Poker & Passion – The Power of a Perfect Question

There are times in life that seem to naturally give us the opportunity for self-reflection. I don’t mean the big life events of births, deaths, graduations, weddings, and so on. In fact, I’ve been to many of those, as I expect you have too, and I find they breed the usual reflections over and over… “What’s the meaning of my life and how am I doing against my idea of what it ought to be?” and so on.

And there are the ‘normal’ questions that work so powerfully with my consulting clients – “What is working well, and what could be working better?” These questions open the floodgates for folks who haven’t had a moment to stop and look at what is going on in their business and their life. They create the opportunity to reshape our efforts and achieve new and different results. I’ll come back to those questions over and over in my coaching and writing and offer you plenty of chances to use them. But today I offer you another type of moment.

I’m talking about the unusual events that we’re not expecting and so they slide in under our radar and some of us catch them, and some of us miss them altogether.

For me, one particular occasion was a family dinner at the change of season called the “new” year. A group of us had decided to have dinner together and in the middle of passing chicken and veggies back and forth, someone posed the question

“What gives you ‘sheer delight’?”

“You know, ” she said. “The type of thing that makes you hum, makes you feel great and makes you appreciate the place you’re in and the thing you’re doing.”

Her own answer was “Singing.” She had a busy life, a successful career doing work she loved. The question made her realize how empty one quiet corner of her life was for the lack of time spent singing. She missed using her voice to create beautiful sound, the challenge of mastering notes some composer had laid out, voicing in combination with others. With that discovery, she got involved in a choir. No dramatic change of career, no upheaval of life. Yet the realization that there was a missing activity that added spice to the rest of her life was profound for her.

My answer worked its way up and spoke itself with quiet simplicity.

At that point in my life I’d lived overseas twice, worked in other cities, traveled widely, changed jobs at least five times. If the question had been worded “Someone, tell me what gives Linda ‘sheer delight’.” the answer from the folks around the table would likely have been “Travel!” or “Fixing problems!”

And they would have been off base. Those are among my gifts, my expertise and my enormous satisfaction. But not at the heart of the matter. My answer?

“Great conversations!”

What gives me intense joy is being engaged in conversations, ones that raise new ideas for me, that create energy with the person I’m in conversation with, information that shifts my perspective and adds new resources to the Mary Poppins kit bag I carry in my mind. It doesn’t matter the subject or location. A side benefit of those conversations is in the rich problem-solving that can take place.

And understanding that distinction changed my life.

I realized by voicing my answer, that the consulting I was doing at that time was boring me. It was analytical work resulting in written reports presented to appreciative clients. It didn’t matter that I have a very analytical mind and I was identifying critical issues and valuable solutions effectively for my clients. And, it wasn’t making me smile when I got out of bed on Tuesday mornings.

We’re all so used to putting on our poker face and carrying on that we forget to look inside ourselves. My discovery that I could name what made me hum allowed me to take a fresh look at how to incorporate great conversations in the foreground, on purpose, in my daily life. And that led to changing the form and the content of the work that I do in my consulting and coaching. I now build in an emphasis on conversations where ideas and visions and goals are up on the table, assumptions get challenged, new perspectives and approaches are offered toward achieving results more effectively. All things considered in order to shape new successes.

The results speak for themselves. I get calls and letters telling me that the question I posed to a client, the idea I shared in a conversation, the approach I used for running a meeting or facilitating a management retreat changed someone’s perspective, their internal assumptions, their know how, and their results in their work and life.

Building my life around my sheer delight has helped me create a six-figure income, relationships with people looking to increase the effectiveness of their efforts in their professional and personal worlds, and has me smiling when I wake up on Tuesday mornings.

Being inspired by sheer delight has had the same result in the lives of others who have looked behind their own poker face for their passion. What might you create with yours?