The Power of Questions with Cal Fussman
"Your curiosity is never lost…it might get buried for a while, but it can always come back."
This week’s podcast is all about the power of questions — and we welcome special guest Cal Fussman!
When was the last time you’ve been truly curious? When was the last time you asked a question from a place of deep curiosity and ached to know the answer? When was the last time you truly listened to someone during a conversation?In today’s world of social connections challenged by technology and an overabundance of information, learning how to ask better questions and rekindle our curiosity is vital to learning to reconnect with other and build deeper relationships. And if you’re seeking better answers and better comprehension among the overwhelming flow of information, learning to ask better questions will help.
Having interviewed hundreds of history-making names from Robert DeNiro to Quincy Jones, today’s guest Cal Fussman has spent a lifetime cultivating the art of asking great questions and listening and living with deep curiosity.
In today’s conversation, we hear a little about Cal’s origin story and the events that first got him interested in the power of questions and the discipline of journalism. We talk about the relentless curiosity we possess in childhood, how that curiosity can get lost over time, and the need for all of us to rekindle that curiosity in our lives. Finally, we’ll hear Cal’s reflections on his interview with Mikhail Gorbachev and the power of asking questions that aim straight for the heart.
CAL’S ORIGIN STORY: LEARNING THE POWER OF QUESTIONS
- Cal’s origin story: November 1963 — the assassination of President Kennedy, installation of new president Lyndon B. Johnson
- This event had a strong impact on Cal — he was in second grade and wondered: did Lyndon B. Johnson want to be president? Was he scared or sad, how did he feel? So he wrote to the White House in a letter and asked
- He received a letter back — this created a buzz with neighbors, at school, and it taught him a good question can get you to the most powerful person on earth
- The question how do you feel? was so simple, so basic, but we hardly ever hear it
- All of us long to be heard
- If I ask how do you feel that will create a connection— it shows respect and caring. You’ll respond with that same level of respect, all because I asked the question
- Many people in conversations aren’t listening, they’re just waiting for a pause so they can break in
- Being present in the moment and asking childlike questions can do wonders
GETTING BACK TO CHILDHOOD CURIOSITY
- As a four-year-old, you’re about as curious as you’ll be in your life
- Experiments show children ask up to 400 questions a day of their parents
- If we can somehow rekindle our childhood curiosity we’ll be asking great questions all the time
HOW WE LOSE CURIOSITY
- School: having to put your hand up to ask a question in a big room of students creates a wall that says you’re not allowed to be as curious as you were last year
- This wall gets worse in high school, heightened fear of asking foolish questions at the age where you’re concerned about how others view you
- You don’t lose your curiosity, it can be put in the ground and buried, but it can come back
- Think back to the curiosity you had as a four-year-old to inform the questions you ask today
HOW EDUCATION AFFECTS CURIOSITY
- Rumi quote: sell your cleverness for bewilderment
- Education gives us the answers, tells us to memorize, but in the process, we forget how to ask questions
LESSONS FROM INTERVIEW WITH MIKHAIL GORBACHEV
- Cal’s interview for Esquire for the What I’ve Learned column: read the article here
- Originally allocated ninety minutes to ask any questions, the interview got cut short to ten minutes
- Asked about his father and Gorbachev extended his time
- If Cal hadn’t aimed for Gorbachev’s heart first, he wouldn’t have got the longer interview
- Aiming for the heart is what will activate a conversation
- It could be as simple as asking about the photos in someone’s office — this will take the conversation to unknown places, then your curiosity will kick in and you can keep the flow going from there
Related Kwik Brain Episodes You Might Enjoy
Episode 6: Remember Everyone’s Name
Episode 21: How To Listen With Your Whole Brain
Episode 47: How Gratitude Rewires Your Brain
Episode 56: How To Keep Your Brain Ageless