Our Connected World

(This post has very coincidentally been posted the same weekend as Sense8 premiering on Netflix.)

There is no shortage of commentary about how the Internet and technology has provided us connectivity to other people and how It is reshaping our world, allowing us to communicate with others whom we may have never met otherwise. While this has generally been a great advancement for humankind in spite of the rise of the Internet troll, I’ve been pondering about how our online and offline interactions and activities have great reach, both seen and unseen.

No matter how many times we say “it’s my life” or “why does what I do matter to anyone else?”, it still have immense value and absolutely matters! Regardless of who you are, everything you do influences someone or something else, often in ways we don’t recognize in and positive and negative ways.

Consider the following scenarios that are obvious and perhaps more subtly influential:

  • That day when you don’t apply yourself at work like you should could mean missing out on a new opportunity for a client or inspiring colleagues to do better.
  • Choosing to not pickup the phone and call your old friend to catch up means the difference between strengthening old bonds and letting them weaken just a little bit more.
  • Every book and article you read continually shapes your opinions and perspectives. It forms the basis for our knowledge, but we also must be careful not to fill it only with perspectives we agree with unless your goal is to have a narrow view of the world.
  • My choosing to run more inspired a friend to pick it up again and sign up for a race this past spring, along with others trying to improve their speed and stamina. All this was spurred on by a friend who a year and a half ago somehow convinced me over Indian food that I could train for and run a marathon.
  • Your decisions on who to date or marry (or later decide to divorce from) are some of the most obvious influencing acts we have on ourselves but also our circles. Bringing a new person in changes the relational dynamic. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate to have friends who have found great spouses that I gladly also call friends. Their presence has frequently enhanced the existing friendship.On the flip side, I’ve seen and experienced the struggles when relationships fall apart or take a destructive route. The emotional turmoil of a divorce on children and relatives is not easily quantifiable in the short and long term. Or seeing the emotional & psychological aftermath of being in an abusive and hurtful relationship play out in how we interact with others for months and years to come.

I’m not saying anything earth shattering or revolutionary, but I’ve been struck by the ever connectedness of my own life as I continue to find parallels between “my worlds”. There’s lessons I need to apply across the board for the bettering of myself and everyone else around me. (Example: apply a better training schedule & routine to reading and writing/blogging similar to the discipline I use to train for a race.) Similarly, there’s probably something happening right around you that you should be paying attention to. What is that thing for you?

P.S. If you have Netflix, check out Sense8. As of this writing, I’m 3 episodes in and am really enjoying it.

Musings Opinion

Ask More Questions & Listen More


Often times I need to take a step back from everything and ask myself, “is there an overarching theme or pattern happening in my life?” It’s fascinating to see how various facets of my life are intertwined usually to teach me – and maybe the world – something.  That current “something” is that we don’t know everything. We think we do so often, assume a bit too much, and because of that often miss something critical. We must ask more questions. It is a significant step to understanding of all manners of things, especially ourselves.

At work, I try to teach and encourage those on my team and around the company to not take anything at face value. Too often someone takes a task or project request and runs with it. At surface level, everything seems straightforward. But peel back even one layer and finding out the “why” that is driving that request and you learn that on-the-surface craziness has some context and reasoning you can support – or at least acknowledge. Or you ask your client to expand on an idea and all of a sudden a great idea is sparked to take the project to a new level or a future potential issue is avoided.

In relationships, questions are the basis for learning more about other people. You know what everyone’s favorite topic is?  What they know best of course: themselves. In my life, I have had many conversations with people without uttering much beyond my name, where I’m from or live, and a gloss over of what I do. How? By continually asking questions about just about anything they want to talk about. I’m amazed by how much others like hearing their own voice. I tap into this by keeping the focus on the other person with questions crafted and carefully selected for them.  When I’m not in the mood to talk about myself, it’s a powerful deflection tactic that works on at least 80% of people I talk to (a couple close friends are on to me.)  The only problem? When I do want to share something about my life, people still like to talk about themselves even when I’m not asking them anything. This cumulatively results in only one person feeling like they are known better; often times that person is not me. It can lead to a sense of isolation or not feeling cared about.

When it comes to ourselves, how often are we asking the really tough questions in a way that results in action or real insight? The right questions can be uncomfortable to respond to. Why? Do we not ask them because we don’t care about other people or about ourselves? Or is it because we’re afraid someone will ask us about stuff we don’t want to talk about? Maybe it’s why I direct a lot of conversation focus back to other people.

One of the worst things we do is assume we know everything we need to know from work to friendships. Without questions, we are left to assume what we don’t know, and Assuming takes you to dangerous places. So don’t be too taken aback if I ask lots of questions. It means I care and I don’t want to miss something along the way.



The Need to Rely on Others

Steady….. steady….. can we take the picture now?!

Something I thought about as I prepared to leave for Europe and while I was out roaming the streets of cities was that I was not able to take the trip based only on my own efforts. There were many people who helped me go without worrying about my normal responsibilities. I think of my roommates who watched the house, kept it clean, and cut the grass; of my mom who kept in touch with me and checked my mail to let me know about bills I (still) needed to pay; of my coworkers who had to really step it up in my absence and sit in more meetings than they imagined (I’ve heard there may be a greater appreciation for my role now); of people at church who covered for my role there as well.

Without so many hands supporting me back home, going away for a month may have never happened or have been as refreshing to my soul. Which brings me to a larger topic. Whether or not I want to admit it, I need to rely on others to live my life. No matter how independent I think I am or want to be, I will never be able to do everything by myself. This important fact became very obvious to me while away. I admit that I need others for all sorts of things including life advice, help moving heavy furniture, determining what color shade something is, or simply someone to hang out with and talk to once in a while.

As I mentioned in a previous post about depth of relationship, not having the ability to communicate with those around me illuminated how being connected to my fellow man (or not due to language barriers) can make you feel isolated. Even for this introverted writer, my independence and time separated from people I know has its useful limits. How I find the right mix of staying connected and forging stronger relationships while not overwhelming my introverted self is something I’m working on. Let’s hope I can stay on the balance beam most of the time.


Depth of Relationship

How far are you willing to go?

While I’ve been traveling, I have been very restricted with the amount of conversation I’m able to have with people I come into contact with. You come to find even the random banter you occasionally have with the barista at Starbucks or waiter at your local restaurant isn’t exactly possible because you’re pointing at signs and pictures to communicate. Thankfully, many people across Europe know enough English to deal with Americans like me who can’t grasp other languages very easily. Yet, this whole experience got me thinking to a topic I’ve been dealing with for a bit longer: depth of relationships.

Now, I will concede that everyone has their own ways to measuring how deep their relationships are with the people they know so measure how you will. As an introvert, (INFP for those curious), I value my personal relationships profoundly and I find enjoyment in them when they can jump from one extreme (“I need to talk about this potentially life changing decision”) to the other (“weren’t the chase scenes in Fast Five ridiculously unbelievable, but fun to watch?”).

One thing I’ve missed in the last 3 weeks, and perhaps much longer, is that I’m not consistently able to have the “life changing decision” conversations nearly as often as the ones about Fast Five. People aren’t as willing to go past the surface into areas that may be uncomfortable or expose any part of our true selves. It’s easy to put up a front. We all do it to varying degrees. But we also find it easy to discuss things of no consequence because it doesn’t personally challenge us in any way. There’s no intellectual or personal benefit, but that’s OK because it’s like we’re conversing, but nothing is actually being said.

It’s good to go deeper once in a while. Ask your friends what excites them. Find out why a certain TV show appeals to them. (Maybe it will reveal something about them far more fascinating than the show itself.) Ask questions of people who you don’t always agree with and get more information instead of avoiding the topic. At least you’ll understand why you disagree instead of just avoiding that topic or worse, that person. Besides, these conversations make life a lot more interesting when you look back at it.

How far are you willing to go down that path? Will you walk past that well lit park bench that you can see from where you’re standing? Or will you venture down the path together beyond the horizon, where unknown, but profound, adventures and depth await?