Time for questions?

“I have a passion to know things,” said Morgan Freeman, one of my all time favorite actors, as he responded to Charlie Rose‘s query.  Rose, installed unadorned at his round table, listened intently as Freeman described a pet project of his, “Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman.”  The cable series investigates the questions that have puzzled humankind, and Freeman, seemingly forever.   During the interview Freeman described himself as having, “a passion to know things.  (As a kid) I was not science minded.  I was an A student because I questioned.”  Questioned?

The New York Times called Freeman’s series, ‘ a commercial for wonder.’  Ever wonder what role questions could play in your transition?

If I’m honest I have an odd relationship with questions during transition.   I ask them at a high level but I’m spotty otherwise.   I’ve heard myself say many times, ‘if I had asked more questions I never would have done XXX.’   Here is a silly example to illustrate the point.

When I graduated from Harvard Business School I decided to do an Outward Bound program.  I’d always been fascinated from afar with Outward Bound.  In hindsight I didn’t ask too many questions.  Departure date.  Required gear.  A few references to understand the roster of activities.  Sleeping accommodations?  Food?  Emergency protocols?  Such thoughts never crossed my mind.

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

Did I mention that I’d never camped outdoors prior to our departure date?       We’d be traversing the Continental Divide.

Ten students.  Two guides.  The students slept under a tarp.   The guides in a tent.  A daily ‘challenge’ for the group was to work as a team to ‘site’ the tarp.    Easy as long as there are trees.

Supplies?   I learned that 10 days is the longest any group is sent out without resupply.  If you choose a 14 day trip, you resupply every 7 days.  Think access to fresh vegetables.  A place to get rid of trash (we hauled ALL trash so as to not leave a footprint in the back country).  Maybe visit a real bathroom.  Good grief.

Had I known the answers to these questions before departure I might not have gone.   But if I hadn’t I would have missed something incredible.

Close the end of the trip we were to summit a 14,000 ft mountain.  Our guides noted a precarious weather situation the morning of the hike….before GPS and hourly updates from weather.com.  But the group decided to give it a go anyway.

We put on small backpacks and headed up the mountain.  Our trek started at about 12,000 ft so the ascent wasn’t all that long.   There were no trees.  Doable.

About 300 ft from the top the weather changed instantly.  Thunder clouds enveloped the mountain.  We quickly took off our day packs and knelt on them.  Guides sternly instructed us to not allow any part of our body to touch the ground.  Only knees on packs.   Moments later lightning bounced within eyesight.  It lasted a while.

To the credit of our guides and wonderful luck no one was hurt.  We started our descent immediately after the lightening passed.

Long winded story to amplify the benefit or lack thereof of questions.  Or is it?  Maybe I asked myself the important question: why not go?

What role do questions play in your transition?  Do they help you reach?

‘Questioning’ was a theme that wove itself through a Research Jam Focus Group that I ran last evening.   A wonderfully articulate woman shared, ‘what do I really want to do next?  I like what I do.  But am I passionate about it?  I need to rediscover that passion and align that with my skills.’

Alignment stood at the core of many questions she was asking herself.   In listening to her I was unclear whether the ‘do’ related to work or something more broad.  Only more questions will sort that out.

Morgan Freeman has relied on questions over the arc of his life, from high school to 75 years and counting.  Improbable directions.  Unbounded good fortune.  Happiness.

I never once regretted not questioning safety even when perched on a backpack atop a treeless mountain during a thunderstorm.  I was happy I’d asked the higher level question:  I wonder…..   How about you?

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