Five questions

Flying is magical only because gravity tries to bring us back to the ground.

Our lives are shaped by the barriers, the constraints, the restrictions and the obstacles we have to work around

So too is how we learn.

What we learn is guided by the culture we were raised in, by our opinions about the importance of one branch of knowledge over another and by our interests and talents. Not to mention the limits on our time, attention and energy.

In the last few years, the work and thought of so many people has shaped my life. Over the coming decades, the impact of others on my life will only grow.

Some people I may get to know intimately. Most I will only know through the medium in which they enter my life. But the commonality is that I will try to learn all I can from all of them.

On the surface that’s a daunting task.

When faced with someone who you wish to learn from, where do you start? What are you trying to discover?

For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about ways that I can learn from and connect with more people. As with most things in life, I’ve had to think about solutions under some constraints.

For instance:

– I can’t travel across the globe and spend time immersed in different environments.
– I can’t trade the value I provide for an audience with the people I wish to meet because I can’t provide that much value.

Most of the ideas were either stupid, unworkable, or usually, just not right for me at this present moment. Examples:

– Do a podcast.
– Do phone interviews of interesting people and write them up.
– Do email interviews of interesting people and write them up.
– Create a small number of questions and get them to as many different people from as many different backgrounds as possible and assimilate the answers.

The last one got me thinking.

If I was sat across from someone I wished to learn from, what would I want to know?

If I only had five questions to ask, what would these questions be?

After several days, I finally sat down and wrote them down. Here’s what I came up with.

1) How would you define and describe the opposite of success?
2) How do you overcome adversity and misfortune?
3) How do you ensure you keep getting better?
4) What are the three most important things in your life?
5) Why do you do what you do?

These questions, if answered honestly and sincerely, would allow me to learn the most from someone. They’d allow me some insight into the mind, the motivations and the strategies of the person answering.

They’re also questions that, if you turn around and ask them of yourself, provide an illuminating look at your own life and attitude.

The answers to these questions aren’t answers at all. They’re guideposts. They offer you direction. They help you to figure out where to go and what to do and why.

Try it.

Pretend you’re being interviewed. Write out the questions and write out the answers. Be as explicit and precise as possible.

Nobody else has to see what you write.

Only you.