I keep six honest serving men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.
Someone commented, “When I was in my 20’s, I knew all the answers. When I got to my 60’s, I had nothing but questions.” That statement rings true for many people
Answers are vapors, specters which evaporate under the heat of daily living. Instead of answers, we need something else—a quiver of great questions.
Questions open windows to new opportunities, new thoughts, unexplored ideas. Some, when asked, make me squirm in my skin. Others rupture with wisdom and counsel not attained without letting out of its cage.
Socrates, the Ancient Greek philosopher had students discover truth through asking questions. Today, the Socratic method employs questions to unpack truths buried under notions.
Most questions are not of intuitive thinking. We learn from others great questions. Over time, I have found sources of great questions. Let me share a few (and the sources, when known).
“What does this experience make possible?”
When confused or uncertain, ask:
What one thing, if I did it right now, would change the situation?
Sometimes it is issues with other people. Bill McCartney, a long-time coach of the University of Colorado football team asked the question:
Can you help me understand what it is like to be you?
When you are ready to act, stop and ask:
What’s missing? (Especially if everyone is sure)
When you are looking to change jobs, ask:
Am I running toward something, or running away from something?
When you tighten from worry or anxiety, stop and ask yourself:
Is this useful?
When you are making a decision, ask four questions.
What is the worst that can happen if we do this?
What’s the best that can happen if we do this?
What’s the best that can happen if we don’t do this?
What’s the worst that can happen if we don’t do this?
It is only by asking mediocre questions do you get mediocre answers. If you ask penetrating questions, you get profound insights. If you ask no questions, you get no answers.
What’s your best question?