Archive for challenging yourself

Asking questions, learning from others

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 9, 2012 by scratchyb

My mom likes to chat people up. With a few pointed questions, she can get almost anyone to spill an abbreviated version of their life story, or their dreams, or their skill set. It was always the skill set that interests her the most. She used to bug furnace installers, auto mechanics, and maintenance crews about what they were doing, and as a kid it drove me nuts.

It was downright embarrassing, having your mother constantly asking these questions. I refused to do the same. As a result, I never learned unless someone took it upon themselves to teach me. I didn’t ask, because I didn’t want people to find out that I didn’t know. And I didn’t know, because I never asked. It wasn’t a lack of curiosity, I had plenty of that. It was a deep sense of inadequacy that kept me from researching anything that couldn’t be learned from a book. And I just avoided situations that required new skill sets.

It took me the better part of a decade to break those habits in my adulthood, and I still find plenty of progress to be made. Over the past couple of years I started the practice of asking about any topic that I didn’t know about if it came up in conversation. That’s a first step, working with people you already know and situations that are fairly familier. But just walking up and talking to people is not my default behavior, even though I know how enlightening it can be. So I’m steadily trying to trick myself into developing the habit of encountering new people doing things that interest me and asking about the process

Just today I came home to find that the people across the alley from me had torn down their garage and seemed to be rebuilding it, by themselves.  These people have always interested me, because they have sculptures in their yard and I always had the sense that they were working on something in that garage of theirs.  So, did I stop to talk to them? I wish this post could have a more positive end, but really, I pulled onto my parking pad and brought the groceries into the house. Lesson learned, boundaries discovered. Now I just need to start pushing my toes over the line. I’ve done it before, I can do it again.