I had a wonderful conversation with my daughter Diana the other day. I didn't know quite why that conversation had gone so well until she shared with me this note for her blog. (We were both careful to get permission from the other to talk about this interaction with you.) Here is Diana's account:
Last Tuesday, my dad called. The plan was to talk briefly about a big decision I had coming up; Erik and I were considering making an offer on a house, and I’d texted my dad to see if he was free to talk it over.
On our way to the topic at hand, he asked: how are you? I mentioned that I’ve been busy at work recently, and that I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of my digestive problems. He picked up on the digestive thread, and said: I’ve been reading a book that could help you!
He started talking about the book. To be honest, it didn’t sound that related. But I listened politely, waiting for “my turn,” knowing he had my best interests at heart. We’d get around to talking about the house eventually.
And then the barest hint of an insight scraped the inside of my brain: he is so excited about this book.
“Dad!” I said at the next pause. “You sound so excited about this book.” And then a pattern that’s second nature from coaching tumbled out of me almost automatically. “What’s—what’s exciting about it?”
What happened next made me kick myself. That one simple question, born mainly of frustration, opened up an entire treasure chest.
The book was changing his life. He was realizing its topic was part of his life purpose—so much so that he’d added it to his Twitter bio. It wasn’t his discovery, but he figured that by steadily sharing the findings within his community of economists, he could still make the difference in the world that mattered most to him. It was a huge deal.
Before my question, my dad had been halfheartedly trying to wrap up his story—halfheartedly, because he couldn‘t really contain his excitement. His passion and the model of a balanced, see-saw conversation were in tension. After I asked my question, he shared at length—his voice going high and low, really expanding on what it all meant. As I listened, I couldn’t believe I’d nearly missed the chance to hear about something that mattered so much to him. Once I stopped rushing him with my polite, trying-to-be-patient silence, I started hearing about who he is and how he’s changing. One question changed the course of the conversation—and I wouldn’t be surprised if it changed the course of our relationship.
In the end, we got around to talking about the house. When we did, it felt natural—no more than a few minutes of comparing notes from a place of connection. Come to think of it, connection was probably all we both wanted in the first place. Connection comes from whatever’s true in the moment. And you can only hear what’s true in the moment if you’re really listening.
The ideas I was so excited about came from Jason Fung's books The Obesity Code and The Complete Guide to Fasting. (One of his key arguments is that going for periods of time without food has gotten a bad rap.) I distilled the insights I got from The Obesity Code in my post "Obesity Is Always and Everywhere an Insulin Phenomenon," and a brief overview in a few tweets I arranged in the story "On Fighting Obesity."
In dollar terms, establishing the truth about what has caused the rise of obesity and the diseases of affluence correlated with obesity would be worth trillions and trillions. The diseases of affluence (diabetes, heart disease, strokes, ...) have caused people around the world untold suffering. And for some, obesity itself causes suffering. I believe Jason Fung is on the right track, having himself synthesized a great deal from research that has been done on the body's internal regulation of fat storage and from his own clinical experience as a physician.
As it is, in most people's minds, including the minds of many scientists, the truth about the causes of obesity and the diseases correlated with it is obscured. The continued rise in obesity is a hint that the conventional wisdom about obesity is wrong. So it is exciting to be involved in trying to get things right, not only in my own mind, but in the world at large as well.