What is important now? Football coach Lou Holtz loved this question. He requested his players to ask it over 30 times a day. When they were working out at the gym, when they were studying at the library, or when they were on the field.His goal was to make them prioritize the decisions they were faced with.People who make a powerful impact and find more satisfaction than frustration in life learn to ask this question constantly. Sometimes it is hard to give an answer. Or the answer you have might scare or shame you because you would have to admit to yourself that you are working on the completely wrong thing right now. Or the thing that you deep-down know you must do makes you feel scared and insecure.Answering this question with brutal honesty every single day gets you focused and to the core of what it is you need to do. Try to answer this question with brutal honesty. It is a way to regain clarity and focus in your life. It gets to the core of fulfilling your purpose right now.Some of the oldest people in the world live on a Japanese island in Okinawa. Their secret to a long and happy life is this: to find their Ikigai, or their reason to wake up in the morning. This is their purpose; the thing they must do right now. It keeps them energized and moving forward.When you ask that question, it will help you embrace what you want to change in your life, live powerfully in the moment, quit wasting time, and act mindfully. You look through the lens of the big picture to see exactly what needs to happen next.There is profound power in questions. French philosopher Voltaire said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” American journalist Warren Berger interviewed dozens of companies like Google, Netflix, and Airbnb about the role of questioning in their success for his book, A More Beautiful Question.He discovered that those who ask the best questions come up with the most innovative and successful ideas.A new idea starts with a question. Why aren’t people doing this? Is there a better way? Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky were flat-mates in 2007 when they found themselves wondering, “Why do people have to stay in an overpriced hotel if we could just offer a room in our place for them to crash?” They put an inflatable mattress into their apartment in San Francisco and started a webpage that is now known as Airbnb.The best questions are often the ones we are too afraid to ask ourselves. But you can change your life and impact by asking quality questions. You can greatly increase your career/job satisfaction and success by asking the right questions, and answering with brutal honesty.If you want to get better at asking the right questions for an idea you have, Warren Berger offers a three-step process:Step One: Why?To see and understand the world differently, you should ask, “Why is it like this and not different?”Step Two: What if?To find possible solutions, you need to ask, “What if it was different?”Step Three: How?The last step is to pick one of the many “what if” scenarios and put the best one into action.People with a moderate amount of success often handicap themselves by simply reaffirming the self-worth statements they used to get where they are. There is nothing wrong with telling yourself “I am enough” and “I can do whatever I set my mind to” as you get started. But there must come a day when we do more than reinforce our self-esteem. Questions help us. If you are still a bit insecure, you can ask questions like, “What am I good at?” or “What has been my biggest success?” Move on from there.Be very aware of the questions you are asking yourself. Your brain is like a search engine. It gives you the answers to the questions you are asking. So, if you want to change the way you think, you need to start with the questions you ask: “Why do they need this NOW? Why do I have to do this?” Ask, “What do I need to do NOW?” and then do it.Evaluation is another time for great questions and brutal honesty. In evaluation, we generally just say what went right or right, and we never ask questions about WHY and then WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO NOW? The evaluation generally ends up as a waste of time, simply congratulating ourselves or having a brief memorial service for something that went wrong. When a campaign or event doesn’t live up to what we hoped, we can’t afford to slide over it. We must dissect it honestly and ask why. Did we procrastinate? Did we not prepare? Was our timing off? Were the right people involved? Then, we must ask WHAT DO WE DO NOW? Otherwise, we will simply repeat our issues.There’s another element to questions, as well. Besides asking them to yourself with brutal honesty, asking questions of others leads to great results. I heard John Maxwell speak when I was in college and he was just getting started. He talked about the importance of asking questions of others. He carried around a card with questions with him, and never engaged a conversation without being prepared to ask growing questions.One of the best questions is a simple “Why?” Why do you do that? Why DON’T you do that? When you know you are going to meet with someone, spend time determining what questions you want to ask. Do this to make the most of the time you have and to show that you value them. You will learn the most and get the best answers.John schedules learning lunches every month with people who can teach him. He comes armed with questions. This is NOT to charm people or build a network. Some wanna-be leaders approach others with a popularity mindset, and they simply are trying to look humble and endear the other person. This will not help you in the long run. Come with a humble heart, building your wisdom not your reputation, and you will learn.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned? I get their wisdom.
What are you learning now? I learn their passion.
How has failure shaped your life? I get insight into their attitude.
Do you know someone I should know? I get some leads as to others who can teach me.
What have you read that I should read? I get a direction to grow.
What have you done that I should do? I line up valuable new experiences.
How can I add value to you? This gives me a chance to show gratitude to them.
Questions—asked honestly, listened to carefully, and following the answer always produce growth.