Big Learning Needs Big Questions

Take a minute to watch this:

If you’re like most people, you get so caught up counting the passes between certain players that you never see the gorilla. You were doing something we do all the time, paying attention to certain details versus others. The gorilla was there to be seen, but most of us never notice it.

Our capacity for attention is finite. In order to function, we have to make choices, conscious or unconscious, about what we’ll pay attention to. That’s selective attention.

So, what DO we pay attention to, especially if we want to learn big? Three women’s stories helped me reflect on this:

Sara Blakely, founder and owner of multi-million dollar hosiery company, Spanx, whose dad asked her every day when she was growing up, how did you fail today? Blake’s dad selectively attended to failure, something Blake attributes to her success in entrepreneurship. He helped her get comfortable with failure early in life.

Brene Brown, shame and vulnerability researcher, found that learning big means asking yourself, are you taking risks? Are you being vulnerable? She shares that it’s about getting comfortable with the fear and courage needed when others judge what you create.

Ava DuVernay, writer, producer and director, explains, when it comes to her most recent film, Selma, as well as her earlier films, that, “It’s about the power of voice.” For DuVernay, every creative act requires listening to her own voice, as well as those of the characters she creates.

If we want to learn and live big, like Blakely, Brown, and DuVernay, we need to ask ourselves bigger questions like,

  • How was I vulnerable today? What risks did I take?
  • When did I assert my voice today?
  • When did I pursue my passion? When did I play?
  • When was I persistent? Gritty?
  • How was I optimistic?
  • When did I invent today? What problems did I solve?
  • When was I courageous?
  • When was I creative? Innovative?
  • When was I caring? Generous? Kind?
  • When did I try to understand someone else’s point of view?

If you asked yourself just one of these questions every day for a week, you might see big changes. And you might begin to spend your time differently. You might also invite failure and fear, as well as courage, rather than working hard to avoid them.