I’m Lynn Borton, 58, living in Arlington, VA. I’m a girl grown up, with grey hair and laugh-lines to show for it; hard-working, mission-driven former executive; unrepentant volunteer; middling cook; reliable ear to the universe and others. Five years ago, I decided it was time to switch things up and I walked away from my national nonprofit COO position. Today I produce and host a radio show/podcast called “Choose to be Curious”. The show is about curiosity itself. I cover research and theory, but mostly it’s conversations about how curiosity shows up in work and life. It’s a lot of fun.
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40 (or 50)?
At 53, I’d dodged cancer, written the last tuition check, mourned friends gone too soon and decided the universe was trying to tell me something. Life is short, it seemed to be saying. You’ve put off a lot until later. What if later is now?
So I left the job I had held for nearly a dozen years at an organization I’d loved for almost 30. So did my husband. We stepped out into the unknown together. It was like being the twenty-somethings our sons actually were. His plan was to write a book. My plan was to get a plan.
First, I had to get used to myself operating at something other than warp speed. I tried things out – a polar bear plunge, modeling for a painter friend, online courses, leisurely weekends with my parents – testing the boundaries of my comfort and relaxing into time instead of resisting it. I (re)discovered myself and really listened to the universe, learning the lessons it had to offer.
Just as I was making the decision to leave my job, I attended a series of leadership talks and decided I would like to present at the next year’s program, but I wasn’t sure what I’d want to speak on. I thought, “Well, I’m curious about curiosity. I’ll learn more about that and share what I’m learning…” And so I did. It was a blast – and a roaring success. People asked what I would do next with it. I had no clue. But that was the seed, the start. That day I learned a radio station was launching nearby and was looking for fresh content. I decided curiosity was ripe for more conversation. Six months later, I was on the air.
I’d never done anything with radio. I knew not one whit about audio engineering or editing. I took classes and figured if it didn’t pan out, at least I’d have a new skill set.
As Sara would say, “Curiosity is the key that unlocks midlife magic.”
When do you feel you are most powerful?
I am most powerful when I hold things lightly. Death grips don’t work for me; neither do power plays. I like to settle in and listen – intently, warmly. I listen for what isn’t said, and I go toward that. I am powerful when I help others discover their power, their insights. When I hold those gifts upward, toward more light. This, I have discovered, is what I love most about interviewing. It’s my chance to help people articulate the wisdom they may not have known they have.
What are the top three most important things to you right now?
Family: my sons, because they are grown and flown and time with them is precious; my parents, for much the same reason; my husband, because we’ve hitched our wagons and continue toward new frontiers together.
Friends: I’ve become much more attentive to cultivating new and old friendships. I actively seek time with people who inspire and energize me. In the last five years my friendship circle has enlarged and diversified tremendously. I value that.
Opening: thirty years into a relationship/home/career, it’s easy for things to close in, for the world to narrow. I especially appreciate how my life has opened up to new people, possibilities, ideas, and experiences. Some of that was initially inevitable with the changes we introduced, but I’ve tried to keep it up. I want to stay in expansion mode. Constantly looking for show topics and guests definitely helps keep me at it!
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
I check in with myself, very intentionally, regularly. I love to walk and I use that time to do an internal inventory, like the body scan one might do at the start of a yoga practice. I’ve done Julia Cameron’s “morning pages” off and on — those are a great way to stay honest with oneself. (Pro Tip: I banished my use of any “should” language and whenever I am tempted to write that something is “interesting” I force myself to be more specific. Work wonders!)
One thing my brush with cancer taught me is to listen to my gut. My body was telling me something was wrong then. It still does.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
Thank you for asking this, because you remind me I haven’t thought about this as much as I might! Seeds are little bundles of potential, like kinetic energy, waiting for activation. I think I’m collecting seeds, harvesting them, not yet planting…
In a literal sense, I just worked on my editorial calendar for the next six months. I pulled all the leads and half promises I already have in place, arranged them in a pleasing sequence, and then stepped back to ask myself: is this how I want to spend my time? So maybe that isn’t planting seeds as much as preparing the soil, but we can’t do one without the other and expect anything to grow.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
Give. It. Time.
Let. In. The. Light.
I waded into nearly freezing water to show myself I could, in both literal and figurative ways. If the whole point was to do something different, then I needed to learn to approach things differently. I mixed stuff up as much as I could because it helped me challenge my assumptions about how I would feel about anything – activities, enterprises, people – that didn’t seem obvious to or for me.
Otto Scharmer of the Presencing Institute at MIT’s Sloan School offers “Prototyping 0.8”: before things are ready for primetime, before you’re even at version 1.0, put it out there anyway. Test it, knowing it isn’t yet fully cooked. See how it works and looks and feels. Gather feedback. Integrate all of that and try again. Lather, rinse, repeat – or as Otto would say, “Design. Test. Iterate.” The idea is to not stand in your own way waiting for things to be “good enough” to get started. Just start. You’ll figure out what needs to be rejiggered. I have found this approach both hugely empowering and surprisingly fun.
How can people connect with you and your work?
Please join the curiosity conversation! You can reach me at choosetobecurious [at] gmail [dot] com. All of my shows, plus lots of curiously related material, are available on my website at choosetobecurious.com. You can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Stitcher, Mixcloud and Soundcloud. (I’m working on getting on Spotify!). You can also connect with me on my social channels: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Come – choose to be curious!