Success Stories

Marilee Adams

Oct 17, 2013

Sometimes success stories occur after long, deliberate, and steady effort. Sometimes they happen as a complete surprise. Successes can also be turning points in our lives, which is what happened to me.

When I was in graduate school I handed in a paper that I felt great about and I looked forward to the praise it would bring. However, my adviser, a man I trusted and respected, handed the paper back to me and said, not unkindly, “Marilee, this is just not acceptable.” Although my stomach sank, almost without missing a beat, I replied, “OK, what do I need to do to fix it?”

I was in shock – not so much at his comment but at my own response! I had often been mired in self-doubt so before that day a comment like his would have made me want to crawl under the covers and stay there for weeks. I was amazed at what had happened. How could someone like me, who practically lived in self-judgment (what I now call Judger mindset) switch so easily into a mature, responsible and solution-oriented stance (what I now call Learner mindset).

Because I was able to respond from the Learner mindset, I was able to rewrite the paper at a quality level my advisor and I could both be proud of.  AND I didn’t waste a lot of time.


Sharing The Keys to Success: Using the Learner Mindset to Ask NEW Questions
I knew what had happened wasn’t magic, even if it felt like it was. Although I had done a lot of personal growth work over the years, that incident was so startling that I needed to figure it out, if only to make sure I could respond as well in future challenging situations. I wanted to understand the mechanism behind that successful shift, not only for myself but also so I could share that “how to” with others.

If you are familiar with my work, you probably recognize in that incident the seeds of the Learner and Judger mindset distinctions I later developed, as well as the strategy of asking oneself Switching questions when wanting to deliberately get out of Judger and back to Learner.

We all have Judger mindsets; Judger is completely normal. We express our Judger whenever we become reactive, judgmental and critical – either towards ourselves or towards others. Not surprisingly, those Judger interactions almost always have negative, counterproductive and unhappy results.

We also all have Learner mindsets where we are more open-minded, accepting, curious and creative.  It is only from Learner mindset that we ask ourselves the kinds of solution and possibility questions that can lead to the experiences and results we desire.

The most important question is always, “What mindset will I choose at any moment?”

Share YOUR Success Stories
Over the years teaching the Learner mindset and Question Thinking tools and strategies, I have been inspired by hundreds of success stories like the one I just shared. Many of these were reported in workshops and classes I’ve taught; many have also come from readers of one of my books.  Sometimes these situations were professional and sometimes personal; sometimes they were small events and just as often the stories were about something major in someone’s life.

The theme (or story line) of each story typically has three parts:

  • someone had fallen into Judger mindset (either towards themselves or someone else),
  • asked themselves a Switching question,
  • and then gotten back into Learner mindset so they could ask NEW questions.
    I love hearing these stories and learn from and appreciate every one of them.

What about you? What success stories might you have to share? We’d love to hear them and we’ll also be featuring some in this blog.  People tell us it feels great to share their Learner success stories and they also tell us how inspired they become when hearing them.

Remember that these stories can be either personal or professional and about something “big” or “small.” Here are five quick questions to get you started thinking about your own:

What was the situation and why was it a challenge?
How did you know you were in Judger?
How did you get yourself to Learner Mindset?  Perhaps you challenged an assumption or asked a Switching question.
Then what NEW questions did you ask about your situation/challenge?
What happened as a result? What are you pleased about?
You can share your story by sending us an email at detailing your experience with these five quick questions (or by leaving a comment below). OR, let us know you’d like to tell us your story verbally and someone will get back to you so you can do that.

We’re looking forward to a rewarding exchange!


Written by:

Marilee Adams

Oct 17, 2013