The Intersection of Ted Lasso, Walt Whitman, and Maria Popova


Ted Lasso fans often name a favorite scene as the one that takes place in a bar over a game of darts. What this scene so beautifully advocates for is curiosity. Ted gives a brilliant monologue that speaks to being underestimated and bullied most of his life. What Ted poignantly describes over a game of darts with one such adult bully is that how people view him has nothing to do with who he is. It has everything to do with lack of curiosity within the other person.


“Guys underestimated me my entire life. And for years, I never understood why. It used to really bother me. But then one day I was driving my little boy to school and I saw this quote by Walt Whitman and it was painted on the wall there. It said: ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ And I liked that. So I get back in my car and I’m driving to work, and all of a sudden it hits me. All them fellas that used to be belittle me; not a single one of them were curious. They thought they had everything all figured out. So they judged everything, and everyone. And I realized that their underestimating me…who I was had nothing to do with it. Cause if they were curious, they could’ve asked questions."


Our recent ATG Brown Bag event focused on how we observe and how we ask questions. Panelists Peg AtKisson and Shani Feyen would almost certainly be fans of the Ted Lasso dart scene. Their Brown Bag touched on how the lens we view from can limit or expand us. That if we could become more curious, if we could challenge ourselves to observe from different perspectives, we could ask better questions. What makes Ted Lasso such an amazing coach, human being, and essentially likeable person despite his cheesy sayings and relentlessly upbeat personality is his ability to ask questions.


Epistemic humility is a foundational concept of the Science of Team Science, a relatively new interdisciplinary field that empirically examines the process by which scientific teams connect and collaborate to achieve breakthroughs that would not be attainable by either individual or simply additive efforts. Epistemic humility is rooted in the recognition that knowledge is always interpreted, structured, and filtered by the observer. It requires an acknowledgement of our limitations of knowing – the paradox of knowing and not knowing simultaneously, of being open to different ways of knowing.


Maria Popova, most widely known for her blog Brain Pickings, recently renamed The Marginalian, writes about combinatorial creativity.


“Yet, no matter how much we know about the brain and the inner workings of creativity, the creative process itself will never be easy. Its most frustrating reality is that this crux of combinatorial creation – that magic moment when ideas click together and “make a stable combination” – cannot be forced. In fact, the more we consciously dwell on a problem that requires an innovative solution, the more likely we are to corner ourselves into the nooks of the familiar, entrenched in habitual patterns of thought that lead where they always have.”


The ability to ask better questions relies on putting ourselves into a somewhat vulnerable and not always comfortable state. We need to destabilize ourselves, to shift our perspectives, to broaden our scope, to be comfortable with not knowing. If we think we know something, we restrict our ability to learn, to observe, and ask questions.  If you’d like more information about our Asking Better Questions workshop, please reach out to peg@atkissontraininggroup.com.

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