Walter Palmer’s Choice

If you truly want to live the life of your dreams, you’re going to make some choices along the way that you never saw coming.

There’s been a lot of interest over the last week or so regarding the death of Cecil the lion.  I’m going to touch on it because it illustrates the enormous power of choice and also in part, the morality of your success that you’re going to face sooner or later. If you truly want to live the life of your dreams, you’re going to make some choices along the way that you never saw coming.  These are going to be choices with consequences that you didn’t expect, and the more you understand about how choices work the better prepared you’ll be.

…the more you understand about how choices work, the better prepared you’ll be.

My interest in the case is this:  Walter Palmer has inadvertently become the subject of internet vitriol and hatred, and it’s going to be the ruin of more than just him if it continues.Cecil was an African lion who was killed by an American named Walter Palmer.  There is a ton of information available on the internet about the incident, so I’m not going to go into the details here.  Partly that’s because I don’t want to sway your opinion about the incident itself, and partly it’s because if you really want to know what’s going on you’ll read several different accounts and then decide for yourself how to approach this and any other major issue.

If you’ve read The Right Question or basically any other article on this blog, you’ll know how much I respect the fact that every single thing you do or say is a choice.  Whether you like it or not (most people don’t like it, and most people aren’t successful, either.  Not a coincidence) the fact is that the choices we make, expanded over a lifetime, decide our fate.  Charles Noble hit the nail on the head when it comes to choices when he wrote that “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”

This means that choices are something to be valued, and the ability to make good choices is a skill, a talent, an ability worth developing.

…the ability to make good choices is a skill, a talent, an ability worth developing.

It also means that there is honor and maturity displayed in making the right choices.  And on some level, we all know that.

That’s the reason why we can all go into a theatre and sit there with a bunch of strangers in total darkness.  We’re living by an unspoken code of conduct and behavior, a choice we’re all making to get along with each other so that we can enjoy the movie or performance without interfering with someone else’s enjoyment of it.  It can be a fine line sometimes between what you consider fun and what someone else considers annoying, but we all learn that as we go.

When we can’t seem to make those choices, we have people step in and do it for us.  When we’re children, these people are our parents.  In adulthood we call them lawmakers.  Bureaucrats.  Politicians.  Basically, anyone but you.  They’ll decide what happens to you if you don’t behave.  These are people who have made choices that have put them in a position to be able to limit yours.  You’re grateful when they choose not to, and you dislike it when they do.

Here’s how it relates to poor old Cecil the lion and his accidentally famous killer:
There is no law against anyone reading this blog going out and killing a lion.  Nothing at all.  And there shouldn’t be.  Because it’s face it, why the hell would you go out and kill a lion?  Why bother making a law about something like that in the first place?  I mean, who kills a lion anymore?  Call me naive here, call me an old-fashioned gentleman, but is anyone going to eat him? Is his hide of any practical use? His paws aren’t going to be used for making glue, such as horses’ hooves are.  He has no tusks.  To the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, he’s got nothing of practical value that is commercially attractive at all.

Even though there are many areas of the world where wildlife can be a danger, Palmer was too cowardly by far to genuinely place himself in harm’s way.  His choice to exercise the right to kill a lion exemplifies everything that’s wrong about the abuse of free will and power of choice.  And therein lies the reason why he is screwing everybody else over.  By exercising the right to do so, he gives other people with the right to but who choose not to, a bad name.  Do you follow?  I’m assuming you’re a non-lion-killing sort of person.  I’m definitely one.  I’d love to shoot a lion one day, but only with a damn fine camera.  You and I have the right to go shoot a lion, and that’s nice.  But why would we?

I’ve nothing against big game hunting, as long as there is value in the kill beyond the experience sought by the hunter.  I know people who hunt.  They obtain permits to do so, for animals such as moose and deer.  The hunters kill their quota, and they enjoy an overflowing freezer full of healthy game that has never seen a processing plant.  The game has never had preservatives sprayed on it, injected into it, has never been plumped up with water to fetch a higher price when sold by weight; the animal itself grazed freely and reproduced as its ancestors have done for hundreds of years.  I don’t know anyone who hunts bears but I’ve met a few, and I spent an enjoyable afternoon once chatting with a hunting guide whose sole occupation was guiding bear hunters.

One of the more interesting insights I’ve had into wildlife population control was when I picked up two Bavarian hitchhikers on a trip through the Canadian Rockies.  They asked about bears in North America and related how a bear was seen near their town back home.  They said that the authorities shot it.

“Why?” I asked.  “Did it attack someone?”  No, they answered, it’s just that people are nervous knowing there’s a bear around.  The local wildlife authorities didn’t have the knowledge to transport it elsewhere, so they simply shot it to assuage common fears of bears.  To me, that’s every bit as lazy and abhorrent as what Palmer did, but you don’t see people up in arms over that.

All laws were made because somebody with the power of choice decided to make that law.  They had freedom and used it to limit yours.

If we vilify Walter Palmer for killing a lion, we invite lawmakers to interfere.  They’ll side with the indignant masses, and they’ll make it illegal to hunt lions.  And do you know what result that will have?  It will mean that you and I will have one fewer freedom than we do now.  Who cares if it’s a freedom we’ll never use?  All laws were made because somebody with the power of choice decided to make that law.  They had freedom and used it to limit yours.  And you and I, responsible people who would never have pointlessly killed, may not even have the right to shoot an animal with a camera.  And this brings me to why it is that choices are so wonderful.

There will always be people such as Walter Palmer who push the envelope of what we all consider common standards of behavior and conduct, a larger version of the standards that allow us all to go into a darkened theatre and get along with each other long enough to enjoy the performance.  But in a world where we all avoid killing animals because it’s a law, the honor inherent in making the right choice is completely eliminated.  Now we aren’t sure if our neighbour isn’t killing lions because he’s a good person, or if it’s solely because of his fear of punishment.  And that means that we can’t pay tribute to each other’s choices in the same way anymore.  The entire point of having freedom of choice gets belittled.

Success is more a matter of making the right choices in a practical way than it is a constant moral judgment, but your choices stem from your beliefs. And every time the opportunity to choose is eliminated, you lose the ability to practice making decisions. You risk losing sight of your beliefs. And if you can’t choose success, you’ll never be successful.

What You Can Learn from Fantasy Island

One of the TV shows I grew up with was called Fantasy Island. Has anyone ever pointed to the sky and said, “De plane! De plane!”? If so, they were mimicking the most famous yet least important part of the show – namely, Tattoo pointing to the twin-engine floatplane about to arrive with another batch of unsuspecting fantasy-seekers.

The premise of the show was pretty simple: Guests would come to the island having laid out major money for their fantasy to come true. And over the ensuing weekend, it would. The host, Mr. Rourke, played by Ricardo Montalban, and his sidekick Tattoo would see to that.

For example, one lady who showed up wanted to be a world-class figure skater. She’d dabbled on the duck ponds in Minnesota, but with the pair of skates that Mr. Rourke gave her she was able to beat the best figure skater there was.
Another guest wanted to be an accomplished pianist. With the ring bestowed upon him by the management, that’s exactly what happened.

But there was something almost upsetting about the ease with which these fantasies would come to life. The man longing to be a trapeze artist so he can marry the girl in the troupe rubs magic powder on his hands, and suddenly he circumvents all the years of training that go into becoming good at it. Doesn’t really sound fair, does it?

…the fantasy would never come true in the way the guest imagined.

Well, the fantasy would never come true in the way the guest imagined. I suppose you saw that coming, right? Otherwise there’d be no story.

In each case, the person with the fantasy was faced with a decision. The entire TV series can be summed up with the expression “be careful what you wish for”.

I touch on this kind of thing in The Right Question, and it’s perfectly valid. Your dreams will come true, but almost never in the way you imagine. That’s just simply what happens when things are lost in translation between the request you send out and the resources you have available for the request to be fulfilled. And it was no different for the guests on Fantasy Island. The guests’ dreams came true, but never in the way they thought they would.

Between the time they arrived on “de plane” and the time they left, they would have to face a truth about their desire. Something about it would take a toll on their conscience, and they would be asked…well, they’d be asked the Question.

If you don’t believe me, dial in a few episodes wherever you watch old tv shows. You’ll see exactly what I mean. Sometime during the course of their fantasy coming true, the character would realize that contained within their fantasy was the seed of an unresolved internal conflict.

Usually, the basis for the desire behind a fantasy was that it represented something they’d never had in their real lives. An insecurity, a feeling of failure or at least having never succeeded, permeated their lives and they wanted to make up for it somehow. Or they wanted to take an ability or talent, or at least the idea that they had an ability or talent, and parlay it into something grand – being a famous author or movie star, or something similar.

I’ve always found it interesting that no matter how little talent an individual has, they can amass great fortunes with it.

If you surf YouTube long enough you’ll see one video after another of people with incredible talent who aren’t making a dime from it. Then look for those who are famous and rich, and the number of those people with genuine talent is, well, let’s just say it isn’t high.

What makes the difference? Obviously those with more money than talent do know something that the talented but broke people don’t. So do I, and I’ll teach it to you. It’s called the Right Question.

It isn’t that having a fantasy come true is bad, it’s that there is a price to be paid for everything. I’m not the kind of person who believes that some things are better left as fantasies. Far from it. I think that whatever you want in life wants you just as bad, and you should pursue what you want until you get it.

Just for fun, let me lead you through a weekend on Fantasy Island. You board a seaplane at a tropical airport, and after a flight of indeterminate time you touch down on the water at a small tropical island. You’re greeted by your host, who assures you that your fantasy has already begun to come true.
Let’s say you want to be an author. He shows you the novel with your name on it, already a bestseller on a continent you don’t live on. Sounds great, right?

Now it strikes you that you’re not the one who actually wrote the book. It’s a fantasy. You aren’t sure who wrote it, but it wasn’t you. And now, all the adulation from your fans on the island feels hollow, and you feel like an impostor. Or…or perhaps you are indeed happy that all the years of your struggling as a writer have finally paid off, no matter how it came about, and now you want to take all that your new-found fame has to offer.

…no matter what, you’re going to make a choice about what you say you want.

Either way, there is going to be something you’re going to have to deal with. Either the feeling of being an impostor will make you rise to the challenge, or you’ll decide that fame is not for you. Either you’ll love the feeling of accomplishment as a writer, or you’ll find yourself choosing between the love of writing and the burden of fame it brings. But no matter what, you’re going to make a choice about what you say you want.

Something to note is that the real nature of the decision wasn’t so much what the character wanted as…well, the answer to the Question.

I’ll say it again in a slightly different way – it didn’t matter what the person wanted. The issue at hand was watching them find the answer to the Question. And the same is true of you. Succeeding in life isn’t a matter of what you want. The only thing relevant to whether you’ll live your dreams is whether or not you use the Question.

But once you learn it, why don’t you watch an episode of Fantasy Island and see for yourself what’s involved? Trust me, it’s a piece of cake. And just like in the show, every ending is a happy ending.

The Question is the Answer

Have you ever really gotten an answer?

Statistically, you’ve bought several self-development programs, courses, or ebooks.  And although all of them have taught you something valuable, I’ll bet none of them ever really encouraged you to think.

That’s because they all pretend to give you answers.

I say they ‘pretend’ to give answers because they have no real idea just what your problems are, yet they all provide answers.  To questions you haven’t even asked!  And when it comes to things like setting goals, they all say the same things.

Well, I did those things.  And I never really reached any of my goals doing it that way.

Not until I added the Question.

Many self-help gurus are pretty comfortable giving advice and telling you what you should do.  Weight loss and diet gurus do the same thing.  So do financial gurus.  “You should stop eating this, start eating that, invest in this, invest in that.”

Quite often, we feel that we need answers but don’t know where to start simply because we don’t know where we are, and it’s easy to think we need somebody to tell us.  But as long as you know where you want to end up, it doesn’t matter where you start.

The only thing that has ever led humanity out of the darkness and into the light is our ability to think, and to use our imagination.  It is what separates us from animals, what gives us possibilities, what helps us understand, what empowers us.  Thinking solves problems that are created by those who don’t bother thinking.

But here’s the interesting thing:  Thinking is a decision.

It’s something we decide to do.  When somebody else takes over, provides answers, takes charge, are you secretly relieved that now you don’t have to think anymore?  You’ve probably noticed that those who think are criticized more often than those who don’t bother.  Not thinking is a great way to avoid responsibility.  But it also means that we aren’t seen as trustworthy, independent, or worthy of respect.  And it certainly isn’t going to help us succeed at anything.

The great thing about the Question is that it’s something you can ask yourself silently, think about silently, and come up with answers to silently.  Nobody has to know.  It’s just you and the Question and one minute of your time, and then you move on in whatever direction you chose.

This means that YOU are the one who gets to provide the answers.  Once you’ve asked the Question, you get to understand what your own opinion is of what’s going on around you.  You get to finally see where you stand with yourself.  You’ll realize that you really do have all the answers inside you, and you can ask the Question about even the smallest aspect of your life.  With a tiny bit of practice, you’ll be applying it to bigger and bigger things.  And you’ll wonder why nobody ever told you this before.

It’s also obvious to me every time I see someone succeeding at something – anything at all – that they’ve asked the Question, and their success is the result of the answer.  And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about somebody running for President or running for the elevator, the question is the same and the answer depends on the individual.

That’s why the answer is never a wrong answer.  Isn’t that beautiful?

I was standing in a bookstore the other day, at the self help section, leafing through a book written by a now-famous human rights activist, Bob Goff.  He has done some great work in his life.  I can tell you right now that his book is decent and worth reading.  But I can also tell you that there’s one thing he didn’t say, one thing you’ll find nowhere else but here…

His success is a result of The Right Question, the most powerful sentence in the world.  The one sentence that every single successful person has ever asked – and the answer to which has also explained every failure.  It’s all you need.

The Question is the Answer.

Apply Your Laziness To Get Things Done

You know you need to get started – or keep going, or finish up, or whatever. You know you have work to do, but you just…

don’t

feel like it.

Well, join the club. Everyone feels like that sooner or later. For some it’s a daily occurrence, for others it’s rare, but it visits us all.

Now, I’m a big fan of the kind of thinking that advises us to just push past it (or through it, or whatever) and act in spite of those feelings of lethargy, or anger, or fear. I think there’s a lot to be said for feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

However, I’d like to offer a method of getting yourself engaged in your projects that takes this a step further. It’s a fun and easy mental trick that anyone can play, and it connects you to yourself in a way that feeling the fear and doing it anyway just can’t offer.

I’ve written many times that avoidance of a task usually indicates fear, but asking yourself, ‘What am I afraid of?’ can only take you so far. Because remember, understanding ‘why’ isn’t going to get you results. Only action does that.

What I propose is this: Absolutely embrace that lethargy, or fear. And apply those feelings to your task. Do your task lazily, do it fearfully, but do it. Approach your task knowing and fully understanding that you don’t feel like doing it, and embrace that feeling.

You see, you don’t have to jump for joy at the prospect of cleaning the house or coding bugs out of your app. You just need to do it. So next time you don’t feel like mowing the lawn, ask yourself the Question and realize that you’re going to do it anyway. So, just slowly and lazily start it. Push it like you’re trying to move a mountain. Complain loudly if you like. If it’s a writing project, sit down and write, “I don’t feel like writing. I am lazy today, and I just want to watch crazy cat videos all day.”

You’ll find that you get something accomplished by doing it this way, which is more than you can say for avoiding the task altogether. You might not actually push that mower any faster. You might only get half of it done before you call it quits. You might only write one paragraph, but as you write down all the reasons why you don’t feel like writing, inspiration may just pounce on you and help you produce the best work you’ve ever done.

At the end of the day when you reflect on what you’ve accomplished, you’ll be able to say you at least got something done, which is more than would have happened if you’d completely avoided your work. You didn’t have to like it, but you did it. Tomorrow there will be less to do, less distance between you and your goal.

I’d say that’s worth doing something lazily, wouldn’t you?

And along the way, you’ll have used the most powerful sentence in the world. Next stop: Global domination!

The Bucket List Accomplishment Week

I’ve heard it said that most people overestimate what they can do in a week and underestimate what they can do in a year.  I couldn’t agree more.

Zorbing? I just put “find out what Zorbing is” on my bucket list. Image from abackpackerstale.com

I like a new week, that’s how I roll.  I like Sunday night because I’ve clicked the odometer again.  There’s a good mile behind and a good mile yet to come.

If you’re the kind who keeps a bucket list, do you ever marvel at how overwhelming it looks?  Mine is still three pages long and in some places the handwriting is so tiny that only I could ever decipher it.  There are arrows pointing to items that are related to each other, point-form lists in margins, you name it.  It’s the same paper it was written on when I was in grade twelve, before they were even called “bucket lists”.  Even when I cross things off, I still have yet to toss the paper out because there are things on every page I have yet to do.

One thing that has helped tremendously is to view a year as nothing more than a sequence of weeks.  This sounds pretty obvious, but here’s the thing:

I tried breaking it down into smaller chunks, with a daily approach, but that didn’t fit the way I do things.  Nor did it help to view goals on a monthly basis.

A week is a small enough period of time to manage in your head, and not so far away that it’ll never get here.  If it’s Monday and you’re gearing up for something to happen on Thursday, it’s a lot easier to work it backwards and know what you have to do now in order to reach that stage.  I’ve noticed, however, that by the time I start thinking in terms of the month ahead, I lose focus.  And when it comes to a year, forget it.  I do have things planned out on a dry-erase calendar eight months from now such as “…by now we should have contract firmed up with Carib island” and here’s why:

There’s a huge difference between focus and action in the sense that your focus lies down the road, in the future, but you can only take action in the present.

When a year has gone by and you’re thinking about all the things you wanted to do over the past year but didn’t, I’ll guarantee that although your long-term focus may need to be adjusted, it’s your short-term action strategy that’s the problem.  If you’re overestimating what you can do in a week, you’re going to be that much more prone to give up when what you want doesn’t immediately appear.  You’ll get frustrated and quit, or worse, if you can’t do it in a week you won’t even bother trying.  You’ll still want what you wanted before, but your actions were miscalculated, and now it seems as though what you want is never going to come.

Don’t let this happen to you.

It’s great to plan your life out a year in advance.  Hell, don’t stop there.  Do you have a five-year plan?  That seems to make people feel good, a five-year plan.  Never mind that things have happened to you in the last five years that you never could have seen coming, and could have dealt with a lot better if you’d been thinking of your week instead of your year.

Here’s the thing:  If you put a dollar in a jar every year, at the end of the year you’d have $365, obviously.  Do it every day and it’s a habit, you don’t have to think about it.  Coming up with seven dollars a week requires only a tiny bit more thought – the perfect amount, in my view, because the thought it requires makes you stop and assess where you are versus where you want to be.  It takes a few minutes, then you continue on.  But at the end of the year, if you’ve done nothing, now you’re scrambling to find $365 and thinking to hell with it.  And another year down the tubes.

One year is going to come and go whether you like it or not.  One year of surprise job offers, breakups, new dates, all kinds of things you had everything from a huge hand to no hand in planning.  But one thing I can tell you is that it’s going to come at you one week at a time.  Learn how to manage a week, and do that fifty-two times, and suddenly your year has made a lot more sense.

Download The Right Question and you’ll never have this problem again.

 

Perfectionism is Totally Flawed

For many years, I was what the average person would call a “perfectionist”.  This meant at the time that I wanted to make sure everything was just right before I’d call it acceptable.  I wanted every detail perfect.  I prided myself on my perfectionism.

With the benefit of hindsight, I now fully understand that all I was doing was revealing how afraid I was that things wouldn’t be good enough.  I was worried that people would judge my standards as being too low if I allowed something to be called ‘finished’ when it wasn’t perfect.

However, I want to illustrate some glaring problems with the pursuit of perfection, and what perfectionism really is.  It can kill your progress, delay or completely destroy your chances of success, and make you frustrated and unfulfilled long before you enjoy any progress at all.

That word – progress – is a very important clue as to how you can break free from being a perfectionist and instead become somebody who Gets Things Done.  Because let’s face it, every moment you spend making a perfectly good thing “perfect” is a moment you’re wasting, that you could be spending making something else perfectly good.   You know it, I know it, everybody knows it, and you aren’t fooling anyone by trying to make us all think you’re as perfect as whatever you’re working on.

We all want to be known for who we are, not necessarily what we do.  But you need to understand that people already judge you through their own ideas of what you’re doing and who you are.  Even for this reason alone, there’s no such thing as perfect.  Can you stand in front of the Mona Lisa and point out things you don’t think are good?  Of course you could, if you had made your mind up that the painting wasn’t “perfect”.

But maybe there’s an important clue as to the difference between the average person and a Leonardo da Vinci.  He ultimately reached a point where he decided that his work was good enough.  He probably felt every bit as reluctant as anyone else about calling it a day, since there was a brush stroke here that could have been a little more precise, and there’s a color there that could have been a bit darker (or lighter).  But if he had been a “perfectionist”, nobody would ever be able to appreciate his talent because we would have never seen it.  And that’s not a good ending for anyone.

You need to understand that perfection is the state of constant progress.  Anything else is stagnation, and stagnation when measured against progress appears to not be stagnant at all but in fact moving backwards.  So while a perfectionist is putting yet more finishing touches on that report or design project or app, someone else is already submitting it and getting the kudos (and getting paid!).  Perfection is the state you reach when you understand that nothing in the world is ever going to be good enough, and it’s also already just absolutely fine the way it is; and not only that, there’s nothing that can’t be improved upon.  Does that sound contradictory?  It shouldn’t.  Perfection is what we achieve when we express our love and curiosity and desire for something better through our focused action.  The song you’re writing?  It’ll never be perfect.  Give it to me, somebody who loves drums and percussion as well as bass and guitar, and I’ll be wishing you had done a drum roll here or there, or taken one out, and wouldn’t it have sounded better with a minor third on top of that chord…on and on.  It never stops.  Practically no musician who hears it will be able to resist hearing what they would do with it.  That app you’re coding?  There are probably a hundred things you should be taking into account and aren’t, but that’s what feedback scores and comments are for.  Sure, it might not work as it should on everybody’s device, but if either Microsoft or Apple refused to release anything that didn’t have bugs we’d all still have Windows 95 or Macintosh…actually no, we wouldn’t even have those.

People are more forgiving and accepting than you think they are.  One of the reasons for this is that on some level we all appreciate the struggle to make things better, regardless of what you’re working on, because we’ve all been through it.  As far as I’m concerned, anything that isn’t necessary for survival qualifies as art, so it doesn’t matter to people like me whether you’re trying to fix a carburetor or paint a mural; you need encouragement, and we’re happy that you’re trying, and we may not directly benefit ourselves from what you’re doing but somebody somewhere will and that’s good enough.  Besides, if what you release is truly awful, you’ll probably know before we do.  Maybe you’ll have the integrity to try and make up for it and maybe you won’t.  Either way you’ll have taught us something.

During the process of writing The Right Question, I would often go back to various chapters and try every trick in the book to make sure they worked.  I second-guessed myself a million times when I finally came up with the wording of the Question in the first place.  I asked myself over and over again, “Is this really saying what I want it to say?”  So I’d change the wording, and apply it to a situation, and I’d find that it wouldn’t be as efficient.  The Question may not be the most eloquent-sounding thing ever written, but I guarantee it’s the most powerful sentence in the world.  That’s because this process took literally years.  It wasn’t something I threw out on my coffee break or over a beer at the beach one day.  And while I’m sure that no matter who reads it there will be something more they wished I’d said, or something else anyway, the fact remains that I reached a point where I read it to myself, out loud, over and over, and decided, “This is what I want to say.  This is the most powerful sentence in the world.  It’s going to help people,” and I let it go.

If you’re waiting for your labor of love to be perfect, identify what it is you’re afraid of.  Maybe you’re scared to be identified with your creativity as something less than perfect, or maybe you don’t want somebody getting the wrong idea of what your standards are.  You need to realize that letting it go is part of that process we call perfection.  It’s necessary, it’s normal, and besides, we’re waiting to see what part of the world you’re hoping to make just that much better, no matter how tiny.

Good people appreciate that.

 

What you want is irrelevant, and here’s why.

Let’s face it, we’ve all done the “what if” scenarios, as in, “what if you had unlimited time and money”.  Where would you go, what would you do, what would change, what would be the same?

As I cover in The Right Question, you don’t necessarily know that.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but the most important reason is that it simply isn’t real yet.  So there’s no reliable way to tell exactly what you’d do.  You probably think you know, and I’m sure you’ve thought about it, but you can’t know.  None of us really can.

I remember once when I got off the phone with a good friend who works in the film industry.  She occasionally rubs shoulders with some pretty big names, and always has a hilarious story to tell about how this big Hollywood star or that threw a hissy fit and stormed off the set.  It happens so reliably that it’s comical.  And the way she tells her stories are so engaging, so humorous, and so full of detail and life that it makes me want to run away and join the circus myself every time we talk.  On this one particular occasion I remember hanging up the phone and realizing that my very idea of who I was faced a challenge because of this.  I knew enough people in the film industry to get myself working; I taught acting, I’d worked with these people before in some capacity or another.  Involving myself in that world was a distinct possibility if I wanted to.

And there’s the issue – we can all do anything we want.  Any one of us can.  There’s nothing different or special about any one of us that makes one life easier or more achievable than another.  Whether we know it or not, the lives we’re living are our answer to the Question.  The ones who succeed are ones who’ve asked the Question, and that’s all there is to it.

Now here’s a guy who succeeded simply because he answered the Question. LIfelong dream? No. Wanted it furiously? No. Just asked the Question a few points along the way.

After that phone call, I knew that a few days would go by, and I’d find myself enjoying the life I already had.  Flying my airplane, lying on the beach, tending to my little house in the country, writing a song.  Connecting with people on the internet through sales of The Right Question.

Was that because I didn’t want to get into film?  I don’t know.  I remember it being fun, the times I did work with those people, but I also remember thinking that since I feel comfortable anywhere doing anything, it wasn’t really a pull to me one way or another.

It doesn’t matter what you want.  What you get in life will be the result of asking the Question.

I remember when all the things I do now frightened me.  I imagined myself getting my pilot’s license, but nothing could have prepared me for my first cross-country flight when I had passengers and the rain was coming down really hard.  The first time I stepped out on a stage to sing a song I’d written myself.  The first class I ever taught.  All these things have a quality about them that completely changes once they become real.  And the biggest thing about them that’s different is how we relate to those experiences based on who we actually are.

When we think about what we want in life, an excellent question to ask is this:  Am I thinking about what I really want, or just what I think I want?

I’ve said in The Right Question that in regards to what you’ll actually achieve in life, what you want is irrelevant.  It doesn’t matter what you want.  What you get in life will be the result of asking the Question.  Everything else is in the category of “nice to have” or “maybe someday”.  Wanting something is a fun mental exercise, and it can be an emotional exercise too if we get really good at projecting ourselves into that situation or that life and really feeling it, but the fact is that we’re only ever going to get what we discover and decide in advance by answering the Question.

Am I thinking about what I really want, or just what I think I want?

The point is this:  Instead of thinking about what’s possible, realize that the answer is “Anything”.  Instead of thinking about what you want, think about who you are.  Ask The Right Question, and you’ll never go wrong.

A Better Way To Think About Choices

There’s a sketch by Mary Engelbreit, justifiably famous, of a girl setting off down a path into a forest.  She’s just come to a fork in the road.  One sign says, “Your Life”, and the other one says, “No Longer an Option.”  It’s brilliant.  But seldom are choices ever this clear.

If only every choice was this clear!

By now you know I’ve read an endless string of self help books.  And all had at least one good thing to say.  Despite my mildly skeptical stance on self help, what I don’t say as often is that without it, a lot of people would be in a lot of trouble.

There’s a book I’ve held onto even though I’ve only read it once, called The Breakthrough Factor by Olympic track star Henry Marsh.  There is one concept I took from it that I’ve thought about in much higher proportion to the amount of time I spent reading it.  (Shameless plug:  That’s what you’ll get with one reading of The Right Question).  And it’s a good one.

Basically, the idea is this:  Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.

See, the idea behind it is that very often our long-term goals aren’t compatible with our short-term goals.  We want to be slim, which is a future ambition, but the present ambition of enjoying a beer or a piece of cake is easier to satisfy in the short term.  Or when it’s time to work harder toward a long-term goal, it’s easier to take the day off and satisfy a short term goal of improving our golf swing.  Marsh’s take on this is that by choosing the path of least resistance, you’re missing an opportunity to get closer to your loftier ambition.  And he frames it in the perspective of giving up what you want most for what you want now.

As far as that goes, I’m with him.  Marsh spends some  time discussing how to reconcile the short term and the long term goals.  And it’s a valuable point to make.  You need to be able to have a good reason to forgo the short term pain for the long term gain.

A short term decision is a long term decision.  I don’t mean to paralyze you, in the sense that everything you do is going to be somehow responsible for your ultimate success or demise.  But if you’ve read The Right Question you know that it’s scalable; you can ask it anytime, anywhere, about anything.  So it occurred to me one day that really, I didn’t have to think about them as two different goals at all.

Here’s what I mean.  Let’s say you’re facing a choice between an opportunity to further your career by attending an evening workshop, or date night.  Normally you wouldn’t think twice about passing on the date, but this person is super sweet and you don’t want to cancel because you’ve done it before.  So in light of the circumstances, it actually is beginning to look like a choice between long term and short term.

Well, it’s only a choice between a long term goal and a short term one if you frame it that way.  Realistically, the “best” option is the one that gives you the most satisfactory answer to the Question.

What I’m saying is that your choices may seem as though they’re competing with each other when the contrast between instant gratification and future success is highlighted, but it’s the same choice it always was.

You figure it all out by asking the Question.