Are Questions the Answer?

I remember one evening I was talking with a friend of mine. We were talking about a client that I was tutoring in math. My friend had mentioned that Jake, my client, didn’t like tutoring and that he had lost his interest in math. Although this wasn’t uncommon for kids his age, it bothered me.  I became motivated to think of different ways that I could empower Jake; to help him achieve his goals.

After some time I became frustrated.  I wasn’t able to come up with any great solutions, but my intuition was telling me a different story.  I needed to have a different type of conversation with Jake.

Ask Good Questions

At the beginning of our session, I asked Jake some questions. Firstly I said, “What are you passionate about and what do you want for you life?” I could tell by the look on his face that he took this question a little off guard by the way he was squinting back at me. It’s not every day that a teenager comes home from school and his parents ask him, “What do you want with your life?”

As Jake was processing the question, he kept looking back at me.  He has this blank stare on his face.  It was as if his face was saying “What are you talking about weirdo?”

I just went with it.  My gut was telling me this was the right thing to do. I waited, patiently.  After an eternity of silence, he finally said, “My band.” I said, “Ok. What is one of the things you would like to achieve with your band?” To which he replied, “I’d like to create a song that my band could play”. I said, “Great! What other things would you like to do?”  This seemed to trigger his thinking process and we put down a list of goals:

Jake’s Goals

  • write a song that my band can play
  • improve my marks in math
  • learn how to speak German because I have a friend who is German
  • travel to Germany
  • find myself a part-time job that I enjoy

After a few minutes of this we had a list on the white board in front of us.  Then I looked back at Jake and noticed him crack a smile. It was working.

Start with Your Priorities

I was curious, what other questions I could ask?  I looked at Jake and said, “What is the order of these goals from the most important to the least important?”  So he started to number the goals from one to five and at the top of the list was improve my marks in math. This made a lot of sense to me seeing that his exam was to be in the next two weeks.

After nailing down our primary focus, I erased all of the other goals. I then asked him what it would take to improve his marks in math. From this question, he generated a second list,

Jake’s Actions for Improving his marks in math:

  • take time to study
  • ask the teacher questions
  • ask anyone he can find, questions on things he doesn’t understand
  • do all the assigned homework

When we finished the second list, I just looked back at Jake and said, “Do you realize that you generated all of this? You didn’t have a teacher, your parents, your brother, your sister or anyone else tell you the answers. You already knew all of the answers. You know exactly what you need to do; now you just have to go out and do it!  Well the smile on his face stretched from ear to ear. He really got the message.

Be Willing to Listen

My message to you is very simple. If we all take the time to listen to each other, we will always come up with the answers we need.

Jake is the same as everyone else. He always had the answers he was looking for.  He just had to go inside and pull them out.

I remember watching a clip from the movie Bowling for Columbine, where Michael Moore conducts an interview with Marilyn Manson. In the interview, Moore asks Manson what he would say to the boys in Columbine.

Manson said, “I wouldn’t say anything, I would listen to them, which is one thing no one ever does.” 

Can you believe it?  Out of all the possible people to get advice from – Marilyn seems to have unearthed the true wisdom in asking good questions – and that is to listen to the answers.

Will you listen?


  • Leszek Cyfer

    Reply Reply March 9, 2009

    I remember when I started to write affirmations I was dumbfounded – I couldn’t find any decent affirmation of my own. I was so frustrated it bordered on anger. I wanted someone to come to me and tell me what I should affirmate.

    After a while it struck me – I was expecting the world to spoonfeed me with a goo, like a baby, like the knowledge is given to us in our schools – in a form of chewed-through pulp. Whereas the answer to my question was not in knowledge but in wisdom, which is far different than knowledge, and comes from the heart, not the mind.

    The affirmation I’ve chosen was “I always know what I want”. I simply turned around my inability to find the answer into an answer :)

    Then I promptly discovered that I’ve always knew what I wanted, only it was hidden below a mound of things that other people wanted from me.

    I knew what I wanted, but strangely I didn’t do anything to get what I wanted. The main thing there was – I was taught that my wishes were whimsical in nature, selfish, egoistical and I should shoon them and instead seek to satisfy the wishes of people around me.

    Then, as Cyrano de Bergerac I decided that I’ll be egoistical – at least in this part, that in everything I do I’ll seek first to satisfy myself.

    When I’m satisfied I feel free to satisfy the needs of people around me – just the way I can only love others to the degree that I love myself…

    The next affirmation in order was: “I always get what I want, easily, effortlessly and joyfully.”

  • Steve

    Reply Reply March 9, 2009

    Hi Leszek,

    Your answer is the answer – we tend to get so caught up in finding the answer “out there somewhere” instead of just looking for the answer inside;

    and you nailed it; your wants always come from YOU, because you choose them – where else would they come from?

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