opened up and share this really beautiful story.
I forgot why I rambled down that path, but it seemed to connect.
And I think as I was listening to your response in that, you know, going back to what you remarked, it's the quality of the being that came in the asking of the question to we can tell what
Somebody asks a question whether or not their whole self is really in that question. Like if we had a scale of zero to 100%, real genuine curiosity, you know, and sometimes we can detect somebody might be asking a question, maybe it's even as you said, mechanically a well structured question. But there's not a genuine curiosity behind it, there's only kind of like a mild, or I'm still kind of mechanically going through this. Whereas when that whole self is there, when the curiosity is genuine, and it's felt, you know, typically much more likely to share. Well, to add another layer of complexity to what you're saying.
I think, generally speaking, we're really good at measuring, evaluating and predicting people's intent.
And so if I show up,
and don't say anything, my intent is to get something from you,
you know, right, and you start putting up blocks, like, no, no, I'm not giving that away, right, and you start creating a barrier between us. And this is why we say Get really clear about the intent. And if I can create an intent that includes the needs of the whole, that also includes your needs, then we can uplift each other in that dynamic.
So this moves beyond just who we are being as far as curiosity, which I totally agree with, and
kind of comes back down to the foundational piece of intent and saying,
Am I showing up to get something in some cases, that's fine that then your relationship might be transactional.
Chad, at one point in his life, created a mantra for himself. We wanted to create memorable experiences.
I remember driving with him, and
he was creating memorable experiences everywhere, the cashier at the grocery store, but he also did it with the tollbooth operator, right. That's totally transactional, it's like 30 seconds. But he wanted to create an a memorable experience and his intention came across lit up her face, like she was like, excited to be there for that. 30 seconds, they didn't take any longer.
But it created a dynamic that wasn't there. In his intent was I'm gonna make this memorable for both of us.
I love that. And if, as a listener, your curiosity is sparked there or piqued, we're going to talk to Chad in a couple of weeks. So I want to keep going back and being with us. Well, I want to have a chance to just play because you were focused and ask powerful questions is creating conversations that matter getting people, you know, talking and creating connection, a lot of the work I do was about the reflection part. So there's the and then there's the connection. So what a lot of the questions that I asked her really, how do we go about that work of self work as you're not homework, but self work is that student that you described in the book named it? So I think let's just pick a couple of questions that you've got one some of your cards there, that would be connection cards, and so maybe pick one or so that she'll throw out and we'll just kind of demonstrate how does this work and then I'll pitch one of my reflection questions out to you and I'll see how it goes.
Well, I have three sitting here and I don't know why they're sitting here from a program. And green is fun and light purple is self reflection and blue is deep. Alright, well since I would naturally inclined toward purple or blue I'll go with green.
Green is fun and light and very simply is what's something that's made you smile in the last two weeks ah something that made me smile last two weeks. It's okay we'll do two or three maybe pull out another one. Well, this
this little girl this five year old so this will combination between fun and light and deep but this five year old that I got to spend time with on Saturday at a picnic. Growing up I never felt like the fun one. You know my mother between she and her sister. She was not the fun one. She was the serious one. I always felt like I was the serious one. When I was married I felt like this theory I was take everything so seriously so intellectual and things like that and harder harder time like letting loose and in more recent years it's really been learning to live and I'm kind of more free spirited way. And so I'm at this picnic and there's just this like remarkable little five year old just lit up shining and everything like that and just
just allowing myself to light up and we got bubbles and the two of us. I mean, there's all these adults because mostly everybody was adult except for the 25 year olds. But, you know, we're adults and the two of us are running around with our bubbles and blowing and catching bubbles. And then we lie down in this hammock and she snuggled right into my arm. And we're just like sharing all these little secrets together. And it totally made me smile, both because how could you not smile at this delightful child? Also, because it was I could feel myself like, there I had dropped all of the seriousness and inhibitions or fears and things like that, that had been present in much of my life, and could just feel the experience of being totally light in that moment.
What I loved about hearing your story is how you gave your self permission even though there was all these adults and there's a certain way that you should act.
You gave yourself permission to
dance in the delight right to
to be pleasantly surprised and
not know what was going to show up maxxed
Yeah, that's nice, was nice. Let's see for our listeners, man don't have colors like that. So you're just gonna have to choose some other way right, middle whatever this these cards are from we have three decks live lead in love with the courage to be curious and the lead and the love deck have half the questions that inspire self reflection, so self love and the love deck or self reflection as a leader and leadership deck. And then the second half is about the other people either the people I support in my team or about the person that I care about. So this is from the self reflection side of it on a leadership card. So I don't know we'll give these numbers let's see if I can do this backwards. Like one little one, pick the middle one, why not? Oh, and it's great actually, I'm telling you you and I are running parallel paths here but
turn it this way but I don't think can be seen how do I play and nurture the child like mind and heart within me?
So this is for me to answer personally right? It's self reflective.
So I have three small kids
if I can
if I can let go of
being a provider and like
the discipline piece in
Yeah, when I can let go of all of that and just be an explore that shows up. Like how is it that they see the world? What are they concerned about? What are they? What brings them joy?
And the other answer is
when I can sit in meditate
in open my heart
the words that I've been really using
mana, very intense journey right now with a lot going on.
And it can cause me to kind of freeze up.
And the words that I'm leaning into to create the future that I want to be creating is expansive love.
And that helps me get away from the Hollywood version of what Hollywood says love is or what somebody else says love is and be in this place where my heart can just crack open even just a little bit wider and
when I'm in expansive love, there is no wrong and right there's no
there's no judgment. There's just you and wholeness.
And it's closer I can get to wholeness, the more that joy shows up.
The further I get from wholeness, the more stress shows up there's not enough man
Whatever the the enoughness is one of my students came up with enough in this the other day, and we all laughed.
It was a word that she had chosen to kind of empower herself. And we're like, Yes, you are enough. And there's a way that we could be delighted in how she shows up with the conversation that she was having in her head was I'm not enough.
And I think it's a conversation a lot of us are having, right, I'm not enough.
We can let go. I'm not enough and move into I am enough. And into that wholeness, there's a way that joy and delight shows up.
I think of it,
I'm sort of picturing enoughness as like a playground, maybe a sandbox, right? And that's where joy and delight actually live. Right? That's their home. Yeah.
Isn't enoughness like, there's sort of not enough room for joy and delight. And when there's enoughness, they have this little home there. Right? And enoughness is not about stuff.
Right? I'll be happy when I get that car.
it'll be temporary. It's about moving into that wholeness. And
you know, part of the reason why we're come we're saving is because you see me as an author, but I don't see myself as an author, I see myself as somebody who's hired lots of editors.
The writing piece is really challenging for me. And yeah, if I can let go of that, and say, Wait a minute, there is something here to be sad, can I share this with the world? Is it enough? Can I be enough? Can it be enough? Is it is it a value?
If I can answer yes, with that, then there's a way that
I delight in doing the work.
If I show up, answering no to that, then the work is drudgery.
And while I love the book, the book is I think what
helped me to become aware of you. The reason you're here because I've read many people's books, right, and they don't all get the same request for showing up as you did.
Thank you. Um, but it's the sense that the uniqueness, the wholeness of you that it comes through in here. And that comes through in the stories that you share. And then I love listening, I listened to mostly audible because what I didn't realize my learning disability was how difficult it is actually, for me to absorb becomes imprint but so much easier, through auditory.
And getting to hear your voice because you didn't read the whole book. But then you brought yourself into pieces where you wanted to underscore or just bring your, your being your heart into it. And there was something completely
irresistible about that in how genuine and how.
How much a part of you all of this is it's not what you do, it's who you are.
Thanks for saying that.
So at the very end of the book, Philip wrote a book reading except I'm the one reading your book for you.
So at the end of the book, which is exactly where it should be, you know, you begin with the end in the mind, this is probably the essence of the book. And when you've gotten to the end, you're like, Okay, if you didn't get it all before, let me just give you the essence here and you say, people want to know that there are others willing to know them. They want to be seen. They want to be heard. They want for people to get them and be really understood. They want to know that others feel what they feel. And by asking powerful questions to those around you, you can start exploring worlds other than just your own. Your world will open up and you will see things that you did not see before people will feel connected. More over from that place we can begin to make a difference
and to hear your own words right back to him like
a really good I should.
Well, as I said, this is this is so fun. We could be here a very long time I'm even looking over at my list of questions, most of which I didn't ask
Just because there are too many other things to talk about here.
I do want to just mention for those people that you know, are going to find you and we and me and what I love, I love your YouTube channel. So that is the big social media where you guys are Chad has a lot of really fun stuff up there, you guys do a great job there. And really demonstrating that connection is serious work, but it is fun and playful. And getting to that seriousness, you know that the way that you bring this work to life and bring the joy and bring the connect the sparks, let the brilliance come out in such beautiful ways. So check out the YouTube channel, because that's where you will see will and Chad kind of shine there too. Of course, read the book, I've been telling people all we all month to read books.
Now, of course, read the book. And,
you know, I know that you've done work with a whole variety of audiences, from everything from corporate training to places as you've described, where we need to be having conversations that people typically have a difficult time accessing, or doing well, and bringing these tools to help those conversations happen. Because when they do happen, that's where magic emerges.
And so I just want to you know, people who are listening and watching and I hope you've been watching, because it's been really fun, you know, visually to watch and see to that you are curious that we have stopped at nothing to provoke your curiosity to, to explore to learn how to ask powerful questions to how to create an even want to create conversations that really will help you to see the magic and the brilliance and all of the people that are just standing right around you. Because the magic and the brilliance is everywhere.
It feel inspired to reach behind me.
There's a connection Toolkit, which has got a lot of our tools and but on the side of it, it says connection, belonging and trust.
when I think of the church to directory of this conversation, there's a way that I have probably been more honest in this conversation with myself and with you.
Maybe then I've ever been on a podcast.
And what's becoming clear to me is that
I remember working with a CEO out of Texas, and
she had, you know, found about us and she was looking on the website and she was like,
she was really concerned that if she told her peeps,
that she was going to engage with somebody whose job it is to bring connection belonging and trust into the world, that people might have a listening for that there's not enough trust in our organization.
so a part of our conversation was, you know, what can we do to be amplifying connection belonging and tries not to make it so that you're wrong, right, that your broken trust is not present.
What ended up happening with this CEO and this kind of dance that we were having, and she was trying to figure out how to engage with us is that
ultimately, she wanted her was a marketing firm.
And she wanted her
peeps to be able to love her clients.
there's a way that I'm,
you know, I don't feel like I can go into Mr. or Mrs. CEO and shake their hand and say, I'm here to amplify love.
Right? And in some way in this conversation, we have been talking in that like kind of light and fluffy way. And yet, as you know, part of our job is to be able to communicate where people are at.
And then to take them on a journey. What I noticed with the CEO was that if
we are here to amplify connection, belonging and trust, that ultimately we're here to amplify love, so that people can love their work, love who they work with do the work they love doing.
Yeah, so how do we create a space where people can show up as they are
and move from this place of me
and make it we
This was the question I'm leaving, leaving us. That is what we are leaving you with. So if you're listening and you know the toolkits, the cards that are part of we and me and
take the journey, get willing to step on and take the journey with us. Well, thank you. Well, I can't even tell you how excited I am. I know I could keep you here for about five hours, we'd have to break the podcast into all these parts. But such an amazing opportunity to really talk about the power of being present of asking those questions to be able to go and take this journey that you've just described. So thank you. And for those of you who are listening, you're either listening you can be on Audible, if you really want to see well I love seeing him in person here, head over to our YouTube channel channel. And you can see that there and if you have listened all the way through and not yet gone on to the Wii and me website and bought some of their cars, their connection cards or tickets, I don't really know what's wrong. And of course, you should be encouraged to be curious and buying all those decks too. Because this is this is this is what needs to happen. This is how we need to repair humanity is to bring people together. So thank you for listening, and we will be back next week with our love episode and the strand as we think about the power of questions.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai