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“He has put fire and water before you; you can stretch out your hand for whichever you choose. Life and death are in front of human beings; and they will be granted whichever they please.”  Sirach, 200 B.C.

So often we think it critical to respond to questions immediately with an answer. 

Beautiful young woman choosing between right and wrong signs

Do you remember when one of the most popular shows on network television was Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

More than 30 million viewers would watch as the host, Regis Philbin, asked a question, provided a few choices and required the participant to answer. After providing the answer, Regis would almost always ask another question: “Final answer?”

But, what great teachers and leaders know is that sometimes the best way to answer a question is to ask another one. [Tweet this.] They do it not to build suspense for a television audience, but to deepen the belief – the ownership and accountability – of the individual answering.

When I was nine-years-old laying on what was expected to be my deathbed after a house fire, my mother guided me with this same approach.

The accountability her question sparked within me changed the trajectory of my life. 

Mom came into the emergency room. She told me she loved me. I remember looking into her eyes and asking a simple question, “Mom, am I going to die?” 

My goal with this question was to have her take away my fear; to comfort me and give me reassurance. I expected her to answer by telling me they’d get me out of here tonight and we’d get milkshakes on the way home!   

Instead, she clasped my hand gently in hers, brushed back my bangs, looked into my eyes, paused for a moment and asked: “John, do you want to die?  It’s your choice, not mine.” 

My mom was either the coldest, most miserable, callused parent or absolutely extraordinary and wildly compassionate. She was either fully disengaged in my life-or-death situation or was so committed to it that she’d risk everything to see it through.

She served as a wonderful reminder to me of what we must all know: whether fighting to avoid death or to vibrantly live, we must be ALL-IN. [Tweet this.]

There is no middle ground, no passive participant, no do-over. You have to be accountable for your actions and your outcomes and your life. No one else can do this but you. 

She challenged me to choose and to fully engage. 

I remember being stunned by my Mom’s question. I looked back at her and said, “Mom I do not want to die. I want to live.” 

She responded, “Then, John, you need to fight like you’ve never fought before, you need to take the hand of God, and you need to walk this journey with Him. Race forward with everything you have. Daddy and I will be with you every step of the way. But John, you listen to me: you need to fight.” 

That day we made a commitment to faithfully, courageously fight on. We had no idea of what tomorrow might hold. All we knew was that we were committed, we were holding each other accountable and we’d do everything in our power to fight on each day.  

My friend, regardless your difficulties professionally, challenges relationally, or diagnosis personally, I encourage you to fight on. Your journey forward may not be easy and I offer no milkshake promises.  

But in holding yourself accountable – to what is important to you in life, relationships, business – you will be liberated to take back your life, ignite your possibility and change your world.

Each day, “fire and water are before you; you can stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.”  So, do you want to really live?

Final answer? 

 Me, too!  Now, hold yourself accountable. Take back your life, ignite your possibility and change your world.

 The best is yet to come. 

During June we are exploring accountability. What are you really living for? How are you holding yourself accountable to that each day? Share in the coments below. Can’t wait to hear. 

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0 replies on “What’s Your Final Answer?”

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I am sitting with my wife of 39 years as she takes her kimo treatment. 2 weeks ago I almost lost her. She made the “I want to live” choice. The nurses here are getting a good lesson on you and Andy Andrews.

You are my Jack Buck.

Your ReMax friend in Kansas City.


My husband and I are both going through cancer at the same time. His is colon cancer. They caught it early, but still found a malignant lymph node, so he will undergo chemo. Mine is a rare salivary gland cancer on the back of my tongue. I have surgery to have all the lymph nodes in my neck removed, and hopefully the tumor, later this month at a big medical center 3 hours from home. Life is scary and it would be so easy to just give up. Your words hit home for me — what do I want? I want to live. . .I want to spend many more years with my husband. . . I want to enjoy my young grandbabies.
Thank you for the reminder that the decision is mine (ours).

Thanks for sharing your story and your “final answer?” keep living boldly and loving on those grandbabies. I will be keeping you and your husband in my thoughts and prayers. The best is yet to come, Jody. J

Since first having had the pleasure of meeting you at the Fabulous Fox – my life has changed in so many good ways. I
loved hearing you speak with such positiveness. There just aren’t enough adjectives to describe you. I love reading your
motivational newsletters.

Jeri — what an awesome team and organization! I loved our time together. Thx for staying connected and please keep giving feedback! Your kind words fuel me — and also help me know which topics are helpful, which ones I’m missing, etc. Also, if you like Monday Morning Motivation blog – don’t miss my “daily inspiration” on FB & Twitter! The best is yet to come, J

John, little did I know that when I taught at St. Clements and prayed so hard for your life and recovery that you are so motivationally fantastic for so many of us. Please keep up the great work since many of us need that help.

Thank you for your prayers — it really did take a village and it really did make a difference 🙂 We are blessed with a fantastic community. Thanks for being part of it — and for ALL that you do! J

Thank you for your posts. They always seem to be used by God to speak to me. I’m going through a “all in” moment with my marriage again & needed to read/apply this. This can be applied to so many areas of our lives…not just physically.

You are right, scars are not just physical. Thank you for being part of the Rising Above community and for ALL that you do, Jenn. Continue boldly and remember the best is yet to come. If you could use extra motivation, consider my complimentary Spark! Challenge … created to ignite your possibility 😉 http://www.risingabove.com/spark — J

John, thank you for today’s blog, it hits home again for me. Spending last Friday on a table in the hospital for the 3rd time in 18 months having a cardiac cath, I chose to fight. I have too much I want to do and so many to help that leaving now is not an option. Thanks for your deep inspiring words every week, it helps us all strive to do more.

Bob, speedy recovery, brother. Thank you for all you do for yourself and for others. Thx for your kind words – it’s an honor to share my story and encourage other to share theirs. “What More Can I Do?” Continue boldly — J

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