Quest2016 is about running in the company of other business artists,  in search of clarity of vision, voice and purpose for the year ahead. Quest2016, Day 2’s  prompt comes from Jonathan Fields, a New York City dad, husband and lawyer turned award-winning author, media producer, and entrepreneur.

Jonathan’s current focus, Good Life Project, is a global movement that inspires, educates, connects, and supports mission-driven individuals in the quest to live better, more engaged, connected, and aligned lives.

His prompt:

“You wake up to discover a knock at your door. A wealthy uncle you barely knew has passed and left you a fortune. It’s more than enough to live out your days in glorious splendor, but there is a condition. To be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months.

You are welcome to continue that pursuit after the year ends, for years or decades if it warrants, but you must remain fully focused on seeking the answer until the last minute of the 365th day. A minute shorter, the entire inheritance goes to your annoying and equally long lost cousin, Philly.

What is your question?

First, a visualization:

Imagine walking down a dark, deserted city street late at night, without fear.
Imagine everyone having the same opportunities to flourish, regardless of any of the signifiers of “difference.”
Imagine never encountering (or having to think about encountering) the date/spouse/significant other who humiliates, belittles, beats or rapes you.
Imagine that child welfare agencies aren’t needed, because no child experiences abuse or neglect.
Imagine that stories about brutality, terrorism, corruption, ecological disaster, starvation, and war don’t dominate the news. Because they hardly ever happen.

Now, my question.

What has to change to create a world in which violence is rare?

I say “rare” on purpose. Violence, which can range from subtle micro-aggressions to all-out destruction, will never entirely disappear. Certainly it is part of the natural world and seems to be very much part of human nature. I don’t believe we can entirely eradicate it. But I do believe we can make it less acceptable, less frequent and less devastating.

I’ve lived this question since an uneasy awakening in later childhood. That’s when I began to see I didn’t have to fear monsters under the bed or scary dreams. It’s when I recognized the frightening existence of something I couldn’t reason away: hatred, discrimination, oppression, violence, injustice.

I have carried this question close to my heart since that time. Even then I dedicated my energies to addressing it. It came with me every day into the center of my Adult Career, Phase 1, which lasted for over 30 years. I focused on the earliest years of childhood, supporting parents, strengthening early relationships, preventing child abuse and treating its consequences. As my career developed, my voice strengthened and I had opportunities greater reach.

The day came to leave the world of agencies and organizations. It was time to discover what I could create on my own. At that pivotal turning point, I chose this: founding Keys to Change and dedicating my efforts to those working to bring about the vision I’ve asked you to imagine.  And that’s a fine thing, a great start on Adult Career, Phase 2.

But is it enough of a response to my question? I think not. It’s time to figure out how to both reach those I connect with directly, and how to reach further. It’s time to think through what I want to say – and do – and how best to go about that.

What’s in the way? The answer to my question is a complex weave of so many things. Yes, it is about how parents nurture their children and about how our society nurtures families. And it’s about more, much more. Every area of inquiry, every profession and every individual has something to contribute to unravelling this tangled knot.

I’m not kidding myself. Or you. I have no magic. I wish I did. But I do have a vision. I do have a voice. I do have a passion. I do believe that if people from everywhere and from every perspective dedicate their energies to creating the world we can only now imagine, we can bring that change about. Eventually.

Maybe the answer to my question is to be found in the Department of Hope. Questers from 2015 might remember that I wrote last year about the Department of Hope. We had some great discussions about it, and I invited all who are interested to establish their own outposts and send me their stories about it. The Department of Hope is a non-organization. It has no structure or funding, no Board of Directors. It’s an idea. A vision. An inspiration. By remaining so unstructured it has plenty of room for all the many-colored pieces of the answer to my question.

I got some great responses last year, and I have not forgotten the idea. Susan Preston, my web designer, urged me to buy a url for it, because, who knows! But it has not been at the forefront of my efforts, either. Much more everyday concerns have been at the forefront, the kinds of things that face a budding solopreneur, a wife, mother, sister, friend and community member. And they are very good things, very important things, to be immersed in. And, there are bigger issues out there too. They also need attention.

I look out at the next 12 months with no clear idea of how to effectively live out my question in Adult Career, Phase 2. Do-gooding on a greater scale usually means being part of a larger organization. And that’s not what I’m seeking.

I’m into small these days! I love the simplicity, flexibility and creativity of being a business of one, who connects and collaborates with others for support, learning and inspiration. I team up with others to do the things that are bigger than just one person, and I’m happy to have those larger efforts come and go.

But I won’t back away from the question. The answer might lie in pursuing the question, in the seeking and the connecting that is part of exploring the possibilities.

It’s very likely that the answer is not such a far step from where I am now. Maybe part of that answer is in the importance of bearing witness, as a friend recently commented.

You can see I could use some discussion of this. Please, if you’re moved to do so, share your thoughts! If you like, you can use the search function on this page to read previous Department of Hope posts.


A Sampling of Other Questers’ Questions:

Brenna Layne

Kate Arms 

Millie Jackson 

Suzi Banks Baum