Are you asking the best questions soon enough?

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Guest Post by Dr. Bob Andringa

Questions differ with age.  I turned 75 a few weeks ago and am enjoying this stage of life, which I call re-firement, more than any other chapter of life’s journey.  Why so?  People in my peer group have the wisdom that comes from experience, the grace that comes from not having to compete in the marketplace, the humility of knowing we made mistakes and God has forgiven us as we learned to forgive others.  And our questions change.

For much of the first 50 or 60 years, our questions revolved around where to go to school, what activities would help us most, who to marry, which jobs to take, how to invest wisely, how to parent kids – for we men, at least, a lot of  questions related to moving ahead, getting promoted, being recognized as leaders.  Our careers often took precedence over family, church and building life-long friends.  We knew better, but beliefs often didn’t lead to behavior.

But at the three-quarter mark, when the bell for the last lap is rung, our questions are different.  Last week I picked up David Brooks’ recent book The Road to Character.  I can’t shake the very first sentence: “Recently I’ve been thinking about the difference between the resume’ virtues and the eulogy virtues.”  Wow. I immediately identified with what he called resume’ virtues – things I’ve seen in hundreds of resumes, all about the writers’ achievements, written carefully to impress others.

But Brooks says the more important questions revolve around what we hope people say at our funerals – the eulogy virtues.

  • Was I a man of character?
  • How did I treat my wife and children?
  • Was I generous with others?
  • Was I a servant-leader?
  • Did I model Christ in all I did, not just when in church or a Bible study?

The resume virtues, if one’s entire focus, leads to this well-known quote: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

As I’ve reflected on David Brooks’ book, I realized that for much of my career, although a Christ-follower, I had been drawn to the challenging questions posed by Peter Drucker, or Jim Collins, or Patrick Lencioni, or other gurus of leadership and management  — questions about strategic planning, satisfying the customer, setting and meeting financial goals, building a team, assessing results.

Now I am drawn to questions about the quality of life, finishing well, whether my beliefs drive my behavior.  I like questions about these topics – eulogy virtues – and have somewhat more time with friends to ask them of one another.

Two such questions currently have my heart and mind swirling.  A former colleague, Dr. Steven Garber, posed them in his wonderful paperback, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good : 

“Is there something that is more true than what I have believed?”

That question has made me more inquisitive, more motivated to keep learning, helping me seek the best application of God’s Truth without just assuming that what I’ve learned so far is all there is.

A second question in the book won’t let go of me:

“Knowing what we know, what will we do?”  

I think it was Andy Stanley who posed the question “What is the wisest thing to do?”  These are the kind of questions that motivate me today.  I know there are fewer years ahead to experience and share God’s love and grace by being fully given to Him.

Yes, all questions invite responses.  And good questions drive good thinking. But great questions drive life’s choices.  As Bob Buford has reminded us, at some “second half” point in life we find ourselves wanting to move from success to significance.  My advice?  Don’t be too late in asking the best questions.

Questions to ponder:

  1. How can we pay as much attention to the “eulogy virtues” earlier in life while building our “resume virtues?”
  2. Are we still pursuing wisdom so we are open to things “more true” than what we now believe?
  3. Do we have models and mentors for building our character while learning as well by mentoring others?

What Questions would you add?

BobAndringaHeadShotCDr. Bob Andringa spent his career as a higher education administrator, committee staff director in the U.S. House of Representatives, gubernatorial campaign manager and then director of policy research in the governor’s office, CEO of a national think tank for governors and legislators, and CEO of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.  In refirement, he has many volunteer projects and coaches nonprofit CEOs and their boards.  Since he turned 60, his motto has been “peak at 80” — but he is now thinking of moving that to 90.  You can connect with Bob on LinkedIn

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