Questions are usually associated with confusion, not clarity. They are, however, the key to understanding. By asking a few introspective questions, we can gain unparalleled clarity in life and in business.
In 2021, just a few hours before the motorcycle crash that put my wife and me out of commission for several weeks, I had an epiphany. I was working on a central, unifying concept for all the training programs, methodologies, and ideas I had been developing. This thematic idea had eluded me for weeks. That morning, however, I was finally able to see it. I had finally discovered my “theory of everything”.
It was May 21, and it was a beautiful, 80-degree Friday. We decided to stop working early to go for a first-of-the-season motorcycle ride. We were only able to enjoy it for about 15 minutes; it was then we t-boned a deer at 60 mph.
Fortunately, we were not too seriously hurt. Despite the potential for life-threatening or permanent injuries, we were able to make a relatively quick recovery. Unfortunately, this derailed my progress a bit. Fast forward a few months, and I was asked to teach two entrepreneurship courses at Valparaiso University for the upcoming spring semester. That further delayed progress on my company.
Once the semester was over, I began “rebooting” my business. In the process, I also began evaluating what I was doing, what was working, what was not working, and how I should do things differently. I looked back at the ideas birthed from the epiphany from that day in May of 2021, and I asked myself, “If I could only speak to an audience one time, knowing that they would never hear from me again, what would I want to say to have the greatest impact in their lives?”
Clarity about my “theory of everything”
With my “theory of everything” as a framework, and all the content I have created over the last several years, the result is the 8 Essential Questions™. These eight questions are designed to provoke thoughts, provide direction, and promote action. Every person should ask these questions and seriously ponder their answers.
Clarity through The 8 Essential Questions™
1. How will I become a juggernaut for positive change in the world through my work?
A juggernaut is a “huge, powerful, overwhelming force.” In other words, “How do I have significant impact through my career or my business (or my foundation, or my volunteering, or my job)?” Humans were designed to work (not toil as in drudgery or difficulty, but work as in productive, creative, and stewardly.)
For most of us, our work is where we spend a significant amount of time and energy. While work may pay our bills, like us, it has a higher purpose. We need to determine the possible purposes of our work, decide on a direction, describe that vision, and declare it to ourselves and those around us. This clarity of direction leads to better success, how ever you choose to define that.
2. What can I contribute to those closest to me to strengthen those relationships?
Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” This is true in close relationships too. If you want friendship, intimacy, love, community, warmth, kindness, or better relationships in general, begin by giving. Invest time, thought, energy, words, and actions into the people closest to you. This question requires us to identify the relationships that we wish to bolster and then proactively act to strengthen them. Gaining clarity around these relationships elevates the quality of life for you and for them.
3. What is my higher purpose in life?
Bigger than your work, beyond caring for your family, you have a purpose. You have a God-given reason for being put on this planet at this time in these exact situations. We need to take the time to figure out our higher purpose. If we know why we are here, so many other things in life become clear; our experiences all point to something, even the bad ones. The direction and insight we gain from this clarity make many of life’s important decisions pretty simple.
4. Who does God say I am (what is my value), and am I exemplifying that accurately?
For those who believe, as I do, that we were designed by a higher power, this is a crucial question to ask. If we truly understand who we are in God’s eyes, then our real identity (the one that fits perfectly, feels right, values us, values others, and glorifies God) is empowering and freeing. If we are not living that out, then we need to start figuring out why. If our current identity does not match the one we were designed to inhabit, if we are wearing masks and faking our existence, then we will never reach our full potential. Self-clarity can be uncomfortable sometimes, but without it our lives are disingenuous.
5. Which of my core paradigms are not serving me well and need to change?
Like computers, we all have behind-the-scenes programs that enable us to function in the world. At the deepest level is our “kernel”. This is hard-wired into our brains and handles basic life functions like breathing, cellular activity, instinct, etc. Then there is an “operating system” (think Windows or Mac OS). Often, this appears to be hard-wired too. In reality, though, there are many things that can be tweaked, changed, or updated.
One of these is our beliefs or paradigms. Every single belief we have is a choice. No matter how we were raised, what we have experienced, or what the world tells us, we choose what we believe. Get clarity around your beliefs, because these underlying paradigms determine how we think, feel, and act. If we do not like our results, then we need to examine the paradigms that lead to those results and update our operating system to paradigms that serve us better.
6. Who is God, and why should I follow Him?
If we are designed, then it only makes sense that we try to become familiar with our designer. Not only does He know what we need to thrive physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, but He knows how to fix us when we are broken. Many choose to dismiss God because of what they have seen or experienced in the world at the hands of other people (maybe even people who claim to be following God.)
That would be like choosing to file a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company after reading a newspaper article about a man driving his Fusion into a crowd and setting off a car bomb. He used a Ford, and he was a Ford owner, so Ford must be responsible?
This question about God is simply one of the most important questions that can be asked in life. Our answer will shape our entire worldview and affect every action and every day we live. We need to take it seriously and objectively, do some research, and be thoughtful in our approach.
7. How many will I rescue?
This question may be somewhat rhetorical. While on our voyage through life, we need to constantly check the radar for opportunities. As we shine the spotlight (shift our focus) onto those we see, we need to be willing to detour, to delay, or to change course completely.
People are drowning all around us from six thousand years of “shipwrecks”. How many will we rescue? That is the question that separates the impact-driven people from everyone else. This question is more about intentionality than clarity; are you intentionally looking for people in the water as you traverse the seas?
Each question grows more personal, more internal, and more spiritual. Although they are meant to be asked in order, as you progress through them and deeper inward, you may find that working back through them in reverse yields different answers. That is OK; it means you are growing, changing, responding, and gaining clarity. Furthermore, you might notice that these questions lead to other questions, and being thorough/intentional about this process can be time-consuming and challenging.
For the record, I never claimed that answering the 8 Essential Questions™ would be easy or convenient. Actually, I guarantee that doing so will be challenging, but it will also be worthwhile, maybe even life-changing. What you may not notice is that these questions are all interconnected and intertwined. Together, they comprise a holistic, integrated, aligned, internal analysis that will provide you with unprecedented clarity and a new perspective from which to live your life. And viewing/living life through this new lens will yield greater possibility for peace, joy, passion, and success than you ever thought was possible.
You might be wondering why an article that is clearly focused on personal development is being written for business owners and entrepreneurs. The answer is twofold and simple. First, business owners are my people. I am a business owner, and I love working with business owners. Entrepreneurship is where my passion lies.
Second, and more importantly, business leaders have a unique platform. They have an opportunity to impact the lives of many people outside their normal circle of influence. From customers and employees to vendors and suppliers, the reach of the business community (as a whole) extends into every city, every culture, and every part of the world. Businesses are invited where missionaries are not. Businesses are welcomed into oppressive cultures. Businesses can revive dying or poverty-stricken communities. Businesses can change the world.
So, here is the final question, and this one should be asked daily:
8. What action will I take TODAY regarding my answers to the first 7 questions?
If you would like a deeper-dive into the 8 Essential Questions™, check out the dedicated page here: