Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Learning What I Don't Know - Part Four

Part 4:  Asking the Right Questions   

"I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who." 
Rudyard Kipling 


In my quest to learn insight and understanding from those I meet along the path of life, all of whom know something I don't, I have identified three essential steps:
  • First, I must be genuinely curious about what I don't already know.
  • Second, I must ask them the right questions.
  • Third, I must listen purposefully to their answers.
While there are many types of questions I might ask in order to learn what another person knows, the questions best suited to this task are what I call "story-leading questions." "Story-leading questions" are inquiries that open the door to a narrative. A good story-leading question invites the other person to recall and share a little bit of their life-experience, and it is in those accounts that I can most readily learn what I don't know.
Story is our native language as human beings. Woven within the stories we tell about ourselves is valuable information about who we are and how we see the world around us.
Everyone has a story to tell; they just need an invitation. Thoughtful story-leading questions invite sharing. They express an authentic interest in the life of another. Like matches and kindling on a cool evening, they ignite a warm, crackling exchange of information, knowledge, and wisdom.
Most of us already use story-leading questions but are often not mindful of them. When we use them intentionally, we begin to learn things from others we never knew before.
Want proof? Here's an experiment you can try. This evening, ask someone this simple story-leading question:
"What's the most interesting thing that happened to you today?"
Or ask a young parent: "What has your child learned to say or do lately?"
Or ask a child: "What's something you like to do that makes you happy?"
Or ask an older person: "What's happening with your grandchildren?"
Or ask a friend: "What have you been up to since the last time we talked?"
Listen to their answer, and ask another question, and then another. In the stories that will come tumbling out, you will begin to learn many things you didn't already know. If you listen with purpose, you will find great treasures of wisdom and understanding.
In my next article, the last on this topic, I'll talk about how purposeful listening helps us learn what we don't already know.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - A Thought for Thanksgiving


"Let our lives be full of both thanks and giving."
Lindsay Letters




Offering thanks is tonic for the soul. Expressing gratitude, especially enjoying and appreciating our abundance, creates greater abundance. According to Yogi Bhajan, "Gratitude is the open door to abundance." Cathy Phillips added that, "Gratitude will open your heart as well."
When I stop to count the many blessings God has given me, I discover I have plenty and to spare. When I express appreciation to others for all the goodness they add to my life, I find I am surrounded with love, acceptance, and kindness. The act of being thankful produces abundance. It changes us and changes the world around us.
"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." Melody Beattie

Thoughtful giving makes a person come alive and develops more substance in the giver. Thus those who give are more likely to "find themselves" because there is more to be found. Deep and lasting joy comes from giving and sharing. The sweet and ironic arithmetic of mindful giving is that both the giver and the receiver are added to and edified by the process.
I find great satisfaction in sharing my time and expertise in the art of tracing life's journeys. I love to teach others how to explore their family tree and preserve their family traditions and legends. I love to offer a listening ear to those who have meaningful stories to tell (don't we all?). I love to hear them describe their challenges and their triumphs, their tears and their laughter, their nights of darkness and their seasons of sunshine. My own life is richer when I learn about theirs.
Giving is living. The generative, life-enhancing power of giving renews us and invigorates us whether we share our time, talents, compassion, or money. If we give from the heart - regardless of what we give - the very act of giving blesses us in magical ways.

The happiest people I know consistently give of themselves and express gratitude for their blessings. Their lives are full of both thanks and giving. In so doing, they discover that their own needs are abundantly met and their joy is full.

This year, I hope your Thanks/Giving includes plenty of both.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Learning What I Don't Know - Part Three

Part Three:  The Magic of Curiosity  

"I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity."

Eleanor Roosevelt



To recap my two previous articles, I have determined that every person I meet has something to teach me, and I have identified three essential ingredients for learning from them what life's journey has taught them:
  • First, I must be genuinely curious.
  • Second, I must ask the right questions.
  • Third, I must listen purposefully to the answers.

I spent time this past weekend with all eight of my grandchildren, ages 17 years to 21 months. I saw in them an unfettered wonder about how things work. Their boundless curiosity (not to mention their unflagging energy) opened wide vistas of learning and discovery for them. They delighted in figuring out the world around them.


Even though we're older, we adults can develop that same level of wonder for how people work and what they know. We can cultivate a fascination for the places they've been, the challenges they've faced, and the insights they've acquired. We can begin to see this amazing world through another's eyes.
Curiosity also builds relationships. When we express respectful interest in what others have learned and accomplished, we develop a bond with them. Nearly everyone we meet yearns to be understood, so they naturally gravitate toward that person who seeks to know them better. Financial authors Scott West and Mitch Anthony have written, "Curiosity may kill cats but for people, the abundance of curiosity gives life to relationships." This human-to-human connection is one of the most joyful parts of learning from others.
Once we're on this path of curiosity, we need to learn how to ask great questions and how to listen effectively.

To be continued after Thanksgiving . . .   

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday Wisdom - Learning What I Don't Know Part Two

Part Two:  Becoming a Successful Student  

"Every person you will ever meet knows something you don't."
Bill Nye


If it is true that every person I will ever meet knows something I don't - and I firmly believe it is - the question then becomes, How can I learn what they know? What kind of approach will enable others to share with me what life's journey has taught them?

From my occasional successes and multiple failures in this area, I have identified three essential ingredients for turning those I meet into teachers and turning me into a successful student. When all three elements are present, my level of learning and my enjoyment of the learning process go through the roof. When any one is missing, I usually learn little or nothing.

Here's the formula:
  • First, I must be genuinely curious about learning what they know.
  • Second, I must ask them the right questions.
  • Third, I must listen purposefully to their answers.

As I wrote down these steps, it occurred to me that this model for acquiring understanding is applicable to any setting and to any field of knowledge. It is required for succeeding in a new job, writing a book, excelling in school from kindergarten to graduate school, developing a new line of business, fostering a personal relationship, or understanding my own children. Each requires genuine curiosity, insightful questions, and purposeful listening.

Each piece of this fascinating three-step sequence warrants its own extended discussion, so please tune in to next week's Wednesday Wisdom. . . .

  * * * *

Scott Farnsworth is an Attorney at Law and a Certified Financial Planner. He is the Founder and President of two companies: SunBridge, Inc. - An international advisory group for financial advisors and estate planning attorneys and Personal Asset Advisors - a Central Florida based retirement planning group. He is an expert on Social Security Maximization and Tax-Free Retirement. Feel free to email Scott at to help you with your needs.