Wonder — Connection Course Series #2

The Art of Accomplishment Podcast
The Art of Accomplishment Podcast
Wonder — Connection Course Series #2
/

Being in wonder helps you understand the value of the right question and If you’re in wonder, it’s a constant exploration. Questioning the assumptions that are in your mind is one of the quickest ways to get to wonder, where curiosity and awe are being experienced together.

“It’s really a point of view of looking at the world. Follow your wonder.  It´s a trail.  Just follow it in the conversation about the other person, about yourself.  In the conversation, just follow it.”

Welcome to the Art of Accomplishment, where we explore how deepening connection with ourselves and others leads to creating the life we want with enjoyment and ease.

My name is Brett Kistler.  I am an adventurer, entrepreneur and a self exploration enthusiast.  I am here with my co-host, Joe Hudson. Joe is a business coach who has  spent decades working with some of the world´s top executives and teams developing a unique model of human patterns that underpin how we operate with ourselves, each other and the world. A good entry point into this model is a mindset called VIEW, vulnerability, impartiality, empathy and wonder.  

Through understanding and cultivation we learn to easefully drop into the VIEW state of mind, deepening self awareness and increasing our connection with the world around us. To learn more about this podcast or courses, visit artofaccomplishment.com

Brett:  Most of us spend a lot of our time feeling a subtle pressure to know things, to understand our world so that we can make predictions, feel safe, and be seen as knowledgeable, but the moment we think we know everything is also the moment we stop learning. 

What if there’s always more to the story than we can ever know? How might living our lives from a consistent place of wonder give us more actionable information and opportunities, than clinging to what we think we know? This is the practice of wonder, the W in VIEW. Joe, can you tell me what you mean by wonder?

Joe: Yes, wonder is, there’s a lot of ways to describe it, but one of the ways to describe it is to say we’ve all felt it before. We all know that like [exhales]. Maybe some of us haven’t felt it since we were kids, but that’s something that we all know. What it is, it’s like curiosity without looking for an answer, because when you’re looking for an answer, you can just feel in your system, that your system constricts a little bit. 

If you’re just like, “Oh my gosh, what is happening here?” and there’s no pressure to find an answer.  An answer may come, but there’s no pressure.  Then the physical state remains expansive.

The other way to think of it is, it’s like curiosity and awe put together. The thing about awe, the reason I use that word in particular is, because if you’re awestruck by something, you have a recognition that it’s out of your control. It’s something that’s beyond you, beyond your ability to maybe even recognize in that moment. 

There’s only a few things in the way that the human psyche works that creates that.  Gratitude is another one, that creates that feeling of there’s something greater.  Acknowledging that you need things is another, because just all these things are outside of your control often.

Most of the time, we don’t say gratitude, like, “I’m really grateful that I kicked ass.” We might occasionally, but most of the time, we’re grateful for things that are beyond us, and that’s the thing about wonder. It has awe, because we acknowledge that there’s something beyond our ability to even maybe recognize.

That’s another way of thinking of it, but the other thing that’s particularly important to VIEW conversations is, that you’re in the question. There was a time in my life when this question arose and it was, “What am I?”, was basically the question. I was in that question for 10 years, and it wasn’t about trying to answer the question. It was about being in the question.

I could come up with answers, but every answer was based on some context. I could say I am my body, but then I would be in wonder for a while, and I’m like, “Well, which part of my body? If I cut my body in half, which part of my body is me?” To realize that even that isn’t me, what am I? The power of that was being in the question. It wasn’t ever finding the answer to the question. That’s another way to look at wonder is that you’re in the question.

Brett:  Right. It’s like the moment you come up with an answer, it’s like the search stops, but if you stay in the question, there’s always opportunity for some other aspect to come in, like some other aspect of yourself to be seen.

Joe: Exactly. Yes, that’s beautifully put. Yes.

Brett:  How does cultivating a persistent state of wonder benefit us? What does this do for us?

Joe: There are so many ways in which it does. If you just think about those times that you’re awestruck, imagine a life when you’re awestruck all the time, and just imagine living a life where that is 10%, 20% more of your life, just even 10% or 20% more awestruck by life. There’s this thought process that people share about miracles and that actually we’re experiencing miracles all the time, but we’re so used to them or we can describe enough of them.

We can describe the sun, for instance. You can just be awestruck by the sun. You can answer forever how it got formed maybe and how it’s working, or you see it every day so there’s nothing to be awestruck about, but if you really just contemplate like, “Why? Why sun? Why universe? Why cosmos?” Goodness, how did it– Yes, all this stuff happened, but how did it actually come to pass that we were circling the sun? It’s just awe-inspiring and it leads you to places that you can’t get to any other way.

I was listening to, out of all people, recently the head of Amazon, and he talked about the beginning of his day, he would just wander. He just wanders in his mind and in the space, that’s part of what he does because there’s a harvest from wandering or from being in wonder and just exploring without looking for a place to land. There’s a harvest that comes from that, because you discover all sorts of cool stuff.

This applies in business and in relationships. Oftentimes, when people are in relationships, one of the things that you see is that everybody thinks they know everybody. [laughs] They categorize everybody and then the relationship gets dull, otherwise, if you’re in wonder, it’s a constant exploration. Who I am, when I married my wife, is very different than who I am today, and there’s constantly an evolution to be discovered in my wife and for her to discover in me. That keeps our relationship fresh, keeps a business fresh in the exact same way.

It’s nice in the body to be in wonder.  It just feels really good. It’s quite an enjoyable thing. Another thing that it does is, it’s quite an antidote to fear. If you, say, do this experiment, close your eyes and imagine you are running from a tiger. The tiger is coming and it’s getting close. You can hear the footsteps, you can hear its breath.  It’s panting to catch you, and you’re running as fast as you can and you don’t really think there’s any way out. You know it’s about to come and pounce and now wonder, “How much does that tiger weigh?”

You can’t hold the fear if you’re in wonder and you can’t be in wonder, particularly, if you’re holding the fear. To reflect on what you are in wonder about immediately does something to the fear, the more subtle fears that may be running through you. That’s another one.

Brett:  It’s like the fear itself is something that optimizes us to produce a fast result and a fast output but not to process more deeply. I think that’s a good thing sometimes. I imagine, if we walk around being constantly awestruck by the sun and the universe, that must have its drawbacks. There are people who do that constantly and they’re disconnected from the world. They’re not taking any action.

Joe: One more thing before we go there. One more thing is just to say, that the other thing that it benefits you being in wonder is that it– In today’s world, it’s really not the answer. In the age of Google, anybody can find an answer. It’s really the right question, are you asking the right question? Being in wonder helps you ask the right questions. One person can spend their life building Google and another person can spend their life building the local tire shop, and they can both work just as hard as each other. It’s just a different question that they’re living in.

Or one person can ask, “What’s the phone that everybody will use?” Another person will ask the question, “What’s the phone that’s easy to use?” You’re going to get two different phones. Being in wonder really helps you understand the value of the right questions, is the last one.

Brett:  Right, it can help you break out of the limited context of your previous question into a bigger question.

Joe: Yes.

Brett:  Which brings you back to that question that I just had of if we’re constantly breaking out of the limited question into the biggest question of why sun, why universe, how do we ground ourselves in that? Is there a going too far with this wonder thing?

Joe: I don’t know anybody who can actually be in a perpetual state of wonder.  I’ve never seen that. There’s a way to have a pretty consistent awestruck experience of the world. 

It’s actually interesting. I was recently listening to all these people who’d lived over 100 years, and I’ve actually met a couple as well. There is something that they all have in common, is that they all have this just like, “Isn’t it wonderful?” Where they’re talking about, they eat this food and it was just so amazing or they were doing little things, but it was these little things in life that just created so much awe and joy and wonder in them.

Yet they were 100 years old or more, and they had friends and they had family and they had careers that they’ve lived through, but that was the thing that they all had in common. It’s just like kids are the same way. They have this amazing wonder in their worlds, and they’ve learned incredibly quickly. If you kill it completely, you can get a task done, but you might not get the right task done. Yes, there’s a place where wonder ebbs and flows.  It’s really about your access to it in the moment.

I think that there is this illusion of this person who’s constantly disassociated from life and they’re in this constant state of wonder. My experience of those people is that they’re not actually in a constant state of wonder. It’s good for books and stuff, but what they actually are is, they’re in a constant state of dissociation where whatever is happening in real life is very difficult for them. Their mode of being able to handle that isn’t to fight, it’s to disassociate. 

I don’t see people who are in a deep state of wonder too much. I just don’t. I haven’t seen it, but I can expect if you are in a state of wonder so much that you have stopped doing stuff, that obviously would go too far. 

One of the things that wonder does, interestingly, is it propels you to do stuff. “I’m really curious. How does this work?”, propels you to do stuff. Oh, wow, what would happen if I had this different kind of business or if I changed my business in this way, or if I looked at my wife this way, or if I looked at my best friend this way? It propels you to change the way you’re doing stuff, run experiments, and learn. When I see people in that deep level of curiosity, then there’s a lot of movement in their life. 

Now, if there’s other things that are happening that might stop them from taking action, that would be more things like depression or being lost in their head all the time in their thought, repressed anger, things like that, that would be a stuck feeling. I don’t know a lot of people who have that stuck feeling or anybody who has that stuck feeling who also has a lot of wonder. Because let’s say, you’re depressed and you have a ton of wonder, what happens? You’re like, “Huh, what’s making me depressed? What is depressed exactly?”

I don’t mean what is– like what part of me, what’s the me that’s depressed. What’s the me, that can see through, that can see I’m depressed? How does that work?

Brett:  How is this feeling of depression being in– like in my body?

Joe: Right, and as you start asking those questions, that depression starts to alleviate, because the depression is being created mostly because of a critical voice in the head that there’s no curiosity about. You can just turn that curiosity right to the critical voice in the head and things will change pretty quickly, if you can consistently have that state of wonder about the voice in your head, not trying to solve it, but just to be in awe of like, “Whoa, what is this thing constantly managing me?” [laughs] “What gives it the right? What makes it thinks it’s right? What makes it think it’s good at its job, when it’s created complete stagnation in my system? What makes it think it’s good at its job, if it’s still having to manage me over the same shit 10 years later, like what is happening here? 

That state of awe and wonder is going to shift a lot. It’s going to create– you can just feel how that creates movement. I’ve never really seen people stop doing– Obviously, if you’re in a state of wonder so much that you are like can’t [chuckles] you can’t complete a sentence, because you’re so in awe of the language, that’s going to get problematic. I’ve just never seen it.

Brett:  The example of the old people reminds me of something I learned recently about dementia, where there are people who die, who have a normal life and are vibrant throughout their older years, their later years, and then they die and their brain is autopsied, and they have the brain of somebody who has dementia but they didn’t have it. The difference between the people who don’t actually present it psychologically, are that they have– they’re constantly learning. They’re constantly in wonder so they’re constantly rewiring.

Even though the wiring is getting tangled, it’s developing new pathways all the time versus living in the same pathways that are just breaking down over time and then becoming less and less efficient.

Joe: Wow. I didn’t know that, that’s beautiful. You can start to feel it in your 40s and definitely in your 50s, this desire to stay in the neuropathways, to stay in the routine of life, and it just starts to take the joy out of life, and like look at how few people you see in their 70s who are living a joyful life, that exuberant life.  Their lives are great often when they’re in their 70s, outside of potentially some physical pain there. They’re retired, at least in America. They’re retired and they have a family and they– but there’s just no wonder in it.

Brett:  What happens to us, when we shut that wonder down? Like in the moment, let’s say in a conversation or a business negotiation where, for example, we’re worried about getting it right or being perfectly understood and so we shut down the wonder.  What happens then? More simply, I guess the question is what is the opposite of wonder?

Joe: [chuckles] The opposite of wonder is knowing, or wanting to be maybe seen as knowing since knowing is really impossible on one level of looking at it. The way I would say it is, I see this all the time, especially when I was a venture capitalist.  I saw this all the time, which was, people would come to me and they would make their pitch. People would come to me and they’d make their pitch and the standard way of thinking about it was, that they were going to come and impress me with their knowledge and show me that they had a really good business idea.

Then I would know that they have a really good business idea and then I would give them money. That would be the kind of the standard way that they would come to the meeting, which is weird, because as a venture capitalist, I probably should know more about it than they do, because I’m in 10 businesses or at least the same amount as they do. They’re coming in with this knowing, trying to share the knowing and what basically happens is, if I agree with them, I will fund it, and if I don’t agree with them, I won’t fund it, which is a very limited potential to fund it.

There’s just like this very skinny chance, that we’re going to agree, but if they come in with wonder, and I had this happen once. I remember I was so blown away by– it was a great company.  It was very successful. The CEO came in to raise the money and he was like, “Okay, what do you need to see to fund? What are the boxes that you need to check off?”

I immediately told him, because that would save me a shit ton of time, instead of having to listen to 10 slides on the total addressable market and what the market was like, as if I like hadn’t done that research or whatever. Then he just went through and went through exactly what I needed to hear. He started in a place of wonder instead of a place of knowing. He knew that I would be more attracted to him in a learning journey than I would in a being told what is right and what is wrong.

If you just think about that, like, you look at your friends who know what’s right and wrong and like how enjoyable is it to be around them? I don’t know how many companies I’ve been in where I see somebody and they’re like, that’s the problem person. I’m like, okay. Then you can meet the problem person. The problem person thinks they know everything. That’s the problem person. They think they’re right about everything. There is no wonder in their system.

Brett:  They’re also probably pointing at a lot of problem people because they know it.

Joe: Yes, that’s right. That’s right. They’re not in a learning journey with anybody. Nobody wants to be that. What people want to be is in a learning journey with each other. We like to have someone who knows some stuff, yes, it’s great. People are listening to this podcast right now hopefully with the idea that I might know something, but my job is to go on learning journeys with people. My job is to ask them what they know. Is to ask open-ended questions to them. My job is to assume that they know the best step that’s there for them in a way that I couldn’t.

How could I know that? I don’t know their whole history. I don’t know everything that happened to them. It doesn’t matter if I had the wisdom of every human being in the world, except for them, they still know more than I do about what they’re supposed to do next. If you’re in a state of knowing and trying to convince people of your knowing, that’s the opposite. [chuckles]

Then being attached to your knowing, which is utterly ridiculous on so many levels, because knowing is only relevant based on context. Meaning, let’s say, I know it’s bad to lie. That’s a context that I’m assuming. I’m assuming that we’re all in the same context of whatever it might be, say, suburban living, but if I’m in the context of hiding people from an authoritarian government who wants to kill them, that’s a different context. At least at that point, lying is more of a question. For me, it wouldn’t be a question. It would be, yes, I would lie to the authoritarian government, but there’d be more of a question about the right and wrongness of it.

Everybody has their own context. To think you know something is to not only assume that you know the right answer, but it’s also to assume that you know the context of the person that you’re going around with. It’s also to assume that they don’t have some wisdom in what they’re saying, which is ridiculous. We can’t be that. It’s far better to be in wonder, and then you’re in a journey with the people.  You’re both learning and it’s like your mutual freedom instead of you’re telling them something.

Brett:  Right. So how do you stop a shutdown of wonder from happening, this collapse into knowing? Wonder seems like it might be a pretty fragile thing sometimes, even being afraid of not being in enough wonder, telling myself, “Okay, now I’m going to walk around the world and wonder all the time– Oh, goddammit I’m not doing it.” Even that fear might be enough to cause us to start closing down. How do you keep the wonder channel open?

Joe: It’s a great question. It’s far more of an undoing, than it is doing. Effort is one of the things that makes wonder more difficult, but the trick is when I say it’s an undoing, if I say, “Okay, now I have to go and do wonder and I have to be in a wonder state of mind”, that immediately makes it harder to be in a wonder state of mind.  But there’s no moment where, if you look, there’s not something you’re curious about. Just keep it really simple all you have to– just look around your room right now. There’s something that’s wondrous.

You don’t know even how the bedsheets were made. You don’t know who made them. You don’t know if the company still exists. You don’t know about the detergents, and if you happen to be one of those people who knows exactly that, then you don’t know about the paint. There’s never a moment, especially when you’re with somebody else, or when you’re in nature when there isn’t this opportunity for awe. To try to get there takes you away, but to just recognize that there’s something in you, and if you see this with kids, they’re just in a state of wonder all the time.

I remember this psychological study of when children are most likely to smile when they’re infants, and it’s not when they’re about to be fed, which is what they thought, and they did this by facial positions of what a kid would see before feeding. It’s when they’re being engaged, where there’s learning happening. Young kids just love to learn until it gets kicked out of them by a parent or a teacher or something like that. Curiosity is our nature. It’s absolutely our nature, which means basically being in wonder and investigating, it’s in our nature.

All you have to do is undo everything that’s taking you away from your nature. That’s it. It’s simple. It’s just like, what is wonderful about this? What am I awestruck about? What am I curious about in a way that I don’t need to find an answer? Just what’s– what am I going to say next? [chuckles]

Brett: What are some examples or steps or pointers that we could bring from this podcast into our lives to cultivate a deeper sense of wonder. 

Joe: Yes, practice is good. It’s you’re asking yourself, what am I in wonder about right now? If you just do that 10 times a day, that’s a pretty tremendous way to get there. It’s really a point of view of looking at the world. If you think about a little kid, and he’s picking up a frog for the first time and how he looks, or she looks at that frog, that’s the way you can look at life. That’s the way you can look at your business.

If you were to, say just for a second, if you had two people who were looking at a business and both of them have the same level of knowledge, let’s say, and one of them was looking at it with immense wonder. One of them was looking at it with like, “I’m trying to solve the problem.” What do you think is going to happen with those two people? 

How do you inspire that in yourself, it’s just a question of intention. It’s not a question of doing. It’s not a question of effort. It’s just a question of getting in touch with that part. If you ever are not there, and you can’t find your way there, then I really suggest looking at the context of something or questioning the assumption of something.

Brett:  What do you mean by that?

Joe: Questioning the assumption is a great way to also get out of partiality and to become impartial as well. It means that if I say to you, “Life is challenging, because I don’t have enough work,” there’s so many assumptions in that. There’s an assumption that it’s challenging not to have enough work. There’s an assumption that I don’t have enough work. There’s an assumption that I should have more work. All of those things, instead, there could be other assumptions. There could be assumptions like, “Oh wow, I have free time to start my own business.” I could say, “There’s something here that’s asking me– an opportunity here to take my marketing to the next level.”

There’s all sorts of assumptions that one can make about having less work one week, then say, the next week or one year, say to the next year. Questioning the assumption that’s in your mind is one of the quickest ways to get to wonder, or in somebody else’s mind is one of the quickest ways, and then also, to question the context, right? I don’t have enough work in America is very different than I don’t have enough work in Africa, which is very different than I don’t have enough work in Iceland. They’re different experiences, and so what’s happening there? What makes you think your truth is truth everywhere or even true for you right now, because not having enough work for me is priceless? It’s like that free time is lovely.

Brett: With every tool like this, there’s always ways that they can be used in a way that’s performative or inauthentic. I’ve definitely found myself in a number of conversations where it felt like the other person was pretending to be interested in me as if they were acting out of some curiosity script. This kind of interaction feels really creepy and probing. How do we cultivate an authentic state of wonder without creeping people out as we practice and try to be in wonder?

Joe: You’re touching on some things that make– like if wonder gets a little tilted, it can become a strategy, and as soon as it becomes a strategy, it starts to feel creepy. I know people who are always asking questions, but that’s just to avoid any kind of intimacy about themselves. I know people who are asking questions, because it’s their way of trying to create intimacy. But if you’re trying to create intimacy, it’s not intimacy.

Yes, I see that happen a lot, and the answer is, simply, is don’t be inauthentic. The most simple answer is don’t use this as the strategy, have wonder for the sake of wonder for the gifts that it brings, for the feelings and sensations in your body that it creates, that awe creates and be there. It’s far more enjoyable than to be strategic about it or to try to avoid intimacy. Those are both far more painful states of existence to be in. That’s the easiest way to say it.

Brett:  I guess being strategic about it implies that there’s a certain outcome that you’re trying to get–

Joe: That’s right.

Brett:  –which is a certain kind of knowing.

Joe: Right, an outcome through defending yourself. If people are creeped out, if you really want to get into wonder, and if you notice that you’re asking questions and they start resisting, you can just be in wonder about that. You can be like, “Whoa, what’s making you feel creeped out right now?” [laughs] They might say, “I feel like I’m being probed. I feel like I’m under investigation.” Then you can be vulnerable or correct or say, “Oh wow. What do you want to ask me?”

You can also just apologize and say, “I’m sorry, I was asking you questions as a way to avoid myself or as an experiment.” Or whatever your ulterior motive was. The whole thing is in a frame of mind, and that’s when we get back to that thing, VIEW is a state of mind. If it starts becoming a technique, it’ll just cease to work. At least most of the time.

Brett:  In a lot of conversations, the context of the conversation is built around us being looked at as an expert or the holder of knowledge. This can happen often in work like in consulting or sales or speaking, or your role in this podcast, for instance. How do you stay in wonder when you are or your ideas are themselves the topic of discussion are in the spotlight and you’re expected to be delivering information rather than consuming it?

Joe: [laughs] I gave a talk I think three times, and the very beginning of my talk I was like, “I have no idea what I’m about to say.” I purposely got here on this stage, without preparation on purpose.

The only thing I had in my mind was to not be prepared when I came on the stage, because I want to talk about what life is like in this state of just being in this moment and seeing what happens, seeing what comes out. Oftentimes, during all these podcasts, I am curious about what’s going to come out of my mouth, and I’m in wonder of what does come out of my mouth often. 

Almost as similarly, which is ridiculous, this actually might [laughs] make everybody lose a little faith, people will tell me, they’ll be like, “Oh, this thing happened on your podcast. That was so great.” I’m like, “Really, I said that?” [laughs] I have no recollection of it. Sometimes I’m quite impressed with what I say, and sometimes I’m like, “Oh, that’s a little off.”

To me, being in the question with somebody is far more valuable. When I think about the idea of, let’s say, you watch a normal Ted Talk where there’s somebody who’s really there explaining some piece of knowledge, and it’s absolutely, totally fascinating about it. It’s a wonderful thing to listen to. It’s made even more wonderful if you see their own awe of the situation, if you see that they’re still in the question. That someplace in there, there’s a question that they’re still living in. Then you really want to be there with them.

Brett: It’s like they’re inviting you into the question with them and showing you a map of what they’ve seen so far.

Joe: Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s a whole different way than like, “Hey, I got through my Ted talk. I’m going to tell you what’s what, and I’m going to tell you the conclusion to have, I’m going to tell you there’s no more questions left.” You just see people are more likely to bristle unless they happen to agree with this person, or they’ve never thought about it before. 

The other thing that happens when you’re in that state of wonder, as the expert, as the knower, it happens to me all the time, you’ve witnessed this, is people are like, “I don’t agree with you.” I’ll be like, “Yes, I don’t agree with me entirely either,” because as soon as I switch the context, I can see, “Oh, yes. That’s not true.”

I can be speaking one moment about freedom of choice, that there’s choice. That’s a very useful thought for somebody who feels stuck and feels like they are a victim of things. I’ll talk all about choice and then somebody can say, “Man, there’s no choice. It’s all grace.” I’ll be like, “Yes, totally. It’s so true.” I can’t even decide what to think. I can’t even decide to stop thinking entirely or forever. Yes, I don’t have control over that. If I don’t even have control over the most basic things, then how can I have control over everything else? I don’t have any choice.

If you’re in that state of wonder, there’s no personal attachment to the knowledge, and there’s the ability to see the other sides of it, and to start understanding the context. That’s where a tremendous amount of freedom is, because most of our pain comes from defending an idea.

Brett:  That wonder about our choice or our internal experience is interesting. Each of these tools brings its own interesting twist when we direct them inward. What happens when we have wonder for ourselves and for our experience?

Joe: It’s really sweet. It’s like a little slice of heaven to be in a state of wonder about your internal experience. There was a time in meditation for a while where all I did was focus on the unknown. I would just be silent with my eyes closed, and I would just focus on what I didn’t know. It’s a really cool experience if you want to make a chance for yourself to do that. It’s so sweet. It’s also sweet, because all the things that you tell yourself, that inner critic, just it starts to lose all of its grip, if you’re able to focus on the wonder.

When your voice says, “You got to eat less, you have to work out more, whatever, you need to have a nicer butt,” that is met with wonder, “Well, what’s the nicer butt going to get me?” They’re like, “Then I’ll have somebody maybe who loves me for my butt.” If I look in the world, the people with the nicest butts, do they have the life I want? What’s happening here? There’s so much freedom.

Brett:  People could be in an entirely different context there. It’s like, “Well, if I have a nice butt, then I’m going to get a lot of attention. I don’t want the attention. I don’t want a bunch of creepy guys on me.”

Joe: Exactly, or creepy girls.

Brett:  Or girls. I don’t know why I use that from the other.

[laughter]

Joe: It’s quite a lovely existence to be in wonder about yourself. It’s far more neat instead of being like, “This is how I am, and this is how I need to change.” Be like, “I wonder what I’m going to do next. I wonder what’s making me do this again.”

Brett:  What’s your favorite example of a moment when bringing a little wonder to the moment changed everything for you?

Joe: I had an example recently, [chuckles] last night, [chuckles] we’ve left California because of the fires and the smoke. We went to Arizona, and we took our girls out to a stunning lake. When we were driving back, there was this steakhouse and there were political signs that were in contrast with my daughter’s political beliefs. My daughters are young, but societally right now, there is a lot of fire over the political system. A lot of people believe and have really strongly. My girls have adopted some of that stuff. I see these signs on a restaurant, which is pretty bold in America to potentially say no to half of your clientele because you’re so enamored of a political candidate.

My daughters didn’t like this political candidate. I was like, “Okay, we’re going to go eat there. Let’s go eat.” One was scared and one was like, “No. I don’t want to deal with these people.” I was saying, “Well, how is that any different than racism? If what you think they’re doing is ignorant, we’re not in control of our own ignorance, just as much as we’re not in control of our own race. What makes it okay to just not even want to be around?” That was the beginning of the wonder.

We have this new puppy. All of a sudden, some of the people around us were loud and boisterous. It was a desert bar steakhouse thing. They made the kids even more anxious for a while. Then all of a sudden, the dog got into– There’s awes, and there’s this connection, then the waiter was super nice, and there was just, all of a sudden, it was just like we were humans together again.

As we were driving home, I heard both of my daughters, interestingly, see some of the wisdom on the other side of the political argument. To be able to see like, “Oh, I see how they would view things this way, given this circumstance, given this thing.” Not that they agreed with it or disagreed with it anymore, but it was just like their heart opened up because they were in wonder about this whole situation.

It was an incredibly beautiful thing to watch. I think that that’s the way it is all the time. We come across all-knowing, and we don’t want it to be messed with, because we don’t want that feeling of uncertainty. It’s amazing what wonder does. Uncertainty doesn’t matter in wonder. It’s quite lovely.

Brett:  That’s beautiful. How can we expect our lives to change as we deepen our wonder?

Joe: More joy, more awe, quicker progress, deeper relationships. It changes stuckness, it opens up stuckness, more intimacy, [laughs] shit like that. All those cool and groovy things, man. It’s just life is better. We’re more capable. We’re more competent. You can be certain and still be in wonder. I think that’s the complication that people have a hard time understanding.

I know in my business what the next step is. I don’t know that it’s going to be the right step. I don’t know that a better next step isn’t going to show up a second from now. It’s not like I’m not a wonder of, “Well, how is this the best step?” I have a certainty over my next step. I know the next thing that I’m called to do.

When I’m talking to somebody, I might be completely baffled by what’s coming out of my mouth, which is a constant state of being, but I know that whatever comes out is the thing that’s supposed to be coming out. I’m not questioning myself. I’m not like, “Is that the right thing? How did that?” There’s a knowing of my truth. There’s a knowing of a process that works.

If somebody comes up with something else, I can totally be like, “Oh, what am I missing? What’s happening here? What am I not seeing?” It doesn’t stop me from being certain, but it stops me from thinking that I know. That’s what it stops me from. I don’t think that I know. I just know what the right next step is for me, or for what I’m here to do. I only know that that’s the right next step. For instance, if I’m taking the right next step, it might be just to find out how bad [chuckles] I’ve done it, or how wrong it is, or how messed up that idea was. It might be to learn. It might not be to succeed. It might be that I take that step only to find out, “Oh, I need to go back the other way.”

There’s a certainty that I’m living with that is not at all in conflict with wonder. I think that’s something that people get confused about in wonder.

Brett: I think that relates back to the dissociation version of not really in wonder. That story earlier in the episode.

Joe: Yes, that’s right. I just say being in wonder doesn’t mean that you’re not clear on the actions that you’re taking. It’s not like you’re not clear on like, “From my experience, this is the thing to do.” Then you’re totally open that something might stand against it this time.

Brett:  You’re in the clarity, but also ready to update what you think the next step is by constantly surveying for new information.

Joe: Yes, exactly. It’s the same way that mice move. Mice and other small mammals are desperately curious animals, but then it doesn’t make them hesitate. They’re going about their day, they’re sticking to the sides of the wall, collecting seeds, making decisions about left or right every two seconds with clarity, and yet, they have this deep level of, “What’s this? How do I– Can I get through here? What’s happening?”

Brett:  Unless they’re traumatized and freeze up in fear, which what we do sometimes.

Joe: [chuckles] Exactly. Yes, you can traumatize animals too.

Brett:  Let’s tie all of this back into VIEW, like a VIEW conversation. Can you summarize some pointers that we could use to bring more wonder into our view conversations?

Joe: The most important thing is just to follow your wonder. It’s a trail. You just follow it in the conversation about the other person, about yourself in the conversation, just follow it. If you’re going to have to hold an agenda, if you’re going to be partial about anything, be partial about staying in wonder. That’s the thing. You’re treating it, like I said, like a kid holding a frog or a lizard for the first time.

Also, just seek what you don’t know. Oftentimes, you’ll be presented with data from a person, “My mother did this, my father did this. This is how it’s affecting me.” What is it then to say, “What do I not know?” I just got told all this information. There’s a thought process. The first thing I’m supposed to do is, take all this information and then spit out a good question. 

What if the thing you’re supposed to do is first, find out all the things you don’t know, because often if someone tells you the story, they’re telling you all the things that they know. There’s no new information, but if you start focusing on what you don’t know, it might also be stuff that they don’t know. That’s another thing that you can do.

Then as we talked about questioning the context and the assumptions, those are all ways to be in wonder, but more importantly, it’s to be in awe of what’s happening for that person. It might be, you have this friend, and you have a friend who’s constantly telling you about how the boyfriend isn’t working. You’re just like, “Stop talking to me about this.” We all have this friend, or have had this friend at some point in our life, who is in their loop, and then they bring us into it with a conversation every week or so. 

What are you in wonder about there? What’s the thing that you don’t know? What’s the thing that you have just like how, how, how? Even maybe the question is, “How do you keep doing this? What is it that’s working for you here that keeps you in this relationship?” There’s something there always. That’s where you can go. It’s a lot easier to find if you’re not trying to lead them anywhere, because then it’s just a natural thing that arises in you.

Brett:  All right. Let’s close this episode a little bit differently. I’d love for you to tell me about your most spectacular, epic fail, wonder face plant, where just a little more wonder could have gone a long way but you just didn’t have it.

Joe: [laughs] All good. Let’s see. The biggest one. In college, I had the honor of being kicked out of my first college. Beyond that, I had the honor of having a 3.95 grade point average and getting kicked out of my college at the same time. That could only be done if I wasn’t knowing instead [chuckles] of wonder.

The way it worked was I was, because of my upbringing, rebellion was really the thing for me. That was my caricature. I went to college. They had all these rules. It was the beginning of a stronger morality in college. The college decided that there was going to be some moral education as well. I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all. I rebelled against it. That was my thing. I was being a punk. There’s no doubt about it.

People would come in and put signs in the dorm, and it would block the windows. The signs would be Christian Fellowship or whatever those things were. I would just take down the signs like, “Hey, if you can just cover my windows, I can just uncover my windows.” The people of power in the room or whatever, of a parent power in the room said, “What are we going to do about this?” I’m like, “I pay rent. I’m going to keep on taking the signs down.” [chuckles] That was my attitude. I was right in my mind. I couldn’t see their context. I was right. I was like, “You don’t have the right to do this.”

There were other things where the different things– I got busted once drinking in my room. There’s people who got busted smoking pot 10 times and nothing ever happened, but I got busted once. I was on a roof once, not correctly and whatever. Anyways, I got kicked out of the dorms. I got in trouble for one of these things that I did. 355M of the California Penal Code, annoying phone conversation. 

The powers at be, were really annoyed with me, because I was not being compliant, and I was not buying into the whole situation. I went to the ombudsman and I said, “Hey, this is ridiculous.” He’s like, “Yes, and it is totally ridiculous, just say you’re sorry.” [chuckles] I was like, “I’m not sorry. I don’t want to be sorry.” He was like, “Yes, but if you don’t, you’re going to get kicked out of college.” It’s a kangaroo court. This is the ombudsman. The person who, you just say, “I’m sorry”, and you’ll get a slap on the wrist. I didn’t say I was sorry.

I had the longest court thing that they had ever had. I had RAs defending me. I had a petition of 300 people. I had my professors come in and talk about how I contributed. All it did was just piss these people off more, and more, and more. I just flying in the face of them. I wasn’t on the learning journey with them at all. Then I got the response and they were like, “Okay well, so here’s our agreement. We’re going to kick you out of school for a year and we’re going to kick you out of the dorms for life.”

I had a history professor who didn’t know me at the time, [laughs] and he said, “How can I expect you to go out into the world and have healthy children if this is the way you’re going to behave?” It was something.

Luckily, I was still in my knowing after that. I threatened to sue the school. The 355M of the California Penal Code annoying phone conversation never landed. There were no charges, but the school, these authority figures, at the time, they did their thing. No doubt I was an ass. I just said, “I’m going to sue you guys. This is ridiculous. You can’t do this.” The Dean of students who wasn’t involved was like, “Yes, this is utterly ridiculous.” He suspended me for a quarter and out of the dorms for a year. Then I switched schools.

What I learned in that process was that being right doesn’t mean anything. Having the best database doesn’t make you the best database company. We have this idea that being right is important, but all the people who are right the most, what has it gotten them? It does it even increase their odds of success, or happiness, or good relationships.

Then I remember it striking me. I can’t look back and say that I was wrong. I can’t look back and say that, nowadays– I can’t look back and even say that they were wrong. I think we were both ignorant, because we were both in some level of war with ourselves and each other, but none of us got any closer to understanding ourselves and each other in the process. None of us made any progress. They didn’t have a better dorm because of it. They weren’t happier people because of it. Neither was I.

Brett: What was stopping you from being in the wonder throughout that whole experience?

Joe: I had a self-definition of being right. It was really important in my family of origin to be right. There would be debates, or arguments, or yells, and whatever they were, and if you weren’t right, you were going to get it worse. You had to prove yourself to be right. I identified with being right at the time. I identified with a fairness and I was going to fight for that fairness. Now it’s like, “How does that help me to be right? What am I? Do I want the answer to be right? I don’t care if the answer’s right. That’s not the answer I want to the question, what am I.”

Brett:  Reminds me of a conversation I had a while back where somebody just paused me in the middle of the conversation and they’re like, “It seems you’re being very right, right now. How could we optimize for connection?” I’m like, “Oh, I see.”

Joe: [laughs] Yes, exactly. [laughs] That’s how I was in a conversation with the college about being right. [chuckles] The fortunate piece, this is the thing, I was completely certain about this stuff at the time. It led me into a job for the time that I was suspended, which was caring for developmentally disabled kids. It was a job that I got quickly. I got promoted quickly. Then I was in charge of this house of kids and these residents. That was who I was. That’s what I was doing at the time.

Talk about seeing that you can have connection with people who are not even capable of being a quarter of as right. Developmentally disabled people, even a complicated thought process is not really at their fingertips. Yet, they could be beautiful people. You could have a deep connection with them. I learned the lesson that being right had nothing to do with anything that was important to me.

Brett:  Often, their thought processes are more complicated in a different direction than you expected. There’s actually something brilliant behind it. Or beautifully simple that you had overlooked.

Joe: If you sat in wonder with these guys, you were in for a treat. It was frustrating at times to tune it out, but you were often in for a treat, if you could just sit in wonder with them and see the world through their eyes.

Brett:  Well, that wraps it up for VIEW. Thank you very much, Joe. I wonder what our next episode will be.

Joe: [laughs] Me too. Thanks, Brett. It was a pleasure as always.

Brett:  Thank you.

Thanks for listening to The Art of Accomplishment.  If you enjoyed what you heard today, please subscribe & rate us in your podcast app. We would love your feedback, so feel free to send us questions and comments. To reach out to us, join our newsletter, or check out our courses at artofaccomplishment.com.