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I work with someone named Shane. This “Other Shane,” if you will, led an activity on Thursday based on the book Soul Pancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions by Rainn Wilson. This book is filled with prompts such as “What is the biggest lie you are glad you ever told?” For most prompts, there is a “dig deeper” question that asks open-ended questions that stop you in your tracks to ponder the implications of your gut response.

Other Shane’s activity began with each participant drawing a question. Afterwards, we were to switch partners and answer each other’s questions in addition to our own if we wanted. This activity was filled with ponderous pauses because none of the participants ever knew what to expect from the other. I was asked a great many questions, some easy such as “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Answer: World domination… Backup answer: Become the world’s first quadrillionaire.

The impact of hearing so many people’s stories was not lost on me. There were persons who bonded over the answers given, whether through similarity or difference. We finally obtained a clearer picture of one another. There were people who made visible efforts to speak to certain persons (I saw you!) and then there were persons who refused to move too far from their headquarters (’twas me). There were so many different persons with different narratives in the room, but we were bound with one common mission: to learn about one another. Each individual was responsible for their own narrative. Participants were able to be as vulnerable, authentic, guarded, evasive as they deemed necessary.

In an effort to be more reflective in my general life and also to provide insight to my audience as to who I am instead of “here are all the things that I learned about” here are some questions and my answers from the activity!

Question: How has your view of right and wrong evolved over time?

Very much related to student development theory, I think I began with a very direct sense of right and wrong, probably created from the rules set forth by authority figures in my life. I adhered to the rules with less willingness to bend them than some of my peers. However, as I grew older, the world and the things I desired became more complex. After nearly two decades of education, I find it difficult to believe that there is an objective right and wrong since there seem to be so many exceptions. Or perhaps there is an objective right and the exceptions I am cultured to believe are permissible seek to unseat my “goodness?” Right and wrong has grown into a not so simple answer that I seek to obtain as much information as possible before making a decision.

Question: What’s one time you wish you had trusted your gut? Why didn’t you?

I was in an executive meeting during the afternoon of my undergraduate years and one of the seats was vacant during that time. I found it extremely puzzling that the person was not at the meeting, but did not have any logical reason to look at this absence critically. I had no reason believe that the absence for any reason other than the person was busy because they were a senior level administrator. I was surprised that evening by an announcement that affected a large portion of my job. I was angry, not only at the information presented, but at myself for not trusting my gut and following up with them.

I don’t often trust my instincts because I prefer to follow an objective perception of things. My gut has been totally off base before. However, we all know that hindsight is 20/20 as the phrase goes. It’s easier to see all the signs when you’re looking backwards.