I love questions.
I’ve spent the entirety of my professional life in sales, and the entirety of my personal life in philosophy. Two pastimes deeply rooted in questions.
Questions challenge. And questions help us get to the core. Salesmen and philosophers alike need to do both. The difference between a good salesman and a great salesman is not their ability to sell, but their ability to ask the right questions. Similarly, the best philosophers are those who wield questions as a lumberjack wields an axe in their desperate attempt to cut to the core of, well, life.
I’m also of the opinion that we all love questions, and that like a good philosopher we all go through life asking ourselves tough questions. What should I do with my life? What’s my purpose? What career path should I choose? Should I change jobs? How can I be more successful? Where should I invest my time/money?
I notice two things about these types of questions.
First, they are self-centric. They’re about me, not you.
Second, there is a strong sense of unfulfillment. I don’t have enough so I’m asking questions about how I can get more. After watching Rick Warren’s TED talk on purpose I am thrilled to announce that I have encountered my favorite question to date. A question to trump all questions. Are you ready for it? I may have given it away in the title of this post but in case you missed it, here it goes.
“What are you doing with what you’ve been given?”
Oh man, that’s a good question.
Let me share why I think so.
It starts with gratitude.
No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what life circumstances you find yourself in today, there are gifts and opportunities that only you possess. This question forces you to acknowledge that and doesn’t give you any room to play victim. It forces you to completely reframe and to start with gratitude.
It’s externally focused.
Moving away from me, myself, and I, the question forces us to think about how we can use the gifts and opportunities we’ve been given in order to contribute to those around us. But it’s not just in their best interest: the connection between happiness and one’s sense of contribution is well documented, so we come out ahead as well.
It’s challenging you to act.
There’s a sense of urgency in the tone of this question.
When I ask myself the question I hear it in a tone that sounds something like, “Hey buddy, what are you gonna do for the world today? Get movin’ would ya?” It reminds me of how my coach used to talk to me during my soccer days. He pushed me because he wanted to see me reach my full potential. This question does the same.
Everyone reading this post has been given a career, so lets start there. What can you do with the career you’ve been given? Have you been given influence, skills, money, time, freedom, ideas…?
If you’re in sales, you’ve been given the opportunity to meet and interact with hundreds of people a year. You may have even mastered the art of the question. How can you use that to help those around you?
If you’re in marketing you know how to package messages and deliver them to people at scale. What can you do with that?
If you’re a CEO then you have enormous influence. You have a voice. What are you doing with it?
If you are looking for direction or purpose look no further then what is sitting right in front of you as you read this post. The answer is there.
And so I close by asking all of you: what are you doing with what you’ve been given?