I’m not sure if she meant the point-blank comment as a compliment, but that’s exactly how I took it.
“Thank you,” I replied with a smile. “What’s your favorite food?”
I think asking questions is an important part of life – it’s the only way you’re going to get answers. It’s the best way to obtain information. I also think it’s the only way to start and/or carry a conversation.
My family has always been “question askers.” We even had a book around the house when I was growing up, creatively entitled: “The Book of Questions.” (I’ve referenced it on this blog before – it was the source of some inquisitive gems: “Would you eat a bowl of crickets for $40,000?”)
Obviously, I’ve taken this practice to a championship level. (Reminder: “You ask a lot of questions.”)
But I feel like my question asking has evolved from the “What ifs” and “Would you rathers.” While I’ll still throw out these conversation starters from time to time – I’ve recently determined that the best questions are the ones we ask ourselves.
The champion of this self-induced interview: “Why am I doing this?”
This question cuts to the heart of the matter – especially when you point the barrel of the question gun to your forehead.
Whether it’s your career, a specific project or a random act of nothingness, answering this question honestly can put everything into perspective. Maybe it’s a project you’re working on around the house, a hobby and/or a blog you write occasionally.
“Why am I doing this?”
Maybe it’s something you do when no one is looking, a guilty-pleasure TV show that you watch every week and/or your chosen career path.
“Why am I doing this?”
In my idealistic world, I’d hope that everyone had an altruistic and/or inspiring answer – even if it’s nothing more than: “I love doing it” or “It makes me happy.”
Tragically, I’m convinced that many people don’t have a clue. They just do – whatever it is they do – over and over and over again without knowing why. They just continuously go through the motions.
The worst part: Instead of a little self-analysis from time to time – most people just gripe.
“I hate doing this!”
“I can’t wait until it’s over!”
“Damn, this sucks!”
Confession: I recently fell into this go-through-the-motions trap (and complained about it the whole time).
During a volunteer project gone-wrong, I put on my victim hat and started to bitch and moan. I was screaming from the rooftops:
“Woe is me!”
I was painting trashcans at a local community center all by myself. I hurriedly slung green paint on these rusted cans as the sun raced for the horizon. My hands were green and sticky from the oil-based paint, and my back ached. (I won’t even discuss the smell coming from the trashcans.) I knew I wasn’t going to finish before the sun went down...which meant a return trip on another day...which meant another day away from my family.
After a few curse words and head shakes, I asked myself with torment and angst: “Why the hell am I doing this?”
After a little more green paint, and a couple passers-by inquiring if I was almost done, I asked myself the question again. This time there was a little less distress (and no foul language): “Why am I doing this?”
Then it happened: Darkness set in, my green paint looked black and I realized that I was used to the stale odor wafting from the cans. But more importantly, clarity slapped me across the face.
I stopped cold. Black...er....green paint dripped from my brush and on to my shoe.
In a very level-headed and intrigued manner, I asked myself the same question again – this time in a confident whisper: “Why am I doing this?”
When there was pain and agony behind the question – it was nothing more than rhetorical. The emotion overshadowed the question. But as the anguish subsided, the question became clear. More importantly, it sparked poignant follow-up questions:
“Do I want praise and recognition for painting these trash cans?”
“Am I trying to prove something to someone?”
“What am I getting out of this?”
I can’t say that I had any answers, but simply asking the questions without despair was refreshing. I started to see things more clearly, which started a domino-effect of questions that all centered around “why.”
Again, there was no grief or misery – I was calm, cool and cross-hair focused. If nothing more, I had sparked my internal curiosity.
“Why do I give back?”
“Why does it seem like I care more than other people?’
“Why do I think painting trash cans is impactful?”
No answers – just questions.
I said a short prayer as I packed up my supplies to head home: “God, I’m not 100 percent sure why I was out here painting these trash cans – but it must have been for a reason. I think I’m starting to see why. Thank you for this opportunity.”
I wish I could explain the clarity I’ve had since that moment.
Now, these questions of self-analysis come faster. They’re more poignant. And they are pointed directly at every facet of my life.
I feel rejuvenated and alive.
I wish I could put a pretty little bow on this blog post and write a poetic conclusion, but I can’t. This is almost like a mid-term status report.
What I DO know:
• This mentality helped me walk away from two bad professional situations – “Why am I putting myself through this every day?”AND• Asking the right questions has inspired me to utilize the gifts God has given me – “Why am I not writing on a regular basis?”
I’ve never felt this empowered, focused and driven.
Asking myself these difficult questions gives me direction.
So, I’ve decided to take this quest for answers and apply it to this blog (if I use God’s gift and no one is paying attention – what’s the point?). Questions I've asked myself:
“Why should people care about what I’m writing?”
“Why should people read my blog?”
The wonderfully great part, I’m starting to wrap my mind around the “whys” and coming up with strategic answers.
I’m so excited about what’s next.
The countdown is on...I’m about to start Defining Audacity.