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April 22, 2009 - Issue #60

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What's Top of Mind?

Today I want to share one of my favorite questions from one of my favorite people. I met Jerry Michalski about a decade ago, and quickly recognized a kindred technology enthusiast as well as one of the sharpest thinkers I'd ever met. Jerry consults for top-flight companies, firms who value his incisive mind and penetrating insights about the intersection of technology, business, and society.

Not one to waste small talk, Jerry rarely asks "How are you?". Instead, he seeks to know "What's top of mind?" It's a powerful question, for it cuts to the chase and makes you consider what is most important in your life and work, and what commands your attention at present.

Over the years, I've come to appreciate that reflecting on what's top of mind can reveal:

* What's most important (or pressing or demanding attention) in your life these days? Why? And as a followup: Does it warrant the energy you're expending upon it?

* What has captured your imagination recently? Is it a new trend, some piece of research you discovered, or someone you met? Has it led to a realization that has changed your thinking?

* With whom have you been sharing ideas or interacting lately? How have they influenced your life or work (or both)?

* What has brought you the most joy or satisfaction recently? Why?

* What idea, experience, or encounter intrigues you enough that you want to share it (and perhaps launch a discussion) with someone like Jerry?

Most of all, the question "What's top of mind" opens doors to real conversation, not the one- or two-word responses generally given to "How are you?".

I will always be grateful to Jerry for introducing me to this simple, probing question. The next time you're with someone and you'd like to have a more meaningful conversation, bypass the "Hi, how ya doing?" line. Instead, ask (and share) "What's top of mind."

-- Terri Lonier

Next Issue:
Time Passages

Working Solo Minute is published each Wednesday by Working Solo, Inc. and is based on the work of author and small business expert Terri Lonier. Copyright 1994-2009. All rights reserved.
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