WHY ARE YOU HERE?
ASKING WITHOUT ASKING
“This is the speaker’s lounge—not for students.”
“This is the line for a speaker’s badge. The volunteer line is over there.”
“Oh, YOU’RE the speaker?”
Some of the comments I have gotten over the course of speaking in 16 countries across 3 continents over the past few years. Sometimes when people really want to ask the question “Why are you here?” they ask it in the form of other seemingly innocuous questions. Speaking with a 21-year-old female founder from Berlin recently, she commiserated, “Before speaking in front of 600 people at a startup event, I was asked if I was one of the servers.” We both shook our heads.
ACCEPTING THE CHALLENGE (TO CHANGE STATUS QUO)
In a speaker’s lounge in Amsterdam at a Microsoft Ignite event, I happened to sit down next to someone on the event planning team who didn’t ask me a “Why are you here?” question but asked, “What are you going to be presenting on?”
“Oh…and how are you going to make it WITH style (interactive)…there’s like 200 people?” he asked curiously as he held a copy of my book in his hands (WITH vs AT: Two Prepositions That Changed My Life).
“Challenge accepted!” And with that, I high-fived him and headed towards my workshop with huge poster paper, colored pens, post-it notes, and marched off to my challenge: making a 200-person workshop WITH style. And then I thought, my being on stage was helping them see not just a different kind of presentation style but a different kind of speaker too.
TAKING THE TIME TO ACTUALLY ASK (YOURSELF)
Have you ever taken the time to ask yourself, “Why are you here?” I know, it sounds like one of those existential questions you’d rather have after work hours, but indulge me. When you have self-doubt over putting yourself out there because maybe nobody looks like you on stage or people question whether you could possibly be a speaker, think about your greater purpose here on earth. In my workshops we learn and talk about a concept called self-transcendence: where your purpose is greater than you. Think about it this way. If you actually went through with that speaking engagement, you wrote that book, you may actually have someone come up to you at the end of your workshop and say, “Wow, I have never seen someone like you on stage before. I can see what’s possible for me now.” True story. It actually happened. It could happen to you too.
THE MORE YOU JUDGE, THE LESS YOU FORGIVE
In my 8-week program, we have a week devoted to forgiveness. I call it one of the F words in Happiness. Imagine Forgiveness on one end of a seesaw and Judgment on the other. When Forgiveness of self/others is high, Judgment of self and others is low. Vice versa: when forgiveness of self/others is low, Judgment of self and others is high. At that same Microsoft Ignite conference in Amsterdam with almost 200 white men in the audience, I must admit, I felt a bit intimidated. I had never spoken in front of that many men let alone white men. My mind immediately began its UNFORGIVING downward spiral: They’re not going to interact with each other, they’re all tech nerds, they’re going to not respect me as a speaker… Taking the time to listen to them and speak WITH them during the various activities throughout the workshop, I realized I was doing to them, what I hated they did to me: pre-judging. Oh, and you’ll be surprised to hear I was proven wrong with all of my own prejudgments.
SAME QUESTION, DIFFERENT OUTCOME
When the founders of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Public Charter Schools, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin wanted to recruit outstanding teachers who could inspire their students, they asked them this one question: “What do you want your legacy to be?” Asked differently, “Why are you here (on this earth)?” I spoke to an Uber driver who had a long list of reasons as to why she couldn’t become a makeup tutorial YouTuber. She had so many reasons to not go through with her dream, it took up the span of an entire 30-minute ride. Just as I was about to get out of the car, she asked me, “What do you think? I mean, you’re a coach, right?” I thought about what I could say in the span of my getting out of her car and her pushing the button for her next ride and said, “You know, every morning, I ask myself the question: if this was my last day on earth would I be ok? Would I be ok knowing that this was my last conversation? This was the last activity? And if my answer to that question is “no” then I know I have to change something.
THE ONLY QUESTION YOU NEED TO CALL PEOPLE IN (INSTEAD OF OUT)
At school we aren’t really taught about micro or heck macro aggressions. So we inherit limiting beliefs around race, gender, ethnicity (you name it) from our parents, grandparents, or people we grew up with. It’s kind of like that Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the others…” Remember that song? When that song plays in your head next time, and there’s a moment between listening and calling someone out, try calling them in instead. Isn’t it interesting how a four-word question could literally change someone’s entire experience with you—especially if you have never met? So next time you see someone and the Sesame Street song plays in your head, instead of asking them a question or other questions around “Why are you here?” ask yourself the question first: “Why am I here?” and ask that person another 4-word question, “How can I help?” In doing so, you may just save someone’s (career) life but also remind yourself of WHY YOU ARE HERE: TO HELP.
Microsoft Ignite | Amsterdam, The Netherlands | March 2019
Happiness coach, Theta Healer®, author, WITH Warrior in Chief <3