Of all the small-talk questions people usually ask, the one I avoid asking is “What do you do?” I’m not interested in people’s job titles, which rarely lead to conversations. You know how it goes: “What do you do?” “I’m an IT consultant.” “Oh.” If you’re particularly diligent, you might ask a number of questions like “What kind of consulting?” “Software.” It’s like pulling teeth, and it doesn’t tell me anything about what lights people up.
When people ask me, “What do you do?”, I often answer that with something along the lines of “My passion is helping people connect and collaborate,” followed by a brief description of what I do and maybe a recent story showing how I work.
I picked up that tip from Make Your Contacts Count, where the authors advised people to introduce themselves using the “best-test” structure: teach people what you’re best at, and show them a test of that.
But I usually like preempting the question of “What do you do?” with a question of my own: “What’s your passion?” That makes people stop and think. If I know someone already, I ask, “What have you been excited about lately?” It’s much better than “How are you?” because the other person actually thinks about the answer instead of just tossing off the customary “Good. How are you?”
Mireille Massue sent me this link to 25 Passion-Finding Questions to Invite Someone to Talk about What They Love. The list has lots of variants on the questions I like asking. Pick a couple of those questions and use them in your next conversation, and see how much more interesting things get!
Jeff Muzzerall sent me this paper on the Benefits of Writing: Health and Productivity. The paper summarizes other research showing, among other things, that people who write about their long-term goals and their best possible selves become happier and more satisfied than people who write about trivial and short-term topics.
Might be a good reason to blog about what your ideal life would be like… =)
If everything went really, really well, what would life look like five years from now, when I’m 30?
Life: I have a wonderful relationship with W- and J- and other members of the family, full of experiences and laughter and deep moments. I’m close to my family and friends back in the Philippines, too, and we regularly chat over the phone, exchange stories and pictures, and visit. I can sew clothes I enjoy wearing, and I can take portraits that people like. I’ll have finally finished a book. =) I have plenty of friends that I’ve brought together so that they can meet my other friends, and they’ll also have formed good friendships among themselves. I’m always meeting people and connecting them with other people and ideas for making things happen.
Work: Whether I’m working at a large company or a small one, I’m helping people connect and collaborate. I divide my time between helping people connect, creating tools to support that, and teaching lots of people how to do what I do (or even better).
Matt Price e-mailed me about this wonderful piece of wizardry he added to YubNub (which is kinda like a command line for the Web). He set up the tpl command, which searches the Toronto Public Library. This prompted me to finally make YubNub the default handler for my Mozilla Firefox address bar, which you can also do by going to about:config and setting or creating the keyword.URL option to http://yubnub.org/parser/parse?command=
This is good stuff, and one of the many reasons why blogging saves me time and lets me hear about all sorts of interesting things. =) Matt, thanks for sharing!
Yes, videoconferencing should be the kind of thing anyone can get working at home, but technical glitches often come up.
I think there’s a market for at least one company that can set up an event space with a good screen, a computer, a reliable network connection, and a sound system. It beats having lots of people clustered around one laptop and spending most of the time struggling with technical issues. Market: business meetings during the day, globally dispersed families / friends at night and on weekends.
Anyone with that kind of business in Manila, please contact my mom. =)