Slow-burning questions

Questions guide your attention toward a destination. Imagine you could look at a map depicting every important decision you’ve made. You would see that at every fork in the road you had faced a question. Your answer to that question determined your next step, which determined your path forward. 

Questions are tools for self-reflection that can shift your mindset and reframe your thinking. Just as Michelangelo carved his masterpiece David from a single block of stone, cutting away pieces of marble to reveal an awe-inspiring image, use questions to chip away your assumptions and motivations to reveal your fears and desires. 

Make a list of important questions, but don’t try to answer them right away. Let them stew in the back of your mind as you gather new experiences and additional information. Every time you learn something new, take note of that new knowledge and test to see whether it applies to any of your questions. 

Here are some questions I added into in my note tacking app. Whenever I learn something that applies to a question, I add a quick note so I don’t forget it.  

  • What piques your curiosity?
  • What have you learned that surprised you?
  • How much money do you want to earn?
  • Who do you want to spend more time with?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • What behavior can you stop doing that would improve your life?
  • What do you want to accomplish in the next three years? 
  • What deeply held belief do you hold that may be wrong?
  • How do you want to spend your time?
  • What scares you?
  • What fulfills you?

The question effect

Can asking a question really be that powerful in shaping your life? Let’s explore this one: “How much money do you want to earn?” Have you thought deeply about this question? Do you want $100K, $500K, $1M, $10M, or $50M? Before you say, “the more the better,” invest the time to think through the benefits and tradeoffs of your choice. 

There’s not a right or wrong answer, but your response will impact where you live, how much free time you have, the quality of your relationships with friends and family, your health, what type of house you buy, and who you marry. Your answer maps to your aspirations, abilities, values, and interests. And your answer will likely change and evolve over time. 

There are many perks and benefits to earning lots of money. But earning more money also comes with tradeoffs. Before you set your sights on earning $50M, recognize that your primary relationship will be your career. You will need to work many nights and weekends, and 12- to 14-hour work days will be standard. You will shoulder immense responsibility and stress. 

You won’t likely have the time to watch your kids play sports, perform in a play, or teach them how to ride a bike. You won’t have free time to pursue hobbies or spend much quality time with your partner.  Envy and expectations may strain relationships with friends and family. It may be harder to make new friends because in the back of your mind you will be wondering whether someone wants to be your friend just because of your money.

Your family may face security threats. Criminals target wealthy people for robbery, kidnapping, extortion. Criminals buy airline flight manifests and target wealthy people when they travel, which explains why many of them will use a different name when traveling out of the U.S.

Earning more money may bring increased status but only marginal utility after you have acquired enough to be comfortable and take care of your family. The entertainment you consume, trips you take, health care you receive, food you eat, or technology you use will not be significantly better at $50M compared to $1M.

Your answer to the question of how much money you want ripples throughout your life. Important life decisions start with good questions. Make a list of important questions. Let them burn slowly in the back of your mind, and beware of your initial answers.

Use questions as a tool to guide your decisions and ensure you are heading toward your desired destination.


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