An unexpected opportunity came to me this week, and it's a big one. I am not one who shies away from opportunities. In fact, I generally try to attract them or generate them directly. But this one was outside my current scope of thought.

Rather than pounce, I decided to seek counsel. There will be plenty of time for guidance from mentors and academics, but at this point, I was looking for insight that was closer to my state of mind. I could only get that from my peers.

A peer is someone who is traveling a similar path in life. He or she is someone who may be close in age, accomplishment, and background. Peers may not share your core values, but they understand the terminology and context of your way of thinking. The most helpful peers explore the experience with you and help you formulate useful insights.

So, I have been on the phone sharing with my peers. It's one of my favorite and most productive activities. Below are some tips for making such conversations fruitful.

1. Do a full catch up.

I don't get as much time with these friends as I would like. And when we connect, there's always much that's been missed. So the first part of the conversation is usually dedicated to bringing each other up to speed. Often, there are great insights garnered just from the activities report.

2. Provide lots of context.

When you get to the issue at hand, make sure you fully describe what's going on. Give lots of rich detail or the feedback may be misplaced. I even emailed some information to my peers so we didn't waste valuable phone time.

3. Open your mind.

I never go into a peer discussion looking for answers. I am interested in the questions I don't know to ask. I encourage my peers to brain dump all their thoughts so I can sift through and find the path of inquiry that will best help me sort things through.

4. Let the discussion go where it wants.

As structured as all this may sound, the conversations often go across many topics. Rather than redirect them onto a specific point, I find it's best to let them wander. So often the best Aha! moments happen in topics we never expect to discuss.

5. Don't take anything in the conversation too seriously.

Advice can be a horrible thing if it brings implied responsibility to follow it. As peers, we are all agreed that our insights are just that, thoughts to be considered. None of us put pressure on each other to follow a certain path. We respect each other's individuality and celebrate each other's unique journey.

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