In the 1970s, managers began to realize that workers needed to be able to think more deeply about their work. Prior to this time, most jobs demanded that employees worked uniformly, repeating the same tasks over and over. As technology blossomed, managers observed that employees needed to make decisions throughout the day. They needed to be able to think and learn. This was the beginning of the coaching movement.
A key to this movement was the ability to evoke new awareness in the client/employee so that they think more broadly and deeply about the issue in front of them. One great way to evoke awareness is the use of powerful questions. These are questions that require the person to discover new understanding by looking at situations with new perspectives.
I ran across a powerful question in a Wired Magazine editorial that certainly evoked new awareness. The question made me think about the world in a different way that led me to some new understandings. The rest of this post logs my experience with this question:
If you could be born randomly into the world at any time in history, what time would you choose? (From Wired Magazine)
Let me add a little clarity:
- You can only choose the time, any moment in history up to the present. You can not choose a date in the future.
- You do not get to choose where in the world. You won’t be dropped into the ocean, but you can show up in any country.
- You will be born into the world and into the ethnicity that lives there.
This is not a test question. This is a discovery question. There is a lot to consider. Odds are that I’ll be born into poverty. Some people today call the “Third World” the “Two-Thirds World” because two-thirds of the population live in a subsistence economy, meaning they only make enough money to survive. Odds are that is where you’ll be born.
So, you cannot think, “I’d like to be born during Jesus’ time.” You’ll probably never see or hear of Jesus. You cannot think, “I’d like to be born during the birth of the United States.” You will probably not be born in the United States. Very few people were born there during that time.
Let’s start by ruling out some various times:
- I do not want to be a caveman, so I do not want to be born before 10,000 BC.
- I do not want to live when nation after nation rose up and conquered the entire world, so I do not want to be born before 300 AD.
- I do not want to live when diseases like the Black Plague wiped out huge populations, so I do not want to be born before 1400 AD.
- I do not want to live when the major European countries circumnavigated the world and conquered the people of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. I’d likely be one of the conquered, so I do not want to be born before the end of World War II.
- I do not want to live before the end of Apartheid in South Africa or before the Berlin Wall fell, so I do not want to be born before 1994.
One awareness this question evoked in me is that while some people think the world is getting worse and worse, I’ve learned the opposite. If I was born randomly in the world before 1994, the odds of being wiped out by another nation, a destructive disease, or being oppressed by European colonization would be extremely high. I likely would have lived and died with very few opportunities.
The likelihood of being able to rise out of poverty continues to increase every year. Surprisingly, we live in one of the safest times in history due to the discovery of life-saving drugs and the difficulty of one nation overtaking a lot of smaller nations. The best time to be born randomly into the world is today. There has been no greater time for opportunity than today.
New Awareness for My Current Situation
The Future is Bright – Kevin Kelly, perhaps my favorite living thinker, said that the good news about the world is that “Optimists will shape the future.” In a nutshell, pessimists do not have enough hope to take the risks necessary to create change. I am an optimistic person. I believe the Kingdom of God is expanding and leading us to a world with more and more opportunity.
Collaboration is Easier – I recently hired an Executive Assistant. I received applications from all over the world – Kenya, New Zealand, Portugal, etc. The person I hired lives far away from me, yet we can effectively collaborate every day. My new awareness is that I can always find a great person to partner with. It doesn’t matter where either of us were born. The world is open to us and that is to our advantage.
New Markets are Now Open – I am monolingual, but I now realize the future is bright and collaboration is easier, so I am no longer limited by language. For instance, Daniel Franco and I are collaborating to offer CAM courses in Spanish. Daniel lives in the Dominican Republic and is fluent in both English and Spanish. Our vision of expanding and expressing the Kingdom of God through coaching now has over 500 million new people in our market!
When I told you that today is the best time to ever be alive in the history of the world, you might not have believed me. You still might not. But when given the chance to evoke new awareness, our mindset is much freer to change. New awareness opens new avenues for progress and possibility. Do not underestimate the power of a great question.
This question about when to be born is so powerful that it might not seem relevant to your client’s situation. And yet, I encourage you to open up your client’s mind, at least at the beginning of a coaching session, so that their perspective is greatly increased. Sometimes it’s just fun to evoke your own awareness by pondering such a powerful question.