Note from Bob: Bobb Biehl, is for me, the wisest man I have ever met! I have been privileged to call him my friend and my personal mentor since 1980. It was then – in 1980 – that Bobb first introduced me to his hobby of collecting questions.
The key to focusing your thinking is asking profound questions. Without focusing and getting to clarity you cannot lead. You cannot motivate. You cannot plan. You cannot communicate. Without a clear head you cannot stay confident, keep balanced, maintain motivation, or become or keep organized.
Focusing is the key to growing into your full potential. See yourself as a lifelong student: always growing, always seeking, always clarifying, always taking the next step. There are three key words I’d like you to understand because it’s a principle I want you to understand for life: focusing by asking.
The way to get your focus clearer is by asking profound questions. This article is about teaching you what profound questions to ask to turn the fog in your head into crystal-clear energizing, unlocking, releasing, and expanding in your ability to focus.
Who’s the wisest person you know? Let me suggest that one of the characteristics of this person is that they ask profound, penetrating questions.
I’ve collected questions for about 20 years, but until recently I couldn’t tell people why it was so important. I just didn’t have the language. I didn’t have the concept to tell them. But here’s why it’s so important. If you ask profound questions, you get profound answers; if you ask shallow questions, you get shallow answers; and if you ask no questions, you get no answers at all. Without good questions, you are left in the position of making unwise decisions because you haven’t thought things through for yourself. You’re just parroting other people’s thinking.
The single-word focus that I would give you about asking is the word maturity. A mature person asks great questions. Maturity is putting process between opportunity and decision. An example would be this: The immature person gets the opportunity to buy a car. The person selling the car says, “Hey, how do you like my Jaguar?” The immature buyer says, “I like it! I’ll buy it!” There’s no process between the opportunity to buy it and the decision to buy it.
A mature person, on the other hand, says, “I like your Jaguar, may I ask you a few questions? How many miles does it have on it? What are you asking for it? Has it ever been in an accident?” This person asks a few questions that put process between an opportunity to buy something and a decision to buy something. Maturity is putting process between opportunity and decision. How do you find the questions that let you think for yourself and have crystal-clear focus on what you’re about?
Number one, ask profound questions before deciding anything.
Number two, make a hobby of collecting questions for a lifetime. Number three, carry questions with you all of the time.
Back to number one. Peter Drucker, who was the father of modern management—he probably wrote 20 books on management in America and consulted with the presidents of both government and industry—made this statement, “Once the facts are clear, the decisions jump out at you.” You know that if you’ve got all the facts, making the decision is easy. What’s hard and stressful is trying to make a decision without the facts. So before you make any kind of decision, make sure you’ve got some good questions to place between the opportunity and the decision.
Secondly, make a hobby of collecting questions for a lifetime. I would encourage you to start today making your collection of questions. Ask your best friends, ask the leaders you know in your life, “What are your all-time favorite questions? What questions do you ask before making a major decision? What questions would you ask before you risk money? What questions would you ask at this point in my career? What questions would you ask before you decide to sell something or buy something or adopt a child or build a house?”
Third, carry a copy of the questions that you collect. Somewhere in your briefcase, in your purse, or in your computer, keep a list of questions that you put between opportunity and decision.
One question I’ve added to my own lifelong list came as a result of a board meeting. We were having a discussion involving several million dollars and the direction we should head on a new building project. We had been discussing it and debating it and wrestling with it for probably two hours. Then Bill Hybels asked a question that was an absolute fog cutter. He asked one simple question:
“What would be the ideal solution long term?”
The minute he asked it, everyone in the room knew what the answer was. We were trying to deal with it on a short-term basis. He asked one profound question, the discussion lasted about 30 seconds more, and it was done. It was done.
One question cut the fog out of the entire discussion. When you find questions like that, grab them, collect them, and keep them with you. Ask them at just precisely the right time, and people will say, “Wow! What a profound question that was. What an amazing leader this person is.” Where do you get questions like that? You don’t have to create them, just collect them.
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