• LessThanThree: Asking questions in the internet age

    What are the right questions?

    Some time ago I was browsing Pinterest and noticed someone shared one of my images. This person was Willo, the creator of LessThan3Questions.com*. When I discovered her site, the concept instantly drew me in. (*For those of you who didn’t grow up on the Internet, the title is actually this: < 3.)

    Original here
    Original here

    On “Less Than 3”, Willo writes: “What if we asked each other what makes a difference? What feels rewarding? What needs to change? What we still need to ask ourselves?  I don’t know. But it’s worth asking.”

    At first I saw photos with people holding up random questions. The next set were images of her own questions and answers. The images make you think — and that’s her goal.

    On her site, Willo is the one asking questions so I decided to switch it up. She was kind enough to give a lot of details about her project and the motivation behind it.

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    Engage, Get Close, Find Answers

    How did “Less Than 3” start? Who else is involved?
    It’s just me. Although many of the ideas and questions come from conversations with those I am closest with.
    In October I left my job in the non-profit world. I worked at a homeless shelter as a Volunteer Coordinator and loved the people we served but was really disenchanted with the way we served them and the way things were run. I was excited about possibility, big ideas, dreams, why we do what we do. [I] still am. It was the over-glorifying stress, making excuses, status quo model that much of the non-profit world engages in. One of my concerns with the current non-profit model is that it doesn’t engage people in the very personalized way that we have become accustomed to in the internet age. So I knew I wanted to go as simple and as close to people as I could get.
    One of my concerns with the current non-profit model is that it doesn’t engage people in the very personalized way that we have become accustomed to in the internet age.
    Original here.
    Original here.
    I was really inspired by Humans of New York. Here’s this guy who just started taking pictures of people and sharing a few sentences about them.  Through that one simple action he was connecting people, changing lives, and making a difference.  He can raise money in a way most non-profits would only dream of.  The secret is the personalization.  People seem to trust him, even though the site isn’t about HIM. This also really appealed to me. I follow and admire people like Jonathon Fields, Danielle Laporte, Kate Northrup, but the idea of building something on ME as the cornerstone really turned me off.
    I wanted it to be about the ideas, other people, and building connections.

    One day in early November, the idea of < 3? came and stuck.  I got the idea on a Friday, launched it on a Monday and have been enjoying the ride ever since.

    Do you get many submissions? How do you get people involved?

    No submissions, yet. Although I’m totally open to it. I have been getting people involved by asking just about everyone I get a chance to if they are willing to be on the site. I usually ask if they prefer picture or video. The questioning process is a little different for each. If we do a video I ask them questions. If we take a picture they ask the question they wish everyone would ask themselves.

    What inspires the questions/posts you write?

    Everything! A lot of times I will be reading, or talking to someone, or listening to something and think: “There is a question here.” Sometimes my friends give me an idea.

    And I have been able to expand it to things that never occurred to me in the original conception. Like illustrated essays and the incredible and inspiring video from The Paper Dress Code. That is one of the things I like best about < 3?. It’s so open that inspiration can come from anywhere and lead anywhere. Which is exactly how I think all the best things in life (including helping others) work.

    Do you think asking the right question can get someone to make changes in life?

    Yes. Of course none of us knows what that question will be that inspires us to make changes, or maybe accept changes. But questions are powerful. I become more convinced of that every day. I think that questions are more powerful than answers. Questions are flexible. Every person who reads < 3? can ask themselves every question on there. The same wouldn’t apply to answers. The things I write don’t necessarily fit or resonate the way the questions can.

    Has this project influenced you in any way?

    Absolutely. I am a much better person than I was when I started < 3?. The people I’ve met and the questions they’ve asked, or caused me to ask, have steered me in a softer, kinder, easier, more loving, more creative, more hopeful direction.

    Which question/submission is your favorite?

    Oh, see this is a tough spot! Because of course I am not supposed to have a favorite. Of course they are supposed to be like my children, all my favorite. But I personally hate when people answer that way, so I won’t.

    I think my favorite question is the very first one I posted. Whitney from Traverse City was such a sweet stranger and so willing and helpful to launch < 3?.

    Original here.
    Original here.

    After she asked [her question] I talked it over with my friends. We got to thinking, what would make your 10 year old self proud? 10 year old Willo doesn’t care how much money I make or what my job is (unless it’s awesome). She wants to know if I am happy. If I laugh a lot. If I found the love of my life. If I have fun. If I hang out with cool people.

    The more I think about it, the more I want to hold my life to the standards of 10 year-old Willo. She knew what was up.

    My favorite answer is when Mary from Ontario said that the best gift she ever received was when her brother came home from Vietnam. It was such an honest personal revelation. It told me a lot about her in one sentence. And it pinpoints what really matters to all of us.

    In your “about” section, you say that connecting to each other makes people better. Do you feel that “Less Than 3” has done that?

    When I started < 3? I wanted to have an impact on everyone. I thought I could do something to change the world. Now I realize that we can change ourselves, and by being happy and healthy and caring, we change the world. I know that’s the way that < 3? has connected me to people, has made me better.

    Every time someone likes or shares something on < 3? I am so happy. Not because of what it means for the site. Everyone is so focused on numbers and audience and analytics these days. Honestly, I don’t care.

    Doing this site has made me better. I would like to think each time someone shares their question it touches them in some way. And every single time someone interacts with the site in some way I am happy that I know about that person. That for a moment I saw their name, and maybe their comment or their blog or something else about them, and I am thankful for them in this world.

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    What question makes you think?

    My own question for Willo

    Here’s mine. Let me know your answer in the comments, or post your own question on Facebook or Twitter (@yevkusa).