Have you ever heard of the term quake book?
Well, a quake book is a book that shakes you. It profoundly changes the way you think, changes your beliefs and affects your philosophy of life.
But such an effect is not exclusive to books. It can be a quote, a movie, a question, a song, etc. For me, most profound quake moments came from interesting questions.
The first time I fully grasped the power of questions was when I heard a story about Lech Stanislavsky, a nazi camp survivor. While all other prisoners quickly surrendered and felt sorry for themselves, he asked himself how can I escape this horrible place? And he got the answer. He escaped by pretending to be dead and hid among the pile of dead bodies on a truck that was ready to be transported to an open grave outside the camp.
Since then, I have started collecting interesting questions. Over time, I even came to believe that good questions are more important than their answers (i.e. advice, tactic, strategy, etc.). Answers are static. They provide a solution based on current circumstances. On the contrary, questions are almost timeless, adapting to different environments and providing new answers over time.
Here are my 6 favorite questions from my collection
- How can you achieve your 10-year plan in the next 6 months? by Peter Thiel
Here is an excerpt from Thiel's book Zero to one, explaining the rationale of the question: "I went to law school and Stanford but it wasn’t till I started Paypal that I realized that you don’t have to wait to start something. If you have a 10-year plan and know how to get there, you have to ask why can’t you do this in 6 months? Sometimes it’s necessary to go through the 10-year tenure but you should always ask the question to know whether it is a story you are telling yourself or is that your reality."
I definitely had my own version of a 10-year story that I told myself (finish the school, get some experience, save enough money to be able to work on projects that you really like). Now, I am trying to be much more conscious of what is really my end goal and if I really have to wait that long to get to it. Do I need to wait 10 years to start working on something that I like? Definitely not.
- How few people/customers do I need to make a living? by Seth Godin
As an entrepreneur by heart, I was shocked when I heard this question for the first time. Usually, we think about how big the idea could become. We think about thousands and millions of customers instead of focusing on what we can really tackle. For further reading, I suggest the most famous answer to this question - an article 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly.
Particularly, this question helped me approach new business ideas much better. Instead of trying to go broad and display ads on Google or Facebook, I talk to people face to face and see what they really think. Since then I have been successfully using The First 3 Customer Rule, where I try to validate an idea as fast as possible with 3 paying customers.
- How can I do more and better as friend/boyfriend/employee/etc today?
This question has been in my notes for a long time but I am not sure where it really came from. Anyway, this is a really powerful question. It just forces you to find new ways of excelling in your roles.
The last time I used it, I decided to surprise my parents with a small gift. It worked great. People are used to getting small surprises only on their birthdays so any action alike has a huge effect.
- How can I enjoy while doing X <enter something that you don’t like to do>? by Tony Robbins
There is a way to make any activity more enjoyable. I remember when I was still in high school, I asked myself how can I have fun while studying for my exams. I love walking, so I came up with the idea of going for a walk and try to memorize the horrible content while being surrounded by nature. It became much easier.
- What should be on my not-to-do list? by Tim Ferris
It's really important to decide what we don't want to do so we can focus on what we want and need to get done. I am sure you have a couple of those "I don't want to do it but I can't stop." For me it was and still is checking my phone first thing in the morning. I am trying to substitute it with a more healthy habit such as reading a book. That's why I now keep a really interesting book right next to my bed so that I can grab right when I wake up.
- What will I loose if I don't do that? by Tony Robbins
Sometimes it's hard to positively motivate ourselves with the positives. It's in our nature to do much more to avoid pain than gain pleasure.
I have asked myself this question when I was approaching my fear of swimming. I knew that if I didn't overcome this fear, I wouldn't be able to enjoy summers, seaside vacations, and many other water sports. You can read more about that here.
As you might have noticed, I love to collect such question. So, if you have ever come across a question that you find really interesting, post it in the comments below.