“The questions we ask ourselves determine the type of people we will become.” – Leo Bebauta [Tweet this.]
Have you ever had an ordinary experience that resulted in extraordinary insight on life?
Perhaps while sitting in traffic, cleaning the kitchen or grocery shopping, wisdom shined through and opened your eyes in some amazing way.
I enjoyed that type of experience recently in the basement of JFK airport. After landing in New York, after an overnight flight from Dubai, I groggily approached the customs officer. I smiled at the attendant and asked him how he was. He must not have heard me because he responded, “passport and declaration.”
Handing him these documents, I waited anxiously. Even though I have nothing to hide, I always get nervous when I see a police officer in my rear mirror, get mail from the IRS and when speaking to border agents! He scanned the documents, looked me in the eye and asked me five questions to learn about me, why I’d been travelling and to allow me back into the country.
In answering – I realized the value in answering these questions each day [Tweet this.]. Not as travellers, but as leaders, business owners, employees, teachers, parents, and neighbors. These five questions give such clarity to our walk as leaders, that I built my LAUNCH Leadership conference around them [LAUNCH is March 13 & 14. Get your ticket today.]
1. Who are you?He looked me in the eyes and asked: Name? I responded John O’Leary. I got it right of course, but before we so quickly move on, think for a moment about the great value of this question in your life. Who are you, really? What are your roles and responsibilities? What are your skills and talents? What are your fears and regrets? What’s your story? What are the experiences from your past that shape you perfectly into who you are today? What’s your personal brand and differentiator? It is impossible to live up to the fullness of our potential individually and organizationally unless we embrace who we are.
2. Where are you going?
Next, the agent wanted to know the destination of my travel. Related to our journey in life, it is critically important that we know where we are going in life. What are your goals financially? Where are you striving for relationally, spiritually, physically and professionally? As an organization, what is your big goal and how will your team know they achieved it? Individuals and organizations that have written goals are significantly more successful than those who don’t…so don’t just share with “the agent,” write your goals down.
3. Why are you going there?
After telling him that I was going to St. Louis, MO, he wanted to know why I was going there. Friends, in life we should slow down and ask ourselves this question frequently: in our race from one thing to the next, how often do we stop to ask ourselves WHY we are moving there? Must we keep up this insane pace? We have grades we are striving for, projects to do at work, friends to see on weekends, obligations to accomplish from church, scouts and in our neighborhoods…but it’s incredibly important to take time to stop and ask the question: WHY? Improve sales by 11% in ’14: Why? Wash our hands after every patient visit: Why? Pass on the deep-fried Twinkees at lunchtime: Why? 97% Customer satisfaction: Why? Great marriage: Why? Healthy, well-adjusted kids: Why? Lose 25 pounds: Why? Don’t just set goals, deepen them by asking “Why?” [Tweet this.]
4. Who is traveling with you?
The man who knew no joy continued to stare menacingly at me. He seemed completely unimpressed and angry he’d not yet stumped me when he came to his fourth question: Who is traveling with you? Were there family members, business acquaintances, spouses or children? On the document, there was actually a place to write them down. Although no one was with me for that trip, the value in reflecting on this questions is that we realize we can’t do life in a vacuum. To be truly successful and to sustain it in every aspect of life, we need others to share life with. Our work teams, customers, families, neighbors and chance encounters with strangers help make up the real stuff of life. Who are you journeying through life with?
5. How are you going to get there?
He managed the hint of a smile handing me back my paperwork, told me to get my bags at luggage claim and asked his final question: Do you know how to get there? He pointed at the sign with the arrow and then yelled “Next!”
In life, we often need more than a simple sign with an arrow on it. Do you have the strategy, the bandwidth, the know-how, the network and the commitment to get to where you want to go? Do you have an accountability partner to assist when you make a wrong turn (and we all make wrong turns). Do you have a daily commitment to stretch yourself to be better today than yesterday? The other questions are vital, but this final one is how we actually take our life from the basement of JFK and take flight into the possibility of life.
This time of year, many people are planning their summer trips. I encourage you to invest the worthy time not just selecting where you want to spend 6 days in July, but to consider the questions that frees you not only to come back into the country, but to launch you toward the possibility of your life.
Join me and my favorite experts in St. Louis, MO on March 13 & 14 at LAUNCH Leadership Conference to BOLDLY answer these questions and create the roadmap to get you to the life and results you are truly after.