“Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much.”
“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” –VOLTAIRE
One day about a year and a half ago, I was running an errand with my son, Heath, who was seven years old at the time. In the car on the way back, he started asking me if he could do a particular something when we got home. I can’t remember what the question was specifically regarding; I just remember he kept asking me the same question over and over and over. And I kept saying, “No.”
After he’d ask me the exact same question about a half dozen times, matched by my saying “No” in six different ways, I was beginning to get annoyed. Sternly, I asked him, “Heath, why do you keep asking me the same question over and over when I keep giving you the same response?”
He replied matter-of-factly, “Because I want a different answer, Dad!”
In that moment, Heath shed light on two foundational concepts we all must embrace:
First, asking the same question over and over and expecting a different answer is corollary to Benjamin Franklin’s definition of insanity, which he said was “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
To get a different answer, you must assume a different perspective. But to get a different perspective, you must move intellectually and psychologically (and sometimes even physically) to a different position. To authentically assume a different position, you must begin with a different, hopefully better, question or set of questions.
Second, my son highlighted that you must continue asking questions period. Even though at his young age he wasn’t able to ask a more provocative next question, he instinctively knew that to get a better answer, he had to keep asking.
Electrical engineer and inventor, Charles Steinmetz, the inventor of the first commercially successful alternating current motor whose work helped launch the expansion of the electric power industry in the United States, understood the wisdom and the power behind this idea once stating:
No man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions.
Why questions? Simple: Questions bring clarity, understanding, knowledge. Questions bring revelation and discovery. Questions allow you to see the differences.
And, questions are Biblical.
Remember the days of old; consider the years long past. Ask your father, and he will tell you, your elders, and they will teach you. (Deuteronomy 32:7-14, HCSB)
This is what the Lord says: Stand by the roadways and look. Ask about the ancient paths: Which is the way to what is good? Then take it and find rest for yourselves. (Jeremiah 6:16, HCSB)
And perhaps one of the most famous principles taught by Jesus and found in the gospels says:
Here’s what I’m saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open. (Luke 11:9, The Message)
WHY THE NEXT QUESTION?
Tommy Franks, the retired Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army Central Command and the commander of the coalition forces who invaded both Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2003 published a powerful and impressive biography in 2004. In it, General Franks adroitly addresses the concept of asking the next question, phrasing it artfully by telling his subordinates:
Don’t ignore what you don’t know.
That is, pay attention the fact that you never have all the answers. There is important information, unasked questions, and undiscovered solutions still out there that will greatly impact your success. You simply don’t know about them yet. Asking the next question is a crucial tool in defeating this ignorance.
CALL THE QUESTION
Asking authentic questions requires a commitment to the truth, regardless of how raw the answers rub us. It’s only in asking better questions – and then asking the next question – that we deepen our faith, clarify our giftings, reveal our true callings, and discover the steps to achieving our dreams.
In closing, I want to leave you with a few questions to ponder. My friend Butch Maltby, president of Touchpoint Solutions in Colorado Springs, Colorado, recently wrote a compelling article in Wireless Age magazine titled “Passionate Pursuits: Five Ways to Become a Cutting Edge Ministry.” In it, Butch asks three questions of leaders of media ministries. These three questions are great starting points for all of us: artists, authors or executives. Articulate well the answers to these, and you will begin to see a difference in yourself and others will begin to take notice of the difference in you:
Why you? Why now? With what impact?
Writing my first book has proven to be one of the most daunting tasks I’ve ever pursued; but, I am committed to finishing and publishing it as soon as possible. Please keep watching for the release of First, Best, or Different – And Different Is Best. The Field Manual for Today’s Artists, Authors, Managers and Executives. I hope to have it available in the next few weeks