Ask yourself any question and your mind will find and rationalize an answer. For example, enquire “Why am I so useless?” and you’ll recall stories and examples that explain why you are, in fact, useless. It’s a powerful reflex.
The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your questions. Ask great questions, get great answers. If you keep asking foreboding questions, you stay in an unproductive and negative state which is neither helpful nor conducive to success or happiness.
Flip this on its head with the 6 questions that successful people ask:
1. So what?
99% of what crosses your consciousness every day is completely irrelevant to you. It will neither help nor hinder you in living the life of your dreams.
That includes most of what happens on the news, everything on your Twitter feed, and the gossip and chatter that others pull you into.
Outrage and sensationalism are none of your concern. Successful people know this and they say, “so what?” at everything. It’s blunt, it’s powerful, but it puts them in control and acts as a sharp reminder that they cannot be deterred.
“So what?” distinguishes the essential from the optional, the fact from the fiction, and lets you let go of critics or naysayers. So what if it’s different? So what if you think I can’t do it? So what if it’s never been done before? Make this phrase your mantra. For everything you’re holding onto or keep re-playing, say “so what?” and move on.
2. What’s the long-term effect?
Before you seek the last word, or cut corners, or let someone down, think about the long-term effect. What does what you’re about to do say about the kind of person you are?
In five years’, the specific situation won’t be there, but the way you dealt with it will be. People don’t remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel.
Thinking long-term when making your short-term decisions means considering the impression you want to give in your every action. It means you create worthy habits that compound.
Many successful business owners are known for their long-term thinking. Jeff Bezos’ mission was to create an online store that sold everything, but he started with books because they are standardized and there’s no need to touch them before purchase.
Once he built Amazon as a bookstore, he moved onto everything else, always with the long-term in mind.
3. How can I use this?
Any setback or misfortune presents an opportunity to respond well and turn the situation around. People no smarter than you have made far more with less, because they constantly asked the question “How can I use this?”.
Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, was able to endure horrific experiences in Auschwitz because he believed it could help others.
Man’s Search For Meaning, the book about his three years in concentration camps, was published a year after his release and sold over 10 million copies.
In the film the Greatest Showman, a bad review of the P T Barnum’s circus show made national news. His response? To give a discount to anyone who brought their copy to the ticket office. He worked out how to use his critics and it paid off.
No matter what happens, there’s an opportunity to use it. You can choose to make it the thing that defines your roaring success or your crushing defeat, and either is possible by shifting your mindset and asking the question.
4. What will happen next?
Successful people think ten steps ahead in everything they do. They know that for every action, there’s a reaction.
Whenever they make a decision, they map it in their head so they can predict plans A, B, and C, and rally up everyone who is involved.
Thinking in this way eliminates surprises and means they are never caught off guard.
There are very few secrets. If you create amazing products that people want, they will buy them. If you overeat daily, you will put on weight.
If you hire someone you’re not sure about, your clients won’t be sure about them either. Often, extrapolating the decision you’re about to make into the next five moves will make the way forward obvious.
5. What can I learn from those who have succeeded?
Successful people don’t want to start from the beginning every time they solve a problem. They want to utilise the trial-and-error of those who have succeeded before them.
They will read stories of those they admire, learn from their mistakes and leapfrog learning curves in a spectacular way. They are hungry for insights from experts in every relevant field and they can deftly apply solutions to their own experience.
If you know what you’re working towards, you can travel your path faster and better by asking “what did they do?”. Like-for-like copying is not the goal, but inspiration and understanding is. Successful people know exactly who to learn from and whose advice to take.
6. What’s the worst that could happen?
The worst that could happen is not that you’ll lose your savings or your house or your car. It’s not that you’ll have failed or will suffer ridicule. None of those things actually matter.
The worst that could happen is that you’ll die, and one day that’s going to happen anyway. Decide whether you want to be defined by the chances you grabbed or the opportunities you passed by.
By the things, you can’t believe you did, or the things you wish you’d done. Stop acting like you’re going to live forever. Your time here is finite and pretending like it isn’t is a sure-fire way to regret.
Successful people ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” when weighing up every next step. When choosing to do what’s expected or be remarkable. When launching the safe bet or the risk that could just pay off.
Your mindset and your actions are defined by your questions. Make them good and keep asking them.