"What you invite is what shows up"
I brought a question with me to the Junto Retreat this year. In the spirit of "getting out what you put in," I thought it necessary to focus my personal reflection on this question and see what I could make of it. Unfortunately I found it hard to remain concentrated and became unsure of whether my lack of focus or the inadequate quality of the question pulled me away from insightful opportunities. I asked myself, naively and honestly, "What is the best use of my career as a force for good?"
It wasn't until the very end of the second day that I realized why I wasn't coming up with any responses. Susan, one of the pastors at Christ Church, led a session about what it means to ask a good question. We discussed ideas of scope and semantics, attitude and timing. Out of our dialogue I was struck by one phrase in particular: "what you invite is what will show up." The context in which you ask a question is the same context within which you'll receive the answer. Any preconceptions you invite are going to present themselves in the response. I flipped back a few pages in my notebook to that original scribbling: I was asking a perfectly good question in a careless way.
The question I asked was born of a competitive attitude that I've spent years actively moving away from; it was an old context. Digging into the semantics, the word "best" connotes a sense of the absolute, of quantitative analysis, of direct comparison with others in my life. It reduces "good" to a measurement someone can take, as though there's some point system involved. Additionally, my use of the word "career" creates some artificial boundary between my life and my work such that being a "force for good" would apply to each of them selectively. Competing for "goodness" and separating life from work are not attitudes I champion now but artifacts of a different time, one with harder lines and a fearful desire to express anything and everything in mathematical terms.
I asked the wrong question. I realize now that asking a good one will take as much time as answering it. It's a skill to be cultivated. It's obvious to me now how sitting down and mindlessly jotting something in my notebook at the start of the Junto is not going to produce an incredible insight; I've got to do the hard work of searching, staying honest, and ditching those notions of the absolute to tend to a garden of ideas that might one day sprout something beautiful.
I hit reset now: "What do I ask of myself?" I'm anxious to explore.