Episode 70: Lessons Learned From Warren Berger
Episode 70: Lessons Learned from Warren Berger
As a society, we tend to focus most of our efforts on finding the answers, the solutions, the tips, and tricks to figure things out so we can move on but what if instead of looking for the how we stopped to ask ourselves some beautiful questions? Berger says, “One of the most important things questioning does is to enable people to think and act in the face of uncertainty.” Learning to ask the right questions leads to a life of confidence amidst ever-changing outside circumstances. Join me!
Welcome back to the show! I love the topic of this week’s podcast and can’t wait to dive in! First, though, let’s shine a light on the community spotlight of the week! This one is from DefinitelyRiley titled, JOY, she says,
“I love Hannah’s podcast, membership, and personal life-coaching. Her tools have helped me increase joy in my life already, and I’m re-inspired every time I listen to a podcast episode or hear one of her classes. Listening to her can literally take my mediocre day and help me turn it into something awesome. Practicing her techniques has helped me to etch my life and thoughts into a masterpiece that serves me, and create a space where I’m confident. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve been learning, and I’m excited to continue the journey!”
Riley, what a gorgeous review!!! I’m blushing! That was just beautifully written and said. Thank you for the love!!!
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As you know every tenth episode I bring you one of my favorite books, teachers, teachings, or outside media that has shaped me, taught me, and helped me to grow more as a human being, as a coach, and in refining my character and this week is no different. In this episode I’m going to introduce you to Warren Berger if you don’t know his writings already it will be so uplifting, inspiring, and just mind-expanding. I know it was for me and continues to be.
I’m a huge fan of his books and I’ve been able to attend live events where he taught directly and that was enlightening so I’m excited to take an entire episode this week to share some highlights and hopefully get you interested in wanting to learn more and dive into his works and concepts more too.
For so many of us we go through life as adults in a knowing fashion, this meaning that we don’t question a lot of things anymore because we think we already know it. In conversations we don’t usually pause the conversation to ask for clarification too often because we think we understand what they’re talking about, we get it and sometimes if we don’t, we also don’t want to question because we think maybe we should know already and we don’t want to look unintelligent so we just don’t ask.
But Bergers biggest premise through all his works, his books, his teachings is this, “You don’t learn unless you question”
It’s so simple yet profoundly true. He defines himself as a questionologist and that “questioning is a starting point of innovation”.
There are podcasts, books, articles, talks, classes, courses, retreats all centered on telling or on “answering” and while those are good and can help you move forward I find the most growth and personal development comes from your own search of the answers and to get to that point you had to start with a really good question.
People don’t often like questions. They can feel uncomfortable because we don’t like the not knowing. That space can feel intimidating and it requires you to expend mental energy so your primitive brain won’t naturally dive into this – one of it’s main functions is to conserve energy which is often why you find yourself faced with an either or type of question, right or wrong, this way or that, hot or cold, yes or no. These questions don’t require a lot of energy or thought and we can move on with our day but when we buy into this idea of either or thinking we miss out on the wide, broad spectrum in front of us, that’s available to us.
It’s never an either or but we won’t know that and can’t know that if we don’t allow ourselves to sit in the middle, to sit with the questions, to learn how to craft a really good, beautiful question. If you think about innovation and inventions, the iphone, airplanes, streaming, texting, amazon they can all be traced back to a beautiful question. Berger says, “One that shifted the current thinking, opened up a new possibility, and ultimately led to a breakthrough”
So what is a beautiful question?
Berger defines it as “any question that causes people to shift their thinking is a beautiful one”
Notice here – shift your thinking not just yes or no, right or wrong – those questions don’t cause you to shift your thinking – you’re just making a decision then on what you already know – beautiful questions however change you- it literally changes and creates new wiring in your brain. These questions lead to answers and possibilities that you didn’t know existed before. That’s what makes these beautiful.
I love that word beautiful – it’s part of my life’s motto which is, “I just want to make everything around me beautiful, that will be my life”
And that includes my thinking, my ability to expand my perspective, my ability to formulate and ask really good, beautiful questions. Questions that I don’t know the answers to yet but that I’m willing to make the effort to explore and pan out on new terrain. It’s a really exciting prospect to think about and embark on and one that is so necessary and crucial to your ability to create confidence.
Step number one in the confidence model is to get to know yourself in every detail possible – you can’t get there without being willing and motivated to ask really beautiful questions – these questions lead to glorious destinations that will provide genuine confidence and certainty in a way that was fleeting or easily broken beforehand.
These types of questions require that you slow down a bit, to engage in the not knowing but excited to explore, to be open and see past previous biases or point of views, to question everything, and even questioning your questions.
There have been many times that I’ll ask myself a question but before I decide to spend my mental energy in that capacity I question the question – is that something I want to embark on? Is that question going to lead me down a path that will be productive and enlightening to me or is it designed to hurt, to punish, to judge, to limit?
I know you know these questions – these are what are known as “dead-end questions” – these are the yes and no’s, the why am I so fat? Why don’t people like me? Questions – they’re not designed to give you insight or understanding or growth, those questions hurt and they’re not helpful.
So you want to increase your capacity to ask really good beautiful questions – questions that won’t immediately give you an answer but questions that require time, insight, exploration, putting behind biases, old thought patterns and being willing to question what you once believed.
In the book, there’s a question that Nobel peace prize-winning physicist Arno Penzias asks himself daily and I invite you to do the same. It’s, “Why do I strongly believe what I believe?”
Penzias felt that it was “critical to ‘constantly examine his own assumptions.”
This isn’t to shake your faith or where you stand this is to get to the nitty-gritty. This question will keep you centered on your overall vision for your life, it will strengthen your faith, it will broaden your reasoning and allow for more light and insight to burrow into your being and best of all it will show you what is most essential and helps you eliminate the rest.
The more you ask yourself that question alone you will see growth and progress and a stronger resolve which paves the path toward certainty and confidence. So often we cling to our previous views and biases that we miss the opportunity to expand, expound, and explore more knowledge.
I worked with a few ladies that had been in a working position for over a decade. They were effective at what they did and they had the whole thing streamlined and like a well-oiled machine and then I got thrown into it and I was much younger and to them a totally newbie and because I came into it without being in that arena all those previous years I didn’t have their thoughts or biases. I had fresh new ideas and that was so difficult for all of us at first. They were so closed to any new idea and I was so frustrated that why wouldn’t aren’t you open to anything new?
And while I believed that my new fresh ideas were right and better it was an opportunity into humility for myself because it caused me to look inward and question my own thoughts and ideas, my own beliefs even about them and their close-mindedness while I was operating from my own form of that very same thing.
So often we are wrong. The thoughts, assumptions, and ideas that we have originally might not be serving us. They might not be what’s best for us and so being willing, humbling yourself enough to even question your thinking and questioning your questions is so eye-opening. When you can ask yourself with an open mind and heart, “what if my beliefs or assumptions on this issue are just plain wrong?”
Then it allows you to be open to all the fields and then from that bigger perspective you’ll find what you’re looking for. In my case it was a combination of both. Some of their ideas were tried and true and working beautifully and some of my new ideas were more beneficial and helpful. But we couldn’t get there without being willing and able to ask the necessary questions instead of coming head to head with just answers. Then it’s answer against answer instead of discussing and finding what’s best overall.
Sometimes it requires you to start inward by asking your intentions. We all want to be right. It satisfies some part of us that needs that validation and pride but rarely does it breed connection. So instead look inward and ask yourself, “would I rather be right, or would I rather understand?” It’s such an interesting question because when the answer is that you’d rather be right you’re no longer free. You’ve trapped yourself into your way of thinking and you cut yourself off from the wide range of potential, possibility, and progress.
In the Bible, it talks about our ways vs God’s way and it says in Isaiah 55: 8-9
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
– like, this is how much difference is in your limited, earthly, mortal perspective vs the omnipotent creator of all, who sees all, comprehends all, understands all, is perfectly loving, perfectly just, perfectly patient. And when we’re arguing for our story we’re really arguing for our limitations.
When we’re able to be open to just listen to the ideas and thoughts and perspectives of others we able then to grow, to learn, to adapt, and to understand. Berger says, “It feels good to think you’re in the right and to be told be likeminded others that, yes, you’re right and you’ve been right all along. But it doesn’t do much to improve learning, understanding, decision-making, or to promote progress in general.”
Sometimes the best and most beautiful question can just be as short and simple as, “what am I so afraid of?” Or “Where’s the fear?” I ask myself that often because the top two primary emotions are love and fear and just about all other feelings fall under that umbrella so if I’m feeling resistance of any kind, or I’m leaning towards my own understanding then when I ask myself that question I can open up to what’s really causing the resistance and stirring up problems and it’s always fear.
We might be afraid of failing, of looking less than, of not being enough, not getting what we think we want, fear of rejection, of dying before you’ve made your mark on the world, of not finding your purpose, of not fitting in, failing to meet the expectations of others, fear of what they might be thinking about you.
Try it. That question alone will open your insight and awareness to an entirely different level and one that once you know, it gives you something to work with and towards.
One way this fear likes to show up is in indecision. We constantly tell ourselves and convince ourselves that we don’t know. I can’t tell you how many times a week I hear my clients tell me, I don’t know – and they truly mean it and I never let them get away with it because I know that they do know. They’re just not allowing themselves to sit with the question long enough – it’s not the answers that give you insight and knowledge – it’s the questioning. The questioning is where the growth is, where the ah-ha moments are.
One question Berger asks is, “Where in my life right now am I living under the fog of indecisiveness?”
When you pause and look at the areas in your life that you’re standing still in or just not progressing, do yourself a huge favor and just ask why. Why doesn’t mean moving forward yet. Why doesn’t know how and frankly it’s not concerned with the how – the how always comes later and figures itself out.
The real question and what you’re really seeking is the why. Why? The why helps you understand your reasons behind it – it uncovers and ignites a genuine motivation and clears up any resentment, overwhelm, or having to but rather wanting to and finding meaning in it.
Asking yourself why allows you to tap into creativity and if you’ve been with me for a while you all know how much I love creativity! Berger says, Creativity, “enables us to bring new and potentially valuable ideas and creations into the world, it can offer benefits beyond personal satisfaction to the creator.”
You become creative just by allowing yourself to be curious. You become curious by allowing yourself to ask questions. These two are heavy hitters in innovation and progression. It’s because you don’t have to go far to begin. You can start right where you’re at.
Curiosity and creativity come from doing your same day to day things but looking at them through new eyes. Maya Angelo once said, “Oh, a new day. I’ve never seen this one before”
Every morning I’m outside walking or running and it’s easy to look at the same things each day, the same houses, the same trees, the same street but I think about Maya Angelo and that quote and instantly my mind asks the question, what’s new about this day? What’s here that wasn’t here yesterday and I’m amazed as I’m out and about the newness of my surroundings. The sky, the trees, the weather, the passerbyers – I think that’s a new word.
Berger says, “The goal is to see the familiar – which could include not only products we use but also the ways we do our jobs, the people around us, or even the path we routinely travel to get to work – as if seeing it for the first time…you’ll notice details you’ve never been aware of. The simple reason most of us don’t notice the details of what’s going on around us is that we stop looking too soon…it’s not a matter of how long we look but where we focus as we’re looking…one question to ask about anything you’re trying to observe more closely is, what might I notice about this if I were seeing it for the first time?”
I want to take this question and this concept a bit deeper and one that if you’re listening to this when it comes out it’ll come just in time for Thanksgiving and the holidays wherever you’re at. The holidays tend to bring up quite a bit of mind drama for a lot of us because we all have ideas of what things should look like or they should be like or who should bring or be doing what and most often our vision of those expectations are different from others and that’s where some resistance comes into play and it can make things stressful and not so fun.
So I want to invite you to think about this concept in that light as I share my personal example. Several years ago I was attending a relief society class- it’s the women’s church class and the teacher for that week was someone that I had a pretty big story about. I struggled with her personality and some things that she would do so when she got up to speak I felt a lot of resistance and dread maybe – it’s that feeling like, “ugh…her…” just not looking forward to it. And for the first 10 minutes or so it was incredibly uncomfortable for me to be there in the middle of the room and looking at the clock every 2 minutes wishing it had really be 10 and thinking, this is the longest class ever.
I was so full of judgments and evidence in my mind against her that just made the class unbearable.
Knowing what you’ve heard from this podcast so far I wanted to be right about her. Even though it felt terrible inside and she wasn’t feeling that at all. It was just me silently suffering and my judgments about her if I asked myself where the fear was really rested in not wanting to be vulnerable around her – I put up mental walls to shut her out but all that did was also shut me out to anything positive or good in that moment as well.
So not wanting to continue in that fashion but not ready to be open yet – you know the space right? It’s kind of a bit of what else is true?
So I just asked myself, if I were a visitor and didn’t have a background story for this women would I still be feeling the same way?
Notice what a beautiful question that is because it forces me to set aside my story for a minute while I try on a newcomers viewpoint. The truth was that as a newbie she was quite pleasant and warm and was a great teacher. As I looked around the room with these new eyes I saw that so many people were completely engrossed in her message and her style of teaching.
Which then lead to the question, what if I’m wrong about my story? What if my perception about what happened was skewed and maybe incorrect?
And I began to notice how differently I felt. I wasn’t full of warm fuzzes yet but just the art and act of questioning and being curious feels good and because it feels good it stirs the desire to ask more questions, to continue wondering and the more you wonder the more you learn.
Your brain is always solving a problem. It doesn’t care what the problem is it just wants to be busy. So when you give yourself the job of being curious it’s going to go to work being curious and think of how productive that is for you – that curiosity expands your current knowledge and understanding.
That Sunday in that class it was a pivotal moment for me because I realized to the extent what my own story was creating for me and I didn’t like it. It also showed me how much control and power I do have over myself – how I feel, what I choose to believe, and what I ultimately do. I ended up taking several pages of notes from her and genuinely asked her questions seeking her perspective when just 15 minutes before I was entirely closed off and dreading that class period.
Questions are powerful. They have the capacity to shape, to shift, and to surpass your current level of being. Questions create innovation and invite personal revelation. Berger says, “Our ability to question well is like a muscle. You must continually work at it in order to strengthen it.”
I’ve always been a huge fan of Mr. Rogers and one thing that he’s known for is being a terrible interviewee and you can imagine he was interviewed quite a bit but he was so passionately curious and practiced asking questions that he spent most of the allotted interview time asking the interviewer questions because he genuinely wanted to know about them. And maybe it’s because his show, his message, his thoughts were geared to his young audience and in Berger’s book, he states that, “studies have shown that children around 4 years old asks anywhere from 100-300 questions a day (interestingly enough some research show the 4-year-old girl asks even more questions than a boy at that age. She is the ultimate questioning machine.) questioning at this age may seem like child’s play but it’s a complex, high-order level of thinking. It requires enough awareness to know that one does not know – and the ingenuity to being able to do something to remedy that.”
How can you tap into your 4-year-old self and ignite a passion for questioning and for learning?
When you feel stuck ask yourself what would my four year old self think right now? What would they ask?
Questions are the doorway to new opportunities, discovery, and growth. The more you question and uncover answers the more you create certainty and confidence. The easier it will be to move forward and progress. What would happen if you started each day by asking yourself a beautiful question instead of telling yourself the agenda for the day?
How do you think this practice of questioning would bolster your confidence and ability to press forward?
Remember the journey isn’t to get to the answer, the journey is to explore, to discover and in the process, you become more your character changes, and you grow in ways you wouldn’t have been able to before.
Berger says, “A journey of inquiry that (hopefully) culminates in change can be a long road, with pitfalls and detours and often nary an answer in sight. That’s why it can be helpful to approach inquiry as a step-by-step progression. The best innovators are able to live with not having the answer right away because they’re just focused on trying to get to the next question.”
I challenge you to be more intentional in questioning and not just asking questions but by learning to seek out and ask yourself beautiful questions, questions that
causes you to shift your thinking and to grow.
Okay you guys, have the most fantastic week and Happy Thanksgiving if you’re listening to it when it’s published.
Don’t forget to head over to iTunes and leave a rating and review for our community spotlight and I’ll talk to you all next week!