Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom - The Key to Successful Introductions? Great Second Questions


The first ingredient in conversation is truth, the next good sense, the third good humor, and the fourth wit. 
William Temple 


Meeting new people for the first time can be a challenge. We want to get to know the other person, put them at ease, and move the new relationship forward on the right foot. What we say first is important.
Lately, articles in the blogosphere have called into question the appropriateness of the standard first question: "Hi, I'm Scott Farnsworth. I'm a wills and trusts attorney and a retirement expert. What do you do?" These bloggers' objections to this traditional introduction include:
  • It's shallow.
  • There's much more to who you are than what you do.
  • It makes it seem that how you earn a paycheck is the most important thing about you.
  • It's awkward for someone who's out of work or who doesn't care much about work.
Some of the articles propose "replacement questions" that frankly are so strange that I cannot imagine using them as a first question in a casual introduction at a business meeting, on an airplane, or at a cocktail party. Questions like:
  • How do you feel your life has worked out so far?
  • What personal habit are you proudest of?
  • What are you most passionate about?
Don't get me wrong. I enjoy having deeper conversations using those kinds of questions with someone I already know. But as a first question with someone I barely met, questions like these would feel downright weird.
There's a reason the "What do you do?" question has been around so long: it's safe, comfortable, and expected. It works!
Is it perfect? Of course not. But discarding it would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Instead I think the key is to pair it with appropriate follow-up questions. Let's couple "What do you do?" with some Great Second Questions (GSQs).
What makes a Great Second Question? To me, it should be comfortable, not creepy. It needs to feel natural, not contrived. It ought to organically lead to an authentic get-to-know-you conversation. Here's how to develop GSQs.

1.  A GSQ follows sequentially from and builds on the first question, "What do you do?"
To state the obvious, don't yank them in a different direction with your second question. There must be a natural segue from their first answer to your next question. This is not a time to zig when they're zagging.

2.  A GSQ is open ended and invites a narrative answer.
Questions that lead to narrative answers are warm and comfortable. I call them "story-leading questions." Story is our true native language, and it invites human-to-human connection, as I've explained in three of my books (visit

3. A GSQ isn't analytical, i.e. it doesn't require them to rank, sort, or  evaluate.

Questions requiring analytical answers such as "what's your best . . ." or " what's your most important . . ." or "what's your favorite . . .." disrupt the flow of the conversation. They make the other person stop and perform a calculation and can lead to hesitancy in responding.
4.  A GSQ doesn't get too intimate too quickly.
If it feels like prying, the dialogue is dying. Getting too personal too soon is a sure way to kill a conversation, which is the last thing you want when meeting someone new.

Applying these guidelines, I came up with a few possibilities. What do you think? What would you add to this list of GSQs?
  1. How did you get started in that field?
  2. Is being a ____________ something you always wanted to do?
  3. That seems like an interesting profession. What do you enjoy about being a _____________?
  4. How long have you been in the ____________ field, and what has changed during that time?
  5. Do you see yourself doing that for the rest of your career?
  6. Is that a profession you would recommend to someone just starting out in their career today?
  7. Is that your dream job or is there something else you'd rather be doing?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom My Valentine: Endless Love


We are most alive when we are in love.
John Updike


Here's a tale of two "love stories:"
Number 1. I was visiting some time ago with a woman in her early 70s. As we talked, she mentioned her children and grandchildren with fondness. Not hearing anything about her spouse, I asked, "What about your husband?"

"He died last year."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," I responded.
"Well I'm not. He was difficult, and I'm glad he's gone."
My heart broke for her and also for him. How tragic for those two lives.
* * * * *
Number 2. When it comes to love, let me be the first to acknowledge that I'm extremely fortunate and very spoiled. I've been living the dream - the Valentine's Day Dream - every day for the past 42½ years.
How did that happen? For starters, I married someone with sterling character. My wife Marcie personifies St. Paul's description of authentic love, and that permeates every facet of our relationship.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6
Second, we both do our best to live unselfishly, seeking the welfare of the other first. I love how H. Jackson Brown, Jr. and Katharine Hepburn each expressed this idea. "Love is when the other person's happiness is more important than your own." "Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get - only with what you are expecting to give - which is everything."
Many people admire the concept of living unselfishly in marriage but have a hard time doing it. It was my good fortune to find a beautiful woman who not only understands the importance of unselfishness but who also puts it into practice every day.
Third, we share the core belief that a loving, nourishing marriage has the capacity and the destiny to become eternal. Marcie and I believe our Heavenly Father honors faithful, devoted marriages and will perpetuate them beyond the grave. Irish novelist Cecelia Ahern accurately described our feelings.
"Finding someone you love and who loves you back is a wonderful, wonderful feeling. But finding a true soul mate is an even better feeling. A soul mate is someone who understands you like no other, loves you like no other, will be there for you forever, no matter what.  They say that nothing lasts forever, but I am a firm believer in the fact that for some, love lives on even after we're gone." 

When you believe in forever love, you treat your relationship differently than if you consider it temporary or transitory. You build differently when you build to last.
Thank you, Marcie, for showing me the meaning of endless love and eternal marriage. Happy Valentine's Day from your devoted and forever grateful husband!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Workin' on Something Big, Part II - Who Do You Want to Serve?

Who Do You Want to Serve?        

"When you know who the people are you want to serve, it will be easier to decide how you want to allocate your time and your resources. Knowing who shall benefit from your work will automatically make it easier to decide what sort of work you might want to pursue."
Monika Kanokova

For most of my professional career I've been an innovator in the fields of estate planning, financial planning, and philanthropy. Many of those innovations led me over the past three decades to work with increasingly wealthier clients who could more readily afford my unique services. Those opportunities were interesting and heady indeed.

As a high-end innovator, I achieved a measure of recognition and success. I spoke on national platforms, wrote three professional books, visited some very exotic locations, and worked with some remarkable families. It was a joyful and rewarding time of my life, and I'm grateful for those relationships and those experiences.

About five years ago, however, I began to feel a yearning to stay a little closer to home and to direct my energies and skills toward middle-income families-those who have some resources but not a great deal of wealth. Those folks, who have a little but not a lot, who work hard and pay their bills and raise their families and try to prepare for the future, often feel that affordable and convenient professional services are hard to find. Whereas well-to-do families have lots of "helpers" trying to serve them, and there is an extensive safety net of free services for the poor, middle-income families are often left to fend for themselves.  

The more I considered their situation, the more I wanted to spend the remaining years of my career providing affordable and convenient professional services to middle-income families in Central Florida. It just seemed so RIGHT for who I am and what I want my work to be about.  

My efforts to do that for the past few years have been gratifying but not very efficient. I've spent a lot of time running the roads and spinning my wheels. I've been searching for a better way, and recently I found it.
A few months ago, I was looking for a quality wills and trusts attorney for one of my brothers in New Mexico, my home state. My quest led me to reconnect with Matt Urrea, a colleague from Albuquerque whose background is similar to mine.  

Matt has impeccable professional credentials and has spent much of his career working with high net-worth clients. Over a decade and a half ago, he too observed that middle-income families had few viable options for obtaining professional, affordable, and convenient estate planning services. He came to the conclusion that wills and trusts attorneys ought to be reaching out and making themselves more available to potential middle-income clients, who were increasingly avoiding traditional law firms and turning to the dangerous and impersonal world of on-line wills.  

In 2003, Matt offered a sensible alternative when he launched Walk-in Wills in a highly visible and easily accessible shopping center in Albuquerque, right between an ice cream parlor and a beauty shop. He offered middle-income families the opportunity to work with a real attorney with extensive experience. He offered free phone calls, straight-talk answers, and upfront, low-cost, flat-fee pricing. He offered prompt completion of his legal services. His business model turned out to be a smart solution to a vexing problem, resulting in many satisfied clients and a rewarding service experience for him.


When I saw Matt's office, I knew his approach would be a much better way to serve my clients. Fortunately for me, Matt was willing to work with me to build the first Walk-in Wills prototype outside of New Mexico. Creating my own Walk-in Wills office in Orlando has become my "Something Big." I've found renewed energy and abundant creativity. I haven't had this much fun in a long, long time.

I'm excited to announce that Walk-in Wills PLLC is now open in Orlando in a Publix shopping center at the very busy intersection of University and Dean Road, right off SR 417. Our address is 10069 University Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32817, and our telephone number is 407-725-7055.  

We offer professional, affordable, and convenient legal services for middle-income families and individuals. If you're among the 70% of adult Americans who need wills, living trusts, living wills, and more, we would be happy to help you. You're invited to call for an appointment, visit our website at , or better yet, why don't you just come by and "walk in" to our new office? We'd love to see you there.