Where Are You From?

The question ‘Where are you from?’ might seem pretty simple. After all, everyone knows where they are from, right?

However, the real trick to this question is how you define the word ‘from’. It can mean many things, and how you choose to define it will influence your answer to the question. It also may reveal something about you.

One way to interpret this is to think about where you were born. But even that has some ambiguity. For instance, you might answer with the country you were born in. Or the state, or the city. Or even the hospital.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘What makes you you?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What gives a person value?’


Of course, where you are ‘from’ might not have anything to do with where you were born. It might mean where you lived the longest. Or where you spent your formative years. It could even mean where you live right now.

It might be the case that the person asking the question can further refine the question. They may be trying to get a specific piece of information, like country of your citizenship.

However, in the absence of any such clues, this becomes a question that is really about identity. How do you identify yourself? With whom do you align yourself? Perhaps you consider yourself an inhabitant of a particular region, like the Midwest or the Northeast. Maybe you are from Seattle or Atlanta, or some other metro area. Or your nationality is your defining point of origin.

However you choose to answer, what do you have in common with the other people who hail from the same place as you? How are you like the others in your town, your state, your country?

Where are you from?

Related questions: If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Why do you live where you live? How would you define yourself in ten words or less?

Can We End Poverty?

While poverty is a subjective term, it is a fact that, right now, not the marketplace, public policy, nor charitable giving consistently covers the necessities that so many people in this country desperately need. Millions must choose between healthy food, adequate housing, reliable health insurance, quality childcare, and many other essentials because their job doesn’t pay a living wage, or they cannot work for various justifiable reasons.

Meanwhile, many of the wealthiest Americans pay no income tax and do an outstanding job of converting taxable income into protected wealth, playing a massive role in keeping America’s public coffers without the resources to address this situation, along with other needs. Similarly, tax loopholes allow U. S. companies to create “headquarters” in other (low-tax) counties to escape paying their fair share in this country.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What are our responsibilities to others?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘Are we too busy?’


From a different perspective, many well-intentioned people point to various religious texts that say, in effect, the poor will always be with us. But there is theological debate over whether this means there will always be poor people or, coming at it from a completely different angle, advising those with means to have an affinity or allegiance with those of extremely limited resources over the “needs” of those who either do all right or, more to the point, have considerable resources that could help meet more needs in this country.

On the political front, many wonder if anybody is worth enough to be a billionaire. Did you know that there are 614 billionaires? The wealthiest 400, in fact, hold $3.2 trillion in assets. A slice of those resources could go a long way toward meeting the needs of our poorest neighbors.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, when those in government decide to help the poor, our existing programs do a pretty good job at alleviating their immediate needs?

Can we end poverty? Should we at least give it a try?

Related questions: What is the greatest problem facing humanity? How will the economy be impacted by COVID-19? What is the purpose of money? How do we turn ideas into actions?

How Do You Need Help?

No one person is able to do everything that needs to be done. As a result, everyone needs help now and then. Do you know the ways in which you need help?

A surefire way to lead to failure is to try to do everything by yourself. In all likelihood, you will exhaust your own energy, raise your own stress level, and fall short of your various goals.

Successful people are good at involving others in their endeavors. For example, most successful marriages involve two people who are stronger together than each is separately. When one person might be overextended, a second person can help to lighten the load.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘Are we too busy?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘What are our responsibilities to others?’


Similarly, a person might benefit from the help of family and friends in their personal life, and from co-workers or employees in their profession. One person cannot do it all, whether the “it” in question is raising a family, maintaining a household, or running a business.

And yet, asking for help is too often stigmatized in our society. It might be viewed as a sign of weakness, or seen as a lack of commitment. Even if others might not believe that to be true, sometimes an individual may fear that is the way such a request will be taken.

Asking for help when you need it is crucial. But what happens if you don’t realize — or can’t admit — that you need help after all?

Do you know when you need help? How?

Related questions: How can you help? Are we too busy? How do you define success? What makes a good leader?

What Motivates You?

To help you make the most of your life, it is helpful to know several things about yourself. One of the most important is: What motivates you?

Understanding your motivations can help you become more clear and directed when it comes to acting on what is important to you. It can also help you avoid efforts by others to manipulate you into taking action when you otherwise wouldn’t.

For example, let’s think about click-bait. As you surf the web, you may see an ad for something that tries to appeal to your motivation. “Learn this one trick to lose weight” could be a sample advertisement, that targets two different motivations: curiosity (what is the one trick?) and fear (I’m too fat).

There are many different types of motivations possible. In the example above, we saw curiosity and fear, which are prime motivators for many people.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How much of our thoughts are our own?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How much is enough?’


We are a naturally curious species, which for the most part has allowed us to ascend, for better or worse, to the place we now inhabit in the ecosystem. Being curious about how the world works has spurred a remarkable series of advances in science and technology.

But fear is also motivates us. We are often afraid of what we don’t know, plus we can fear rejection from society. There are many organizations that rely on these fears to manipulate and control you.

On opposite ends of the motivation spectrum, we are also motivated by anger or by love. What other motivations can you think of?

Related questions: What is important? What deserves your attention? How much of our thoughts are our own? How does media manipulate you? What five ideals are most important to you? How can we turn ideas into actions?

Can An Internet Friend Be A True Companion?

As we spend more time online, we are bound to make friends there. But can an Internet friend be as good a friend — or even better — as one you meet in person?

In some ways, it makes sense that you could find a connection with someone online. After all, without geography limiting the people you can interact with, you are bound to meet people that share your interests — like an obscure band, a niche artist, or a cult movie — that you might not meet otherwise.

In addition, we have a multitude of ways to communicate over long distances. Everything from hand-written letters to phone calls, from text messages to video conferencing. As a result, if the motivation to stay in touch with someone exists, there are several different ways to do it.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How can we encourage debate?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘What is the value of inefficiency?’


However, each one of us has a physical presence. We evolved to be attuned to the physical presence of someone else. This might include unspoken communication like body language, pheromones, and body heat. There is something about the touch of another human being that produces a chemical reaction inside your body. And it is not just limited to intimacy.

So what do you think? Can a friendly relationship between two people be sustained solely through e-mail messages, Zoom calls, and social media posts? Or is a true, deep, thoughtful friendship dependent on physical proximity? Can an Internet friend be a true companion?

Related questions: What makes a friendship? What do you get out of social media? How can we engage in meaningful conversation? What makes a community?