The Intimacy of Strangers

PDC Attendee Images of their Experience and Travels

In my life, I've had some of the most profound and important realizations about myself when I've been working with relative strangers. I was thinking about this in regard to my upcoming Dream It/Do It Retreat where I'll be bringing together a group of people who don't know each other to work on their creative projects. 

I've found that people are often reluctant to do really personal work around people they don't know. They have concerns about trust and privacy that I definitely understand. We are worried about being judged and with strangers, we don't know what their reactions will be to who we are. 

Interestingly, though, I think it's with strangers that we can sometimes most be ourselves. We are not tied into the identities that people close to us most expect. We are not forced into certain roles that we are required to play depending on the group we are with.

In a group of relative strangers, we are free to be whoever we want to be.  When we are working on new ideas, it is actually this freedom from the tyranny of our old roles and identities that is most needed. This gives us the space to try on new ways of being without someone we know well judging us for it. 

The reality is, the people we know well are often as invested in our old identities as we are. Especially at work, our bonds have been formed around us being a certain type of person in a certain role.

When we are exploring new options, especially in the early stages, I've found that it can actually be more effective to do this work with people we don't know who are engaged in the same quest. They are less wedded to our old identities and have nothing to lose if we talk about changing. They don't have hidden or unconscious motives to keep us where we are and so, are more likely to be objective and supportive in their interactions with us. And they understand on a deeper level the changes that we are going through and so can relate better to the emotions and decisions we face along the way. 

I find that there's a special intimacy that can develop among strangers who are on a journey together, an intimacy that can be more helpful than that we find with our friends, families and co-workers. 

Have you experienced this? How has it helped you to grow? 


If you want to enjoy the intimacy of strangers as you plan for a new creative venture, join me on November 9-11 for the Dream It/Do It Retreat

Learning from Experience: Jay Cross Discusses His "New Muse"

Jay Cross, one of my favorite learning experts, announced on his blog last week that he has a "new muse": 

For the better part of forty years, my work has focused on adult learning. I’ve strived to make learning at work more effective, relevant, enjoyable, and cost-effective.

Today I am shifting direction. My new muse is well-being.

I'm intrigued by how and why people make the career transitions that they do, so I asked Jay to do a blog interview with me about his new direction. Here it is.

Can you give us some background on your career to date?

Upon graduating from college with a degree in sociology, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living. I became a mainframe computer salesman.

After a couple of years, I became an Army officer and managed computer operating in Germany. Returned to the U.S. and earned an MBA. Had a miserable time as a market researcher. Developed curriculum for an educational start-up that eventually became the University of Phoenix; refused to move to Phoenix.

Joined a start-up that trained bankers how to make decisions; spent fifteen years selling, managing sales, and directing marketing to very large banks. Tried my hand in a medical software start-up, a wholesale financial service start-up, and a tracking software start-up. A dozen years ago, I went on my own -- Internet Time Group -- to champion first eLearning and later, informal learning.

You are well-known in adult learning, with 40 years of experience and accomplishments to go with it. What is it like to go from being an "expert" in your field to doing something where you are more of a novice? 

As of yet, I don’t have much experience in my new field, well-being, so you may want to take my temperature on this one a few months from now. Thus far, I am thoroughly enjoying “beginner’s mind.” It is liberating. “In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few,” wrote Sunryku Suzuki.

I am painting on an immense, blank canvas. I get to set my objectives anew. I am free to think big thoughts. I can ask any questions I want. I can mash up everything I know from other fields to spark innovation. Who are the best people to talk with? What are the top things to read? How big a dream can I take on? This is much more fun that pontificating on topics I already know about. (If anyone reading this has pointers for me, get in touch via

Can you tell me about the process that led up to you deciding to move in this new direction? 

My first significant paper on informal learning came out in May 2003. Since then I think I’ve said most of what I have to say on the topic. I can answer most question on auto-pilot. Informal learning was getting old. I want to learn new things and make new discoveries.

What got me going with informal learning originally was the anomaly that most learning in organizations is informal yet training departments have nothing to do with it. I saw an opportunity to improve the way business is conducted by getting things into balance.

My new interest is the impact of well-being on business. Research suggests that happy people sell more, produce more, and come up with more creative ideas. Neuroscience tells us that people are driven by emotion, not logic. Yet “business-like” means without emotion. Most workers hate their jobs. There’s a giant opportunity to make people feel happy and fulfilled while simultaneously boosting profits. That’s noble cause.

I think well-being is going to be an easier sell than informal learning. Sixteen to twenty years in school has brainwashed people to the extent that they confuse schooling and learning. They argue that informal learning is out of control. They’re right. I think that’s good; the schoolers disagree.

I began the year at a meeting on a Swiss mountain top where an interdisciplinary group sought ways to reinvent management. I’m convinced that the goal of a business is to delight customers. How do you delight customers? By delighting employees. Happiness is contagious.

Marty Seligman’s latest book, Flourish, sets out five areas that contribute to well-being. One is having a purpose greater than oneself. I am getting on in years. I want to make my dent in the universe. If I can help at least 10,000 people lead happier, more fulfilling, and more productive lives, that accomplishment will make us all feel happier.

In June, five friends and I spent the weekend at Asilomar Conference Center, a wonderful retreat center on the coast between Monterey and Carmel, to talk about our lives and aspirations. I rated myself on the five things that lead to well-being that Marty had described. I lacked that “purpose larger than myself” and needed to work more closely with others. I determined that My calling is to create happier, more productive workplaces. 

What kinds of activities have you been engaging in to make the change? How are you learning about your new focus and how is it changing your daily work?

I believe in learning by doing, so I’m following routines to make me happier personally. (And they appear to be working). I’m setting up ways to curate what I find. I’m making lists of books to read and people to talk with. Soon I’ll begin hitting up my network for suggestions. I’m reading a lot and I have feeds plucking things from the internet for me.

I’m having fun setting up the processes I’ll use get to know the field.

Unlearning is going to be a challenge. When I see people making ridiculous claims about informal learning, I feel compelled to respond. I’ve got to stop that. There’s only so much time in the day. 

What are you most looking forward to with this new career identity? How are you going to be integrating it with your identity as an adult learning expert?

It’s a lot more enjoyable meeting new people. Well-being is more fun to talk about than learning.

I don’t really think of this as a new identity. I been saying for several years that my field is helping people work smarter. Well-being falls under that umbrella as well as learning.

My beliefs about learning are so deeply ingrained in my psyche that they will shape my ah-ha’s and discoveries. Well-being and informal learning are each related to freedom, autonomy, recognition of accomplishment, meaningful relationships with others, trust, and transparency. I expect my mash-up of the fields of well-being and adult learning to produce innovative approaches.

What advice do you have for others who may be thinking about moving from a very established career into something different? What has surprised you most or challenged you most in all of this?

Expertise is overrated. I am hopping into this new area with no fear.

Determine what you’re after. Marty Seligman’s Flourish was my touchstone.

Choose a role that lets you use your signature strengths. Take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths to identify what yours are.

A few things that stood out for me in Jay's interview that I think are applicable to a lot of people:

  • Having a "purpose larger than ourselves," is a big driver for Jay, as it is for most of us. I find that when people start to be dissatisfied with their current career trajectory, it's often because they start to become aware that they are not working on a larger purpose. 
  • The ideas for change have been percolating for awhile, but some events--the conference at the beginning of the year and the retreat in June--really moved him to take action.  I find that while reflection will get you so far, it's getting together with like-minded people who are also thinking about what they want that often pushes us forward. 
  • There's a process we go through in shifting our energy and attention away from our former career into the new one. Jay talks about "unlearning" as a challenge and needing to disengage from the conversations around his informal learning career interests because "there's only so much time in the day." Again, this is a common situation for people--we often are operating in the same networks of people, so we see the same conversations and have to discipline ourselves to not engage at all or to engage in ways that are tied to the new career focus we are developing. 
  • Jay talks about enjoying being in "beginner's mind," approaching a new subject area with fresh eyes. I've found that, especially for people who are life-long learners at heart, this process of getting to learn about a new field is what can make a career change even more compelling. It's an opportunity to explore something different and really immerse yourself in the learning process.  

Thanks to Jay for his willingness to share his thought process and experiences as he embarks on this new direction in his career. I think he offers us a lot of ideas for how we can pursue and think about our own ongoing career development. I also think he offers a terrific model for how to go about change as we pay attention to our shifting needs and interests in the career life-cycle. 


If you need time and support to plan for your own career transition, join me on November 9-11 for the Dream It/Do It Retreat

Announcing the Dream It/Do It Weekend Retreat--November 9-11, 2012

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I know a lot of you out there have big dreams--creative ideas for how you want to move ahead in your career or as an entrepreneur.

Many of you have projects that have been kicking around in the back of your brain, waiting for you to give them some air and space to emerge.

I want to help. 

Last year I went away to  Pendle Hill, a  beautiful Quaker retreat space just outside of Philadelphia, in Wallingford, PA. With 10 of my friends, I looked at my life and the projects I wanted to work on this year and got great clarity and insight into where to go next. 

That experience was so powerful for me and for the women I went away with, that I wanted to recreate it again, this time with some more structure and intentional activities to help others bring their creative dreams to fruition. 

So I'm excited to announce that I'll be running the Dream It/Do It Weekend Retreat on November 9-11, 2012. It's for anyone who has a career or business dream they want to work on.

You'll have dedicated alone time to plan for your dream, as well as group activities and supports that can help you build and refine your plans. All in a beautiful, peaceful setting that includes home-cooked meals made from locally grown ingredients, a fully-stocked art studio (seriously--it's amazing), and 23-acre grounds with walking trails for when you just need to move. 

Running this retreat is one of MY dreams. I want to help you benefit from the same alone time for reflection and opportunities for community support that have helped me make my own dreams a reality. 

There's much more on the retreat, as well as information on how to sign up here. I think it's going to be an amazing experience!

I hope you'll join us. . . 

3 Alternatives When "Follow Your Passions" Isn't Working


The most common career advice around is to "follow your passion." But for some people, this is easier said than done. They may have lost sight of their passions or they may have a bunch of them. Sometimes it's a matter of re-framing things. So here are a few other strategies for re-defining your career that may work better than "follow your bliss."

Focus on a Problem

Maybe instead of following your passion, you need to find a big juicy problem to work with. Look around. Is there something in the world that you'd love to fix? Often this can be the best guide to our sense of purpose.  And working on important problems can lead you to doing your most important work. 

Find Your Positive Core

Where do your deepest talents lie? What is it that people come to you for again and again? Often who you are will provide the best clues to new career ideas. If career satisfaction comes from being authentic, then a career based on your unique gifts makes sense. That's where it becomes important to define your positive core. 

One great way to explore your positive core is through Marcus Buckingham's latest strengths book and assessment, Standout. It helps you identify your two core strengths and gives detailed information on how you can use these to get yourself to the next level. I took it and found that I'm a "Stimulator/Provider." It gave me some great new insights into my strengths and how I could use them more effectively. Definitely worth a look. 

And for the more visually inclined, one of the best tools I've used is the VisualsSpeak Image Center Career Clarity process. It gives you deep insights into your greatest strengths. Plus you can print it out and hang it over your desk for daily inspiration!

Don't Choose One Passion

Sometimes what keeps people from following their bliss is not that they can't find it, but that they have what they perceive to be, too many passions. They want to find that ONE thing, but can't seem to settle because several passions draw them in. 

In today's economy, I think it's smart NOT to choose just one passion. If you have the energy and commitment to pursue career opportunities in several different areas, I say do it. This is how I've built my career and it's worked well for many people. 

Career clarity can come in many different forms. If the "follow your bliss" frame isnt' working for you, try another route. 

Changing Your Questions

The big question

Sometimes I find that when I'm stuck or I'm working with people who are stuck, what keeps us in the same place is that we're asking ourselves the wrong question. We don't realize we are asking this question, but we are. This is the question we're stuck in:

What's wrong with me? 

This post by Andrea Sher about her struggle with infertility reminded me of how often we can get stuck in this question for any part of our life that doesn't seem to be moving the way we want it to. This can keep us in a victim place that prevents us from really finding a way out. This is how Andrea describes the experience: 

I had a session with my life coach. And she said, “Okay. So there’s a lot of self-pity here. What about the anger? Where’s that? Aren’t you pissed off and frustrated? Where’s the ‘why-the-f***-hasn’t-it-happened-by-now?’ Aren’t you mad at God or your body or somebody?!”

And that’s when I got it. As I stepped into the anger (okay, rage) I felt my strength, my fierceness, my aliveness in addition to my longing. I also saw how little power there was in the self-pity. The victim place is just that– totally helpless and impotent. And I had been there a long time. As we explored the anger, I found my feet firmly planted on the ground. I practiced role playing with her. We pretended people were asking me how it was going, and instead of my usual “It’s so hard…” and crying almost immediately, I practiced saying, “It f***ing sucks!!! We’re f***ing frustrated!!!”

Andrea is talking about infertility, but honestly, this conversation with ourselves can happen for any part of our lives, including our work. We have to stop asking "what's wrong with me?" and start asking some different questions. 

Andrea suggests two that I think can be helpful:

How can I help myself? 

Where can I get support?

Questions that have helped me in this situation are:

What can I learn from where I am now? 

Where's the energy in my life right now and how can I follow that?

What do I want more of and how can I get it? 

It changes your sense of the issues when you recognize that underneath all the "stuckness" is the question "What's wrong with me?" Seeing that question and how it disempowers you, then finding new questions that give you strength and courage can make a huge difference. 

Try it. I promise that it works. 

Where Do You Find Career Inspiration?


Allison Jones has a great blog post today on places where she finds career inspiration. She says:

When it comes to career advice, it is very easy to focus on tactics: how to write a resumehow to use social media to find a jobhow to network.

However, in the time that I have been blogging about nonprofit careers, I have realized that while tactics are important, they make it too easy for us to ignore bigger questions about our careers: what are we good at? What are we willing to commit to? What do we value most in our work and our lives?

To that end, many of my favorite places for career advice, aren’t entirely career-tactic focused. Instead they focus on sharing powerful stories, asking compelling questions, and encouraging me to slow down.

Then she lists some of her favorite sources, including friends, children's books (love that one!) and going inward. 

Allison's post got me thinking about some of my own sources of inspiration that I wanted to share. 

Social media connections

Through social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc.) I'm connected to a lot of different people from all over the world working in a lot of different career areas. 

In fact, Allison's blog post came to me via Facebook:

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I find that on any given day, someone, somewhere offers me a little nugget of gold that can spur my thinking. It might be an inspirational quote or a link to something interesting they're working on or even a complaint they have about their jobs. In some form or fashion, though, I get a little jolt that can keep me going--or at least gets me thinking. 


One of the things that I can count on my social networks bringing to me are great TEDTalks. Some are oldies but goodies, while others are newly posted. Often the right talk comes to my attention at the right time--a little piece of serendipity that I try to notice and that boosts my day.

My Journals

 I keep two types of journals. Actually, three.

The first is a diary-type arrangement where I write about what's on my mind, from the personal to the professional. It's an emotional and mental dumping ground that helps me clear my thoughts. It's also a place where I take notes on books I'm reading, including recording key quotes that "speak" to me.

I also keep an art journal where I draw, paint, collage, make lists and generally express myself visually. This is can also a dumping ground of sorts, but it is more often a source of inspiration. And the process of art-making can get me in a good head space for dealing with a problem or seeing something in my life differently. The image below is from one of my visual journals. 


The third type of journal I keep are idea books. These tend to be more professionally focused and will contain all of my notes, thoughts, articles, etc. related to different project ideas I have. I'm very interested in the power of conversation right now, so I have one devoted to that. I also want to do more face-to-face retreats, so I have a book on that. Some of these idea journals are a mish mash of different smaller ideas, but others--like the Conversation project and the retreat stuff--merit their own book. 


Key to my journal-keeping is a regular practice of reflection on my journals. I will set aside time to go back through what I've written, which often leads me to see themes that have been happening for awhile across my personal and professional spheres that I've done nothing (or very little) to address. Although I find it relaxing and helpful to dump things in my journal, what is even more helpful is having a regular practice of reviewing and reflecting. At a minimum, it shows me where my blind spots and ongoing dreams are. When the process works really well, it will spur me to action. 


While I love time to think and reflect, I find that talking to other people can be a powerful source of inspiration too. Sometimes narrating what's going on with me gives me a way to hear myself say things that I didn't realize I was thinking.

I also enjoy hearing what's happening with other people. I like asking them what they want MORE of in their work, which often helps me further refine what I like and don't like. I also like finding out what problems and issues people grapple with, as this sometimes gives me ideas for things I might be able to do to help fill in the gaps. For example, last year's end-of-year women's retreat was partially the result of conversations I was having with different women in my life who expressed a need for reflection and connection time. This spurred me to put together a weekend retreat that gave all of us space to do that together. 


I am a voracious and eclectic reader. I have business books, novels, psychology texts,  New Age chakra books and art collections littering my bedside. My Kindle is an equally weird conglomeration of whatever captures my interest at the moment. What I love is that eventually (always!), there will be some strange coming-together of ideas from two disparate sources that somehow spark my thinking. Plus I'm usually able to pull something from my reading that I can use in conversations (see above) to further inspire discussion.


In the past few years, I've gotten in the more regular habit of going away on weekend retreats to give myself time and space for reflection and conversation, often for a particular reason.  I already mentioned the end-of-year women's retreat I did last December, which I plan to do again this year. That retreat was all about transitioning from 2011 to 2012.

This past weekend my husband and I went away to a little cabin in the Poconos where we both worked on some of our creative projects. We returned home, thinking of some projects we want to work on together, as well as feeling renewed in our relationship and in our sense of what we want to be working towards in our lives. 

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For me, retreats are a critical inspirational experience. I try to enter into them with intention (What aspects of my life do I want to work on? What do I want and need to experience to feel renewed?). I give myself time for both quiet reflection and writing time as well as for conversations and connection because I find that both are needed for me to feel truly inspired and clear about where to go next. I've never been disappointed and I'm now becoming more purposeful in planning them. (BTW--West Coast friends--check out Christine Martell's upcoming Women Unplugged Retreat if you're feeling the need to go away!) 

So these are my major sources of inspiration. . . let's keep the ball rolling. What are your sources of inspiration? 


Managing Your Career When You Have More than One

Multiple identities

One of the hardest questions for me to answer is "what do you do for a living?" Unlike most people I know, I don't have one, simple bite-sized nugget to describe what I do.  Depending on who you are, I might tell you that I do one or more of the following: 

  • Help people work through career transitions and develop their career/professional development plans. 
  • Work with government agencies and nonprofit organizations to help them develop programs and services that support unemployed and disadvantaged workers, such as people with disabilities. 
  • Provide training and technical assistance on how to use social media for job search and to support workforce development programs. 
  • Develop and facilitate leadership academies and training sessions.
  • Facilitate communities of practice.
  • Educate on reflective practices. 

You can see the connections between some of these "jobs", but some you can't see. As a self-employed professional, the work I do is largely based on the skills I've developed and places in the market where I've seen a need. At any given time, I'm doing work in several of these areas. 

Marci Alboher wrote a few years ago about One Person/Multiple Careers, referring to a phenomenon she called the "slash career"--people pursuing multiple careers simultaneously. Marci was a woman ahead of her time, as I believe increasingly many of us will be pursuing this kind of career path. While some of us may become hyper-specialists, others (like me) are building a multi-pronged career where we pursue multiple opportunities at the same time. 

For the most part, I think this is a positive. I diversify my funding streams this way and a "slash career"  keeps me fresh and exposes me to different people and different ways of viewing the world. This career path also keeps me from getting bored. 

But there are downsides too, like what to put on business cards and my LinkedIn profile?  How to build an "online brand" that doesn't confuse people? How to divide up my time and ongoing professional development so that I'm building skills that will help me in all these different areas? 

What is most challenging is helping other people to understand what I do when so many of us still have fixed in our heads the idea of a single career path or "job." People want to hear one single thing, like "I'm a nurse" or "I'm a career coach" or "I build bridges." It's hard for them to accept that you can be doing several different things at once. 

Many of us are going to have to figure this out though, because in a world of diminishing full-time "jobs," more of us are going to be pursuing the "slash career." It's going to be the key to our career growth and survival.  And honestly, it's a return to how things used to be--think Benjamin Franklin as your career role model. 

One book that helped me think through this a few years ago was The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One. Another was Refuse to Choose: Use All of Your Interests, Passions and Hobbies to to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams. (A side note--why do all non-fiction book titles seem to require a colon? It's a trend that disturbs me.) 

At any rate, I'd love to hear from those of you who may be pursuing the Renaissance Man/Woman approach. How do you manage your different paths? How do you continue to grow and learn professionally, especially if your skill sets aren't particularly related? What do you love about your path? What do you struggle with? What do you think of the slash career as a professional strategy? 

Is Your Fear Sapping Your Passion?


This morning I'm re-reading Steven Pressfield's Do the Work. It's become a go-to-book when I need to remind myself how to start creative projects and move through the massive resistance I face whenever I want to bring something to life. 

Lately, I've been sifting through various options for where I want to go next, noticing that I've lost some of the passion that had fed what felt like awesome ideas only a few months ago. And then I read this: 

You may think that you've lost your passion, or that you can't identify it, or that you have so much of it, it threatens to overwhelm you. None of these is true. 

Fear saps passion. (my emphasis)

When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustable well of passion. 

This is true. This is what happens. I will feel inside me a great excitement about a potential path and then, just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, the fear will rise inside of me.

If my creative project is a potential money-making venture, then most certainly the fear that it will NOT make money comes up first. This is followed by a whole host of other fears--that I will fail or look stupid, that others will react poorly or that it's not really a great idea after all. Also endless permutations of these basic fears. You know the drill.  It is the work of my "rational" mind (which I think is really just my nay-sayer mind) that can quickly overwhelm the initial thrill of knowing that I've hit on something important. 

Pressfield reminds me, though, that this fear is just part of Resistance (with a capital "R"). And that Resistance is an inevitable part of the creative process, an external force that rises up to meet us when we try to bring something great into the world. He says:

We can navigate Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or purpose that we must follow before all others. 

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it. (my emphasis) 

The passion-sapping fear I feel is just a tool from the Resistance toolbox, a trick of the mind meant to dissaude me from pursuing those things that are most important for me to go after. 

Increasingly I realize that we all know in our hearts what we really want to do. But then Resistance sets in and saps the passion that would helps us move through to what we want. It uses its Jedi mind tricks of fear and distraction to keep us from creating what we know we want to create. 

This morning I'm working with my fears, using the List of 100 technique. Just recogizing the impact of fear on passion and getting those fears down on paper is doing wonders to restore me. 

How do your fears sap your passion? What happens if you work with your fears? That may be the best way to get the passion to return. 

Moving from "Or" to "And"


I've noticed that for many of us, careers are binary things--we do this job OR that one. I can work for someone else OR I can work for myself. 

Twenty years ago, even ten years ago, this either/or thinking made a lot of sense in a more stable world with relatively limited options. For good or ill, that world has changed though. There is little place for binary thinking. We need to move from careers based on "Or" thinking to careers that embrace "And" thinking. 

Try looking at some of the career decisions and issues you have before you. How might they be transformed by removing the word "or" and replacing it with "and"? 

Quit Looking for Answers. Start Managing Your Career with Better Questions


One thing I've noticed in my 15+ years of helping people figure out what they want to be when they grow up is how uncomfortable we are with questions. Despite the fact that the questions we ask inevitably shape the results and opportunities we find, we are so focused on answers, we don't pay attention to asking the right questions. Nor do we pay attention to how our questions can help us frame new opportunities. 

I'm a big believer in managing your career with questions. I think it is by grappling with our questions that we come to true insight and clarity about our journey. But we need to get better at asking powerful questions and make questioning a regular career habit. 

What is a Powerful Question?

The Art of Powerful Questions says that a powerful question:

  • Generates curiosity in the listener.
  • Stimulates reflective conversation.
  • Is thought-provoking.
  • Surfaces underlying assumptions.
  • Invites creativity and new possibilities.
  • Generates energy and forward movement.
  • Channels attention and focuses inquiry.
  • Touches a deep meaning
  • Evokes more questions. 

For me, I know when I've hit on the "right" question when I feel an urgency to explore and answer it OR when I feel huge resistance about dealing with it. Often that resistance is a sign that I REALLY need to deal with that particular question!

If the question feels "dead"--if I get a "been there, done that" response to the question, then I know I haven't found a question that's really powerful for me. I need to keep exploring and tinkering until I get it right. 

Some Resources for Exploring Questions and Your Career

If you're looking for some help in getting started with using questions for career management and exploration, check out some of these resources: 

  • The Art of Powerful Questions--written for the World Cafe community, this is an excellent guide to developing your own powerful questions. Hint: ask more "why," "how" and "what" questions.
  • The Question Log--keep track of your questions and look for trends and themes. 

Another techniqe to try is what Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregerson, in their recent Harvard Business Review article Find a Job Using Disruptive Innovation , call "questionstorming": 

Take four minutes a day to write down nothing but questions about your job search. Doing this consistently for thirty days will take you down new paths as your questions change and your patterns of action follow. For example, an executive in his mid-thirties and in a career transition began by asking "How can I make a bucket of money?" Over time, that question changed to "What will make me happy for the long term?" Which then changed to "How do I create something for the long term?" As a result, he's moved into different kinds of job interviews, landing one with a big multinational company that otherwise would never have happened had he not changed his question.

Questionstorming can be combined with the Question Log to give you some really powerful insights. 

Finally, many of the people I work with have had great success in using visuals to explore their career questions. It's the idea behind my Career Clarity Image sessions, where you can work with up 3 big questions--which usually leads to more and deeper questions. And ultimately some clarity. 

Questioning is a Fundamental Career Management Skill

I'm increasingly finding that developing your skills in the art of the question is one of the best investments in your career you can make. Not only do powerful questions help you gain clarity about your own career, the ability to ask and use powerful questions in other facets of your professional life is a cornerstone for success.  Focusing on answers is easy in the age of Google. It's the questions that really make the difference.