The man I’m talking about is a millionaire, a few times over. He speaks with passion and he speaks with love. He has the body and intellectual capacity of a 65 year old, well-educated man and the spritely imagination and excitement of a nine year old boy. I was fortunate enough, along with six others, to listen to him talk about his passion – his business. It was extremely educational for me and it was inspiring to see his fervor. However, it made me feel a bit sad and it made me feel a bit lonely for him, for me, for everyone out there trying to balance their passion. The man spends every Monday through Friday in a city 1,000 miles from home and mentioned that he, “has to fly home on the weekends because his wife makes him”. He made that comment in jest, and everyone took it as such, but it hit me hard.
I asked many questions about his business, profits, then some more about his habits, life, etc. – some of his answers satisfied me and some of them really didn’t. The answers that didn’t satisfy me were the ones that were the more emotional, life type questions. After his presentation, he pulled me outside and said, “hey, Josh – you had an awful lot of questions for me and I bet you have more.” I told him, “I do sir – I have a lot of questions I’d like to ask you.” He looked at me and said, “shoot”.
I asked him two questions – the first is a question I try to ask all older folks, especially those I respect: “What do you wish you would have known when you were my age that you know now?” I could see him really thinking – it’s amazing how this simple question stifles most people (especially the more established people I’ve had the honor to ask) – while he was thinking, I followed with a second question, which kind of turned into a machine gun from my mouth: “Are you okay with being away from your wife five nights a week at this stage in your life – Do you struggle with balancing your passion for work and your love for your wife? – How is the communication between the two of you – How have you made it this long together?” I caught myself, apologized and asked if I was out of line…
His reply was, “Wow Josh, I thought you might have had some questions like this and I’m glad I pulled you aside – you were asking a lot of good business questions earlier, but you were also asking me questions with emotional ramifications, which is something I’m not very accustomed to…”
We sat down together, he looked at me and plainly said, “You love to work, you love life, and more importantly, you’re in love”. I looked him right in the eye and said, “Correct, sir”. He then said, “Well let me ask you a few questions about how you communicate with your lover: Do you think you do a good job? Are you honest? Are there things that go unsaid?” I told him how faithful I am and how much I love my girlfriend and how blunt I am and probably say more than I should to her… I really believed all of that – still do, but he then really made me think.
He said, “Take a minute… I want you to sit there and think of five questions that are important to you – five questions that you don’t ask your lover – five questions that you assume you know the answer to…” I sat there for a minute and I probably had about 10 of them. I started to go through the questions with him: “Do you think I’m naive? – Do you get bored with me? – Do you think about other men? – Do I satisfy you? – Do you wish I spent more time with you rather than working on 75 different projects? – Do you think that I’m delusional because of all of my crazy ideas?” and the list went on…
He told me that it took him about 10-15 years of being with his wife to figure out that he had questions just like these and always assumed he knew the answers, but he didn’t. These questions needed to be asked. He said that a lot of us carry things with us and don’t share them with the people closest to us – we that we think might hurt our lovers, so we don’t speak of them until we’re prompted. What’s the result of not asking? We end up existing in a relationship that which is less than reality. He said that once he learned how to actually ask questions and speak openly with his wife, his life became a lot easier – his decisions and his passions weren’t guilt-ridden because he knew how his wife felt and she knew how he felt – they began to understand each other more. WOW, this notion startled me – how simple, yet ignored by most.
This really made me think deeply about the fact that I have been assuming I know the answers to tons of questions, which are important to me, however they have not really been answered in conversation because I have not asked – I just assumed. Maybe I assumed out of laziness and ignorance, or maybe I assumed out of fear – fear of hearing the truth. However, the truth is the one thing we should never fear. The truth is something we should welcome and embrace – it’s the only thing that can set us free – that can make us feel at peace.
I expect the truth from people and I think it’s hard for people, especially those we hold close to our hearts, to tell us the truth out of fear that it might hurt us. The truth is something that often hurts because so many of us live in sweet denial and bumble through life. Is that how you want to live? Maybe. I don’t. I search every day for truth – truth within myself – truth in other people – truth in my relationships – for some type of truth in this LIFE. I’ve begun to ask more of these questions to all of the people I hold close to my heart – maybe they are afraid to tell me what they’re thinking in fear that I’ll be hurt, but they deserve to be able to share their thoughts.
I’m going to continue to ask questions that go unsaid – questions that ultimately facilitate real, truthful discussions… This is just one of the things that I’m currently working on to be a better person for myself and a better person for those I love. I encourage you to ask questions to those you hold close… Give them a chance to speak… We all (well I definitely do) talk a lot, but are we really communicating?