Finding One’s Calling with Mohamed Ali

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.” ~Rumi

Choose to be Curious is a show all about curiosity. We talk about research and theory, but mostly it is conversations about how curiosity shows up in work and life. This week’s conversation was all about the intersection of those two and discerning the “strange pull” of what we really love.

Listen to Choose to be Curious #38: Finding One’s Calling with Mohamed Ali

My conversation with Moe — meandering as it was, gentle, thoughtful, not racing to any conclusions or hard stops — reminded me of the discussion that unfolded with Revs. Carolyn Richar and Junsen Nettles in an earlier program about curiosity, spirituality and faith. “It is,” said Junsen Nettles, “about the journey.”

Listen to Curiosity to Go, Ep. 11: “It’s About the Journey”

All of which kept drawing me back to a new favorite book entitled, Wait, What? by James E. Ryan, current dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and soon to be president at University of Virginia. Built on his 2016 commencement speech, the slim little volume elaborates just enough on what he calls the “five essential questions of life.” Honestly, the speech isn’t much of a speech – short, not entirely polished, unassuming in an oddly reassuring way. But it’s message is a zinger. It gleams. Mesmerizing in all the best ways. It’s the kind of distillation I’d love to make just once in my life. My hat is off to Mr. Ryan.

Wait,Lest I keep you in suspense any longer, here are the five questions:

  1. Wait, what?
  2. I wonder…
  3. Couldn’t we at least…?
  4. How can I help?
  5. What truly matters?

and a bonus question, from a poem by Richard Carver, And did you get what you wanted from life, even so?

Sit with those a moment and feel their heft.

Deceptively simple, not even all questions. Pithy. They are an embodied choice to be curious – a choice to bring energy and optimism and a commitment to good to each moment. I find them profoundly empowering. They anchor curiosity in a value even greater than itself, one bound up in a desire to understand, contribute, leave the world a better place. They are a call to action, a summons to the journey that is a life well-led.

I would like to live in a world where to call people “incurious”is the worst that can be said of them.

I would like to live in a world where to call people “incurious” is the worst that can be said of them. Not only because I think it is a damning statement on its own merits, but because right now we have so many other much more dreadful behaviors to eradicate and I’d like them all gone — gone, with just “incurious” left to be addressed.

Ryan’s “big five” are an antidote to the incurious. Go through life asking yourself those questions in moments large and small and see what that does to your mindset. This is the stuff of radical transformation. All we need do is ask…

To use another favorite curiosity frame: How might we approach each situation allowing ourselves to be surprised, with active inquiry, open to options, asking rather than presuming, anchored in what really matters, finding satisfaction in the journey, even so?

 

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