By Edward Nawotka
I have a friend in Los Angeles who looks like a real killer. He’s sleeved in tattoos, “Born to Battle” is inked in five inch high letters across his enormous shoulders, and his buzz cut conveys that he can only be a soldier. As it happens, he is ex-special forces, one who served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He’s an intimidating dude, the kind of guy who stands with his back to the bar, scanning the room with a look on his face that assures you he could kill everyone in the place…efficiently. (And if you happen to be standing next to him at the time, he will remind you that you will be the first to die).
But he’s also one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met, a man haunted by his own demons for sure, but also one who is a real seeker.
The one question he refuses to answer any longer is “So, what do you do?”
Sure, he could answer “Well, I kill people. Some deserve it. Some don’t. But all of them bleed and all of them cry for their mother in the end.” (This is a direct quote, incidentally).
But instead of telling people what he does, he’ll smile — equal parts charming and chilling — and reply, “I won’t discuss what I do, but I will discuss what I believe.”
So often, you meet people and after introducing yourself, the first question you’re asked is — “So, what do you do?”
Sure, it’s social convention, but let’s face it: we all hate answering that question. It’s reductive, to say the least, suggesting that “you are what you do to make a living.” But it is not who you are.
A better question is, “What brings you here?” It will elicit what the playwrights call “motivation.” That’s a good start.
An even better question to ask might be, “So, what are you passionate about these days?” That should elicit an interesting response and give you some prompts for conversation.
But, if you really want to get to a more intimate level why not try, “What do you believe in?”
Now things can get really interesting. It opens up the opportunity for real dialog. No, you can’t challenge what someone does for a living without making them defensive or insulting them. But you can challenge their beliefs. And, in doing so, you might find that you are even more or less confident in your own.
Either way, you’ll both come away from the conversation changed for the better.
Want to know what I believe in? It’s right there at the top of my “About Me” page.
What about you? What do you believe in?