“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” — Tony Robbins
Have you ever gone through that period of your life, where you can't seem to snap yourself out of the situation that you're in? You keep replaying the same negative thoughts in your head over and over again, and you can't seem to get out of it? You find it near impossible to come up with a different solution or a better answer to your problem. You're grinding your head against the wall until finally, in a moment, you have a new thought or, better yet, you ask yourself a better question, and immediately you begin to feel better. You begin to carry yourself differently, you feel more energised, and you start telling yourself that you can tackle this problem and figure out a solution to this problem.
How does this happen? Without knowing it, it's because you asked yourself a quality question which gave you a high quality and empowering answer. A high-quality question determines the quality of the thoughts you have and the actions you take. A disempowering question will give you a depressing and disempowering answer. Simple right?
This small realisation has completely changed the trajectory of my life and allowed me to crawl out of some very uncomfortable and sticky situations which a sane person would deem impossible. I have used this both in my business, my relationships and my mental health. It's my number one hack. I believe that if you can learn the skill to control the questions you ask yourself consciously, it will change your life, your business, your health, your relationships and your mindset.
People are so busy. They're busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger. They are running around, stressed, full of anxiety and burnt out. They are running off adrenaline, coffee and sugar. They're so busy; they claim to have no time to focus on the areas of their life that's causing them the most pain. They don't spend time consciously evaluating the questions they are asking themselves and accept whatever results they are harvesting, which is generally poor results.
People think that because they are busy, they are being effective. Being effective does not mean you're busy running around aimlessly, focusing on to-do lists and suppressing the feeling of unhappiness. All that does is drains you, taxes you, depletes you, and stops you from reaching your higher purpose. Eventually, you will implode.
To tap into your creative energy and superpower you need to strip back, refine and simplify - which sounds contradictory. By asking better questions, this allows you to feel more relaxed, focused, energetic and effective, and when you are in this state, you can achieve anything.
Are you substituting being effective for being busy?
The average person spends less than 20% on the thing that they are really good at and gifted at. Instead, they spend 80-90% of their time on things that stress them out, consume them and deplete them because since these things are keeping them busy, they think they are being effective. If they spent more time asking themselves questions that give them the solutions to begin achieving their goals, they would start achieving their goals quicker.
Value your time like you value your most prized possessions. Time is everything. Don't let things and other people rob you of your own time. Time is the most precious resource in the world. Time is what you never get back, no matter how much money you have. Time is what we all get the same amount of from birth, no matter the environment we were born into. You can lose a house and you can get another one. You can lose money and get some more. You can lose all the files on your computer, but you can redo them. You can lose your iPhone and buy another one. But you can't get back your time. Until you begin valuing yourself, you won't value your time. Until you begin asking better questions, you won't know what to do with your time.
Problems are not exclusive to you, everybody has them. The only people that don't have them are 6 feet underground. Successful people have learnt how to deal with them differently. They anticipate problems so that when they do arise, they are already mentally equipped with the right tools to bypass them.
Don't make the mistake of thinking successful people are lucky, blessed or somehow stumbled into that position. They use tricks like this to get them the results they desire. Successful people become students of learning how to deal with problems. They model after people who have already achieved what they want to achieve and learn the shortcuts and hacks these people use to achieve what they want to achieve. I also do this. If you're reading this article you're doing this too and there is nothing wrong with it.
We have all been raised from as early as school, that copying is cheating, and copying is bad. If we copy our friends, we get punished for it.
Unfortunately, this has caused an array of problems as we grow into adults. We grow up thinking that we need to figure out everything on our own, to internalise everything and to never ask for help. We end up comparing ourselves to others, and lust after their lives without discovering the tricks and hacks they took to achieve it. If you have this mindset it's time to throw out this old habit and begin copying what works for those that are achieving results that you want in your own life.
One of the easiest ways to achieve your goals and sustainably conquer your days and weeks is by modelling others, and through the quality of the questions you continuously ask yourself.
Think about a negative person that you know. Better yet, think about what you ask yourself daily. Do you say things like:
- Why do I feel like shit?
- Why isn't this working?
- Why am I fat?
- Why am I broke?
- Why is my business stagnant?
- Why does it always happen to me?
- Why can't I be successful?
- Why aren't I like that?
Imagine the types of answers you would be getting by answering those questions to yourself daily. But more importantly, imagine how miserable you would feel by asking those questions - I could almost guess how your life would be looking.
To become an overachiever, you need to feel empowered, clear and focused on success and the easiest way is by asking yourself great questions. Don't make the mistake of thinking you achieve success by accident and you wake up one morning after reading a bunch of self-help books, and you will be that person. Successful people understand that this is not true. They know there are risks, they are aware of the risks, but they don't dwell on them. They overcome the negative voice in their heads by asking powerful, empowering questions rather than questions that presuppose failure. They don't hope they wake up feeling good every day; they demand it upon themselves through powerful, empowering questions which then direct their energy towards actions that will achieve their goals.
One of the turning points in my business was asking:
- Why do brands release their winter collections in the middle of summer?
- Why do brands only release four collections per year? And what would happen if we released 12 collections per year?
- How can we get cash in our bank tonight and not rely on wholesale?
The answer's to these questions lead to massive innovation within our industry, and here we are alive and thriving after 12 years in one of the most fickle and relentless sectors in the world. Not to mention experiencing massive growth in the middle of a pandemic.
For those that know my story, know that I have had my share of ups and downs, failures and battles with depressions. However, I’ve learnt to develop a never-ending, insatiable hunger to learn and to try and become 1% better every single day. On the same note, I'm an inherently lazy person. After years of discipline, and applying small daily habits I've now rewired myself to think like how I want to think, rather than letting my brain come up with whatever the hell it wants, which is generally negative.
Like every other human being, I'm looking for shortcuts, hacks and techniques that are easily applied to my life and that are sustainable long term. When I discovered the power of asking quality questions, it turned my life around. The moment I stopped asking bad questions, was when things started going well.
Remember, the brain is wired to think negative, and will always flip back to this default mode if you allow it to. So every time something in my life or my business started to go backwards, or when I got hit with an inevitable setback, I would begin asking myself better questions. Here's a few examples of some great questions to ask yourself when you encounter a tough situation:
- What's great about this situation?
- What am I grateful for?
- How can I turn my company around, take it to the next level and cause it to have even more impact than it has in the past?
- How can we double our sales without increasing debt and buying more stock?
- How can I get every man in America, Australia and New Zealand to know about my product and wear my product?
- How can we get this thing booming without all the answers and solutions coming from myself?
- How can I feel energised and happy every single day?
- What's not quite perfect yet?
In business, questions open up new worlds and give us access to resources that might not otherwise exist. To be successful in business, you need to be a professional question asker and answerer. What's even more powerful is teaching your whole team, peers, spouse or kids this skill as well. Doing this causes a multiplying effect, and you soon notice considerable shifts in the culture you build and the results you yield.
At any moment the questions we ask ourselves can shape our perception of who we are, what we're capable of and what we're willing to do to achieve our dreams. They help put us back on the right path and can act as a GPS during those times when you feel off-kilter.
Only 1 out of ten people can handle adversity. Only 1 out of ten people can handle prosperity. The weight of prosperity outweighs adversity. The reason prosperity is so difficult is that it's a lot harder, more gruelling and less enjoyable in the short term. But by continually asking better questions you can withstand the pressure's that prosperity brings because you know how to redirect your focus.
Adversity is easy because you can just quit. Prosperity is hard because it requires perseverance, persistence, constant experimentation, embarrassment, judgement from others and the ability to keep reinventing yourself. You have to spend a lot more time doing what you're most effective in rather than what keeps you busy, which is also hard to do. How often do you see people get it all, only to lose it months or years later? Because prosperity is hard to maintain.
It takes courage to be successful and win. It takes patience to be victorious. It takes fortitude and resilience to endure adversity. It takes a ruthless focus to ignore the judgement and opinions of other people, especially close friends and family.
It's easy to be a failure. You can just sit on your ass, fit in and accept whatever the world throws at you. You end up becoming the pawn of somebody else's dreams if you don't have your own. Failure means the easy road now, and the hard road later. Success means that hard road now and the easy road later.
Do not focus on and accept your current reality as who you are and what your life is. You can't let your current circumstances define you or be a representation of who you are. You can recreate your reality by being a student of success and by not accepting today's reality as your actual reality.
The results you're experiencing today are from the decisions you made six months ago. And if you made those decisions in a poor frame of mind, and from a foundation of low-quality questions, you may not be overly excited about where your life is today. You're probably frustrated, agitated and feel like quitting. Instead, use these emotions as leverage to redirect you to where you want to go next and as a motivator to ask better questions.
Many people want to change but are afraid of what will happen if they change. I used to be like this only to realise it's shallow, egoic thinking. Misery loves company, so unless you change, you attract more of what you don't want to become. Change means; change of friends, change of careers, change of people's opinions towards you, change of meeting your parent's expectations rather than your own, change of circumstances, responsibilities, income, judgment and expectation of yourself. Change is hard. Prosperity is hard. However, let me ask you this:
What's the worst thing that could happen to you if you changed?
Chances are, you're not going to die, you might lose a few friends or stragglers along the way, but you will probably replace them with better ones. The older you get, the more you realise people never really cared about your life anyway, because they had their own crap going on. Once you write down the answer to the question of "what's the worst thing that happened to you if you made major changes in your life right now", you will soon realise that the risks aren't that bad.
When you write down the answer, congratulations, you're on the right path and in a position of control. You have now taken the first step to avoid this from happening.
A few things and warnings to conclude...
Focus on the benefits and not the downside. Spend 95% of your time focusing on the benefits - the other 5% is simply an awareness of what the downside is.
What you hold in mind is what you intend to manifest. It can take time, so pair it with patience, empowering questions and a relentless desire to succeed.
The fascinating part of success is the disdain that people develop towards the successful. The envy the hater creates towards the successful is also one of the reasons social media is so dangerous and why it's important not to read comments or opinions of others while you're on your journey to changing your life.
The closer a goal comes to turning into reality, the more your confidence and self-belief grows and sometimes, the further away it can feel. Content people hate confidence, so we tend to separate from those that don't possess these qualities. The more judgement increases, the more critical it is to develop the skill of separating yourself from anything that sways your confidence or your path to you achieving your dreams.
Remember that short term success can sometimes be the ultimate failure. If you get what you want too easily or too quickly it can sting you, because you don't season and mature with the times, developing those vital skills you're not aware of on the pursuit for success. This happened to me, and I got stung badly. If it hasn't happened to you and if you have managed to keep it intact, I recommend slowing down and assessing the situation, and ask yourself "what am I not seeing"?
We all tend to focus too much on the bucket of gold at the end of the rainbow but don't realise that it comes with a bunch of responsibilities.
If you move towards wealth, wealth will move towards you.
If you move towards progress, progress moves towards you.
If you move towards education, it starts to seek you out.
Challenges create experience and experience builds wisdom.
Every move you make today affects your life tomorrow. Start today by asking better and more effective questions. Even if you ask a question and look like a fool for five minutes, it's better than not asking the question and looking like a fool forever.
(V is the founder and Creative Director of I Love Ugly. He started I Love Ugly out of his bedroom over 12 years ago with no business or fashion experience.)