Thank you Alexandra Franzen for these 100+ questions to ask your friends, family and dinner companions. She shared these because the U.S. is having Thanksgiving family gatherings coming up this week. These conversation starters come in handy anytime:
Are there any household chores you secretly enjoy? Which ones — and why?
Are there any laws or social rules that completely baffle you?
Are you a starter or a finisher?
Are you afraid of flying in airplanes? (How come?)
Are you living your life purpose — or still searching?
Are you useful in a crisis?
Can you tell when someone is lying?
Can you tell when someone is telling the truth?
Do you believe in magic? When have you felt it?
Do you believe that everyone deserves forgiveness?
Do you believe that people deserve to be happy?
Do you ever hunt for answers or omens in dreams?
Do you ever yearn for your life, before Facebook?
Do you have a morning ritual?
Do you have any habits you wish you could erase?
Do you have any irrational fears?
Do you have any personal rituals for the end of the year?
Do you have any physical features that you try to cloak or hide? How come?
Do you like to be saved — or do the saving?
Do you secretly miss Polaroid cameras?
Do you think everyone has the capacity to be a leader?
Do you think we should live like we’re dying?
Do you think we’re designed for monogamy? (Why or why not?)
Do you think you’re currently operating at 100% capacity?
Ever fantasize about being in a rock band? What would your group be called?
Has a teacher ever changed your life? How so?
Have you ever (actually) kept a New Year’s Resolution?
Have you ever been genuinely afraid for your physical safety?
Have you ever dreamed about starting a business? (Or if you’ve already got one — a new business?)
Have you ever fantasized about changing your first name? To what?
Have you ever fantasized about writing an advice column? What’s the first question you’d like to answer?
Have you ever had a psychic reading? Did you believe it? Was it accurate?
Have you ever had to make a public apology? (How come?)
Have you ever met one of your heroes?
Have you ever met someone who was genuinely evil?
Have you ever pushed your body further than you dreamed possible?
Have you ever screamed at someone? (How come?)
Have you ever set two friends up on a date? (How did it go?)
Have you ever stolen anything? (Money, candy, hearts, time?)
Have you ever unplugged from the Internet for more than a week?
Have you ever won an award? What was it for?
How do you engage with panhandlers on the street?
How do you reign in self-critical voices?
How long can you go without checking your emails or texts?
How would you fix the economy?
If a mysterious benefactor wrote you a check for $5,000 and said, “Help me solve a problem — any problem!” … what would you do with him or her?
If social media didn’t exist, how would your life be different?
If you could choose your own life obstacles, would you keep the ones you have?
If you could custom blend a perfume or cologne, what would it include?
If you could enroll in a PhD program, with your tuition paid in full by a mysterious benefactor, what would you study — and why?
If you could have tea with one fictional character, who would it be?
If you could master any instrument on earth, what would it be?
If you could save one endangered species from extinction, which would you choose?
If you could sit down with your 15-year old self, what would you tell him or her?
If you had an extra $100 to spend on yourself every week, what would you do?
If you were heading out on a road trip right this minute, what would you pack?
If you were searching through an online dating website, what’s the #1 quality / trait that would attract you to someone’s profile?
If you were to die three hours from now, what would you regret most?
If you wrote romance novels or erotic fiction, what would your “pen name” be?
Is there something that people consistently ask you for help with? What is it?
Is war a necessary evil?
What are you an expert on? Is it because of training, lived experience, or both?
What are you bored of?
What are you devoted to creating, in the New Year?
What are you freakishly good at?
What are you starving for?
What do you value most: free time, recognition, or money?
What is your spirit animal?
What was the best kiss of your entire life?
What was the best part of your day, so far?
What was the most agonizing hour of your life?
What was your proudest moment from the past twelve months?
What was your very first job?
What was your worst haircut / hairstyle of all time?
What’s going to be carved on your (hypothetical) tombstone?
What’s in your fridge, right this moment?
What’s in your pocket (or purse, or man-purse) right now?
What’s one dream that you’ve tucked away for the moment? How come?
What’s one mistake you keep repeating (and repeating)?
What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of — but would never put on your résumé?
What’s something you’ve tried, that you’ll never, ever try again?
What’s the best birthday cake you ever ate?
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
What’s the hardest thing you ever had to write — and why?
What’s the last book that you couldn’t put down?
What’s the most out-of-character choice you’ve ever made?
What’s the strangest date you’ve ever been on?
What’s the title of your future memoir?
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
What’s your definition of an ideal houseguest?
What’s your guiltiest of guilty pleasures?
What’s your most urgent priority for the rest of the year?
What’s your personal anthem or theme song?
What’s your recipe for recuperating from extreme heartbreak?
When was the last time you astonished yourself?
When was the last time you got stuck in a rut? How did you get out of it?
When was the last time you saw an animal in the wild?
When you see peers / competitors getting things you want, how do you react?
Where & when do you get your best ideas?
Who is the last person that deeply disappointed you? (What happened?)
Would you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?
Would you like to write a book? (About what?)
Would you rather be a lonely genius, or a sociable idiot?
Would you rather have a live-in massage therapist, or a live-in chef?
Would you rather have an extra $200 a day, or an extra 2 hours a day?
And of course…
What are you most grateful for, right now, in this moment?
I usually don’t like posts with lists but this one by Ryan Holiday resonated: 40 Ways To Live A Full Life. Bookmarked.
“The greatest output of your careers will be relationships”
From 10 things I wish every design student knew, by Cameron Moll. A great read.
“…We call a brand or a person authentic when they’re consistent, when they act the same way whether or not someone is looking. Someone is authentic when their actions are in alignment with what they promise.
Showing up as a pro.
Even when you don’t feel like it.
Especially when you don’t.”
– Seth Godin
Read the full post defining authenticity.
“A single change can happen overnight, but nothing is going to suddenly transform culture. Culture is cumulative—it’s composed of all previous decisions made by a group of people. Bit by bit, a company can make different trade-offs, and over time, this is how culture turns around.”
– Greg McKeown in this article.
“Utka Eskimos have no concept of “Anger.” The Tahitians have no concept of “Sadness.” This last item is very difficult for Westerners to accept… life without sadness? Really? When Tahitians are in a situation that a Westerner would describe as sad, they feel ill, troubled, fatigued, or unenthusiastic, all of which are covered by their broader term pe’ape’a.”
From How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, via an article on New Neuroscience Reveals 3 Secrets That Will Make You Emotionally Intelligent
“Research shows that technology has increased the “asshole problem,” as Sutton puts it, because people are much more likely to be mean if they don’t have to make eye contact.”
This Stanford Professor Has a Theory on Why 2017 Is Filled With Jerks, by Jessica Pressler
‘I wish you luck, and stubbornness, and the absence of the need for a permission slip from anybody. Just go fucking do it.’
– Elizabeth Gilbert
Via this interview with Rachel Khong on okreal.co
“Community is critical for creative folks because creating the work is so inwardly focused. … Participating in a community becomes a way to let some sympathetic people into your process so you don’t go crazy, while still protecting the work in its unfinished and fragile state. I see community as people working parallel to one another, sharing information and resources freely with each other. This is how useful information spreads around and how creative people find new opportunities.”
– Frank Chimero
Read the full post: Back to The Cave
“A life that doesn’t include hard-won accomplishment and triumph over obstacles may not be a satisfying one. There is something deeply fulfilling — even thrilling — in doing almost anything difficult extremely well. There is a joy and pride that come from pushing yourself to another level or across a new frontier. A life devoted only to the present — to feeling good in the now — is unlikely to deliver real fulfillment. The present moment by itself it too small, too hollow. We all need a future. Something beyond and greater than our own present gratification, at which to aim or feel we’ve contributed.”
— The Triple Package
Found in this article: If It Doesn’t Suck, It’s Not Worth Doing
“The pain is a kind of challenge your mind presents — will you learn how to focus and move past boredom, or like a child will you succumb to the need for immediate pleasure and distraction?”
— Robert Greene
Found in this article: If It Doesn’t Suck, It’s Not Worth Doing
“The greatest creators train not only in their chosen fields, but in the alchemy of fear.”
– Jonathan Fields
From this interview in which Jonathan talks about his book from 2012 on Uncertainty.
There’s no such thing as a 15 minute call, or coffee, or meeting with someone you don’t really know.
I keep coming back to this article by Jason Fried
This is clever: You have to go off-line to read this article.
I have daily conversations with friends and peers about how much we all dislike the algorithms on Twitter and Facebook. I have yet to find someone who argues that these changes improved the experience. As someone who creates digital products myself, I am heartbroken how Algorithmic Engagement is now ruling our online experience. Call me idealistic, but I don’t think every decision should be driven by the bottom line. Here’s an idea: Respect User > Profits.
This article on the topic is quite sobering: This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for Profit, by Tobias Rose-Stockwell
“There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.”
Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?
“Nostalgia, which fuels our resentment toward change, is a natural human impulse. And yet being forever content with a spouse, or a street, requires finding ways to be happy with different versions of that person or neighborhood.”
To Stay Married, Embrace Change, by Ada Calhoun
“System innovations almost always involve rejecting the standard metrics as a first step in making a difference. When you measure the same metrics, you’re likely to create the same outcomes. But if you can see past the metrics to the results, it’s possible to change the status quo.”
– Seth Godin
Instead of the easy numbers…
“Life can disappear on us just like a cup of coffee consumed on autopilot. In other words, to really experience life itself, as opposed to just more thinking about life, we need to remember we’re having an experience.”
The Alternative To Thinking All The Time
“Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs.”
When Things Fall Apart: Tibetan Buddhist Nun and Teacher Pema Chödrön on Transformation Through Difficult Times
“We can be the kind of people who lead with their hearts and behave to those around them in an ethical, honest, and kindly manner that creates for those who enter that three feet around us a feeling of peace that also serves to steady the self.”
Your Three Feet of Influence, by Sharon Salzberg.
“Having a profitable business doesn’t mean squeezing the lemon for every last bitter drop. It isn’t all or nothing. You can be profitable and generous. Profitable and fair. Profitable and kind. These aren’t opposite ends of some moral spectrum. Quite the contrary.”
Why we choose profit, by Jason Fried