Momentum Podcast: 69
Curiosity Over Judgement
by Alex Charfen
Howard Brinton, an incredible mentor of mine used to say “get out of judgment and get into curiosity.” I have shortened it to simply curiosity over judgment.When I first heard this I thought it was simple advice. It is hard for me to quantify just how much this simple statement has changed my life.With my kids, with Cadey, and in my business simply leading with curiosity has made everything in my life easier.Once you understand how to apply this, it is transformational.
Full Audio Transcript
I'm Alex Charfen and this is the Momentum Podcast made for empire-builders, game-changers, trail-blazers, shot-takers, record-breakers, world-makers, and creators of all kind. Those among us who can't turn it off and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution. Sure, we'll pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, and then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because you only lose if you stop, and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future, and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters, clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent, positive, human evolution, and we always will be.
Welcome to the Momentum Podcast. I'm recording the episode curiosity over judgment for you tonight that I think this simple statement, curiosity over judgment, if you learn to internalize this, if you're willing to take this on, if you're willing to start becoming curious rather than judging in your life, you will see massive changes. I want to give credit where credit is due. I actually got this saying from Howard Brinton, a mentor of mine in the real estate industry, unfortunately passed away a few years ago. Howard used to say, "Get out of judgment and get into curiosity," and I've just shortened it to curiosity over judgment, but I didn't realize how meaningful this statement was when Howard shared it, but it made me realize something that I had been doing forever as a consultant. I'll share with you how you apply this, how you stay curious, and how it will change your life.
First, when I was a consultant, I was 21 years old and I got some of the biggest contracts that were available in my industry at the time. It was all through a referral through a partner, through somebody who helped me with their credibility, but I was put into a situation where I didn't really know what to do. I want you to understand something. As a CEO, you are going to get to a situation where you don't really know how to predict the next move. You don't really know what to do, and the way that you determine what to do, the way that you solve that, the way you get past that, is you ask a lot of questions. When I was a consultant, I was the first to say, "Hey, I don't know, let me ask you a few questions," and help people work through things, but over time I was known as the guy who could ask the questions that would allow you to work through things.
Staying curious, when I was a consultant, not judging myself, like allowing myself to ask questions, it helped a tremendous amount. It changed how I dealt with people. It allowed me to gain a lot more expertise in a shorter period of time, and here's what's interesting: rarely is the person willing to ask questions seen as anything other than an expert. Most likely, the person who's talking a lot and just trying to prove their value or prove their worth ... Think about this, how many times have you been around a person like that? They end up looking like they're trying to be the expert. Staying curious, asking the right questions, it elevates the way that people around you will see you.
The second place, and this one is so critical, is with my kids. Staying curious and asking questions, so often it turns a moment where I would react, and be judgmental, and snap at them, or say something to them, so often if I ask at least three questions, rarely am I ever snapping. Rarely am I ever angry with them. Most of the time I'm thinking, "I'm so glad I asked those questions because this could've been disastrous." I often share a really simple example that stands out in my mind because it was one of those times that I wanted to take my daughter's head off and say, "Reagan, what are you talking about?" When Reagan was younger, we used to kick around a soccer ball, and we left it outside, and it became one of those soccer balls that looks like a hollowed out half-melon. It didn't just deflate, it like imploded and deflated, so it was not a good soccer ball anymore, it was more like a bowl.
We were going to the sporting goods store near our home to get a new soccer ball, and we were walking through the aisles, and Reagan said, "Hey Dad, while we're here, we should get a new bike." And I said, "Why?" And she said, "Well mine has a flat tire." I did not grow up with a lot of money, and my kids live in a house where we lose track of how many bathrooms we have. When I was a kid I used to share one, and so I'm always concerned that they're developing this sense of entitlement. They aren't. It doesn't seem like they are, but it really concerns me, and so when she says something like that, I reflect back to my childhood, and we didn't have a lot of money, and the first thing I want to say is, "Reagan, we're not going to throw away your bike because it has a flat tire. You just fix a flat tire. You don't buy something new when you can fix something." But I didn't. I caught myself. In fact, I started to. I remember saying, "Reagan," and then kind of snapping, and then thinking, "Gosh, be curious."
I said, "Reagan, why would we buy a new bike?" And she said, "Well Dad, the soccer ball's flat and my tire's flat. We're buying a new soccer ball so why don't we just buy a new bike?" And I said, "Oh, well, inside a bike, there's a tube called an inner tube, and if we pull out that inner tube, and put a new inner tube in it, we can just blow air back into it, and it will hold in your bike tire." And she goes, "Oh, well then we should buy the inner tube." And I said, "Okay, we'll grab an inner tube, and I'll show you how to change a bike tire," and then she was really excited about changing a bike tire.
I don't know that I can share with you how profound it felt in the moment, but I want to get close because here was this stark realization that I had, almost like cold-water-in-the-face realization was that in that interaction, I was able to coach my kid, explain something to her that she understood at a very deep level, and then set up a time where were going to learn together, where I was going to show her how to change a tire. On the flip side of that, think of what would've happened had I bit her head off and said, "Reagan, you don't buy a new bike because the tire's flat, you just replace the inner tube. That's ridiculous," that would not increase her ability to communicate with me. She's probably going to shut down somewhat, and we wouldn't have that teachable moment. She's probably not going to hear a lot of what I said other than, for some reason, she shouldn't want to buy a new bike, and I think that's what causes our kids to shut down around us. I think that's why kids talk to their parents less and less, because so often we judge almost immediately, and believe me, by no means am I close to being without challenges as a father, but I really want my kids to be able to communicate with me.
What I've realized is that when I stay curious, I hardly ever correct. Think about how profound that is. When I stay curious, I hardly ever correct because within three questions, I know exactly why they're saying what they're saying. Tonight we were on our Mastermind call, for the Momentum Master Class, and one of our members, [Byron Harold 00:08:58] shared that this simple strategy has completely transformed his relationship with his wife. This blew me away. It was so awesome. He said that what he realized, and I'm paraphrasing, and I'm not going to do as good a job as he is ... I'm probably going to go edit that video out, or have someone on my team edit that video out, and put it out there because it was so powerful to listen to when he said that as soon as he became curious instead of judging, he saw things from his wife's perspective. He said he was doing the thing that we all know what's going on. You're in a relationship where it becomes more about winning the fight than being in the relationship.
That's where challenges come from. That's where divorces come from. That's where that whole oh-we-just-grew-apart comes from, when you're looking to win instead of be spouses, like have a relationship. As soon as it switches into winning, you're in a dark place. When you start asking questions, it changes things because, and here's what Byron said, I'm going to paraphrase, again, from him. He said that what was happening before is his wife would say something or react to him in an elevated tone, maybe in a strong tone, maybe in a way that seems like she's reacting in an angry way. What he would do is react as well and then up the ante. What happens is then it becomes a competition, then everybody's yelling at each other, and then there's no connection, and you're upset for a couple of days. As Byron was saying that, it was amazing to listen to him. It was like an out-of-body experience almost, for me, because here's one of my clients on, I don't even know he is, and we don't know each other, but he's telling exact story because we've all been there. We've all been there, where you get into that escalating conversation, and then you're upset for a couple of days, and it takes forever for the chemicals to get right in your body, and you don't sleep well, and none of us wants to be there.
What he communicated was that when he started asking questions in those moments, that he's now created this deep level of connection with his wife, and I can't remember everything he said, but it was amazing. He said his entire relationship has transformed. She looks at him differently. He looks at her differently. I said, "Have you been surprised by what you've learned about your wife?" And he said, "Oh my gosh, without a doubt," that you just don't know the perspective until you start asking questions. That's been my experience forever, is that the more curious you are, the less judgment people around you will feel, and the less you use judgment, the more momentum you create. If you really think about it, our lives are transformed by questions, and when we stay curious, and ask the questions, we learn so much more.
I'll share one more story just because I think it was so important, and man, it's one of those stories that I'm going to have a hard time getting through it, but I think it's important for everyone to hear. I was contacted by somebody whose child said something while they were driving about bodily fluids, and I'll just leave it at that, that was maybe a thing that a child might say to get attention, or a thing that a child ... Then this is how it gets explained. Right? I think the child was trying to get attention, or they might say it to get a rise out of you, or something like that. The father told me that he stayed present, and instead stayed curious, and asked a series of questions about why would the child say that, and what was discovered was that there was a relative that was molesting the child.
I don't know he possibly did it, but he explained to me that he was able to stay calm and curious enough to just keep asking his son questions, and let him tell him what had happened, and not ever get into a reactive place, and then he was able to get home, and do something about it. Man, what a transformative outcome that situation has because here's a father who was willing to breathe, and was willing to stay present, and was willing to hear his son, and ask questions, and not ever react in a way where his son felt like he did something wrong, and not ever react in a way where his son remembered that moment or that time negatively, like his father over-reacting, because he stayed curious. He was able to, clearly most importantly, he was able to understand what was really happening with his kid.
When you stay curious, it's amazing how much of the world you realize you've been missing. When I finally figured this out, when Howard first said it, back when I first heard it, I was like, "Oh, okay, yeah, yeah, yeah. Stay curious. I've asked questions my whole life," but then as I heard him talk about it more often, and as he started mentoring me, and coaching me, and he would say, "It's not just a saying. You've really stay curious. Stay in the moment, and ask questions, and you'll see things transform," and the more I did it, the more it actually happened.
I can share in Byron's story. Cadey and I have had times in our lives where we had those days where you couldn't talk to each other, and we had the escalating conversations that just got out of control, and it creates a tremendous amount of doubt and a tremendous amount of pain in your relationship. When you can switch that to asking questions and understanding what's going on, you get to a place where you can solve, and you can change things, and you can make things stronger rather than challenging them, and challenging your foundation.
I said this in the Mastermind call today. I think it's time that every entrepreneurial personality type out there, man or woman, every evolutionary hunter admit that the most important thing in our world is the reflection of the person we're with. When we finally admit that, we start putting strength into that, and power into that like Byron has, and like I endeavor to because when we put our marriage first, and we stay curious, and we ask questions of our spouse, we connect in a way that maybe you've never had the opportunity to. When you find yourself having a reaction, think to yourself: stay curious. I assure you, you will see your life and the outcomes in it completely and totally transform.
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