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?

What Advice Would You Give Your Current Self?

Instead of thinking of your past self, what advice would you give your current self? What would you say if you came to you asking for help?

Sometimes we are too close to the problems we face to consider them properly. It may help to view them from a distance, so to speak, as if you were helping someone else with their problem. Thinking of it from a different perspective might just change your entire approach.


It’s the one year anniversary of our first podcast! In it, Lee and Michael discuss the questions: ‘What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?’ and ‘What makes a place feel like home?’


With that in mind, what would you say to a friend who came to you seeking guidance for a problem that you are facing? How might you advise someone else who happens to be in your situation?

In theory, this may shed some light on what you should do — or at least, what you might think is the best way forward. It is also interesting to consider if you would follow the advice that you would give. If not, what does that say about your advice to others? And what does it say about your willingness to listen to someone else?

Related questions: What advice would you give your past self? Do you talk to yourself? What is the best advice you’ve ever received? What advice would you give your pre-lockdown self?

Is It Good To Be Predictable?

If someone describes you as predictable, do you think that is a good thing? Do you consider yourself predictable?

There are definitely advantages to being predictable. Primarily, people know what to expect from you. If you are driving in fast-moving traffic, for example, following the rules of the road and not behaving erratically means you are much less likely to be in an accident.

The same thing holds true in your personal relationships. If you behave consistently, your friends and family will find your presence to be stable. If you always show up for work at the same time, then your co-workers will recognize that about you and act accordingly.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How do you think others see you?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How can we maintain wonder?’


And yet, there are times when predictability can be a drawback. If you follow the same routine, talk about the same things, and go to the same places, growth can be hard to achieve. To be spontaneous can also have advantages.

There are certainly times that acting predictably can be a drawback. When waging a battle, whether an actual physical skirmish, or a proxy like a sports game or a board game, doing the unexpected can be an effective strategy for unsettling your opponent.

So there are times when each is preferable. In general, do you like one over the other? Can you think of other examples where it might be beneficial, or harmful, for people to guess what you are going to do in any given situation? Is it good to be predictable?

Related questions: What is your five year prediction? Ten? Why do people like games? How do you think others see you?

 

What Is Your Life About?

I recently made a mistake, one that I have been making since I was very young. Someone asked me about the book I am currently reading. Was I enjoying it? And what was it about?

By way of answer, I started to provide the basic plot of the book. Afterward, I mentally berated myself for making the basic mistake of conflating the plot — what happens — with what it is about. The point.

But then I started to realize that in my life, I often do the same thing. There is the everyday plot of my life: I got up, had breakfast, went to work, etc. These are the things that happen over the course of the days, weeks, and years of my life.

However, these events are not what my life is about.

It is true, of course, that the two can be related. In a novel, the plot can help to highlight the point of the book. It can be used, along with characterization, symbolism, and other writers tricks — to illuminate the purpose. But they are certainly not the same thing.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How do you define success?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’


During the weekly meetings Michael and I have to discuss our lives and come up with the week’s questions for Intellectual Roundtable, too often I fall back on the plot of my life during our conversation. I did this thing. An event happened to me. I went here, read this, talked to so-and-so. It is an easy shorthand, to summarize the week that was.

Which, then, raises the question: What is your life about? How often do you think about the meaning, the purpose, the larger picture, of the book you are currently reading. Or, indeed, of your own life?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life? How can we encourage meaningful conversation? What gives you purpose? What are you reading right now?