Inquiring about the “Good Life”

Two master questioners are interviewed by another—creative entrepreneur Jonathan Fields

Jonathan Fields "Good Life"For those who aren’t familiar with Jonathan Fields, he’s a well-known entrepreneur, author, and blogger who has emerged as a leading authority on “tribal marketing,” particularly for book authors (among other things, Fields shows authors and creative entrepreneurs how to build an online community to support their work). I occasionally read Fields’ popular “Tribal Author” blog; he’s also written best-selling books, starting with Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love and continuing with his latest, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance.

But I had no idea Fields was such a good questioner until I stumbled upon his online video interview series, “Good Life Project.” It consists of conversations with interesting and successful people in the areas of book publishing, entrepreneurial business, online marketing, and beyond. The 40-minute sessions cover a lot of fertile ground, and end with Fields asking his subject, “What does it mean to live a good life?”

So far I’ve watched two of the interviews in their entirety, and I’d recommend them both. One video is with the prolific author and marketing guru Seth Godin; the other is with another best-selling author, Susan Piver, who’s also a Shambhala Buddhist and meditation teacher.

Fields-&-Godin-talking on Good Life website

Fields & Godin talking on the Good Life website

Some great questions come up in both segments. In “Books, Business, Choices, and Life,” Godin addresses the issue of what creative people should want from life. He talks about structuring your life’s work as a series of “art projects,” which, by his definition, means you’re always starting each new project or venture with “a clean sheet of paper,” instead of doing the same work over and over again. Over the past century or so, Godin observes, many people have been conditioned to think that having a routine job is the only safe and normal way to live—and that way of thinking served the needs of our industrial society quite well. But now we’re in a new age, powered by the Internet and social media, where it’s more acceptable and more feasible to go your own way, pursue your own opportunities, and do the kind of work you really want to do.

When asked what a “good life” is, Godin remarks: “A good life is when you get to decide what good is.”

Mindfulness, Serendipity and the Unplanned Life

Fields-&-Piver-talking on the Good Life website

Fields & Piver talking on the Good Life website

Piver’s interview, titled “Mindfulness, Serendipity, and the Unplanned Life,” is no less fascinating. She talks about how she stumbled into success as an author when she wrote a book called The Hard Questions: 100 Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do”. The book was featured on Oprah Winfrey and became a best-seller, leading to more “question” books from Piver. In writing these books, she says she learned that, “The power of an open question is extraordinary… To ask a question genuinely, you have to drop any notion of an answer… When you hold a question openly and really wonder about it, your mind expands.” (So true, Susan: The latest brain science backs you up on this, as I’m starting to learn).

Kudos to Fields for posing deep, provocative questions in these interviews. I’m looking forward to checking out some of the other installments in the series.

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About the Author

Innovation expert and questionologist Warren Berger has studied hundreds of the world’s foremost innovators, entrepreneurs, and creative thinkers to learn how they ask questions, generate original ideas, and solve problems. He is the author or co-author of 12 books, including his three books on questioning: A MORE BEAUTIFUL QUESTION: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas; its follow-up THE BOOK OF BEAUTIFUL QUESTIONS: The Powerful Questions That Will Help You Decide, Create, Connect, and Lead; and BEAUTIFUL QUESTIONS IN THE CLASSROOM: Transforming Classrooms Into Cultures of Curiosity and Inquiry. Warren’s writing has appeared in Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, and The New York Times, and he writes the “Questionologist” blog for Psychology Today. He lives in Mount Kisco, New York. Follow him on Twitter at @GlimmerGuy and subscribe to his blog posts

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