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13 Nuclear Questions


Some of your greatest opportunities are waiting on the other side of some great questions.

I’m about to give you (for free!) a list that will hone your expertise, advance your mission, increase your revenues exponentially, and drastically reduce disappointment.


Some of your greatest opportunities are waiting on the other side of some great questions.


I hope you have a couple of great ideas in your life, but while you’re coming up with those, you can fill your time with life-changing, mind-expanding discoveries if you know where to look.


These discoveries often lead to…

  • saved time

  • increased income

  • less regret

  • deeper connections

  • more “luck”


In this post:

  • What are “Nuclear Questions”?

  • Why Questions Are So Powerful.

  • 13 Life-Changing Questions


What Are “Nuclear Questions”?

You might have heard of Atomic Habits. James Clear illuminates how small, repeated habits restart momentum and get you much further than you would've gotten otherwise. In other words, some habits have nuclear outcomes. If you haven’t read it, do that as soon as possible.


I think your future could also use a list of Nuclear Questions: Inquiries that, if asked, unlock asymmetrical opportunities.


Nuclear Questions are inquires that, if asked, unlock asymmetrical opportunities.

The right question might lead to an answer that leads to more-and-better questions. The right question might lead to a closeness with someone who needs to feel seen or dignified. The right question could help you avoid buyer’s remorse or a huge hiring blunder. The right question might reveal an opportunity for investment that people with less curiosity will miss out on.


Why Questions Are So Powerful.

Everything you’ve ever learned came as a result of inquiry—spoken or unspoken. You brain developed in its earliest stages by being wide open to data, connections, and meaning. You’ve continued forward in your life because you interrogated it. You tilted your head to one side and thought, “What if?”, “Would you…?”, “Is that…?”, or “Can I…?”


You must not only know what to ask, you have to become someone who endeavors to do something with what you get back.

But it’s more than asking. It’s a posture. It’s a willingness to take in the information and consider it, revisit it, or apply it. You must not only become someone who knows what to ask, you have to become someone who endeavors to do something with what you get back.


To that end, I’ve become a bit of a Collector of Questions (unofficially). I have digital notes full of them—readily available as I coach clients, get into arguments, get a meeting with an influential person, or happen to sit next to someone who could change my life (which is everyone if you’re open to it).


The following is a list of some of my favorites. These are questions I love to ask and I love being asked.


 


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13 Questions That Will Open Up the World to You

“Can you explain that in a different way?”

Get over your fear of saying “I don’t get it”. Be quick to speak up if you don’t understand something you want or need to understand. You gain nothing by trying to appear like you have it figured out.


*The way this question is framed also reveals how well the other person or “expert” knows what they are talking about. Which is connected to the next nuclear question…


You gain nothing by trying to appear like you have it figured out.

“Aside from luck or divine intervention, what choices contributed to your success?”

We love to tell stories. I’ve found that the story “successful” people often tell first is an overly-modest one. “I just married up” or “I was just in the right place at the right time”. This is adorable and unhelpful. Let’s assume that providence is real. It still requires action. It still requires opening a door when opportunity knocks. I want to find out if there are actions that others have taken that could increase my possibilities.


“Why aren’t you further?”

This is my follow-up to the previous question, and it’s opened up to me unbelievable insights. No matter how wealthy, healthy, impactful, or [fill in the blank] someone is, they’ve gotten in their own way from time to time (and they probably know it). When I’ve asked this surprising question, many accomplished people either give me a master class in self awareness or love to meditate on it for their own growth.


“Is there one thing your/my 3 smartest friends are interested in?”

You don’t know the smartest people in the world, but you have smart people in your world. You might find that they are curious about the same thing at the same time. Pay attention to that—especially if it’s an idea outside of the box most of your other relationships are thinking in.


*DISCLAIMER! This isn’t always prophetic. For instance, some of your “smart circle” might’ve miscalculated during the real estate bubble of the early 2000’s. Some of your “smart circle” might be playing it safe because they are paying attention to different demands than you are.


“Which option is the most simple and most difficult?”

This question serves me when I’m at a crossroads of a big decision. One path is generally easier, but requires some justification or logical acrobatics. The only reason I entertain it is because the other option is straightforward, but uncomfortable. These are often called “uphill decisions” because they elevate our lives, but require us to override our biological instinct to avoid pain.


"What do you believe to be true of me?"

You can't lead anything or speak up about anything without getting your fair share of criticism. When facing criticism, it's tempting to wade into the finer points, but you might miss a critical step. I don't usually "step up to the line", but when I do it's important to understand what the other person honestly assumes about me. "I know my statement seemed callous. Do you believe me to be vindictive?" Bringing it back to that will sometimes neutralize their reaction to something you said or did that created discomfort or confusion for them.


"What's it like to be on the other side of me?"

Any question that raises how clearly you see yourself and your impact on others is valuable. Of course, it's productive to the degree you're open to considering what's begin shared and the other person is open to sharing honestly. Which is why I like to incorporate this next question...


“What else?”

For a host of reasons, people withhold how they’re really doing and what they’re really thinking. As a coach (and a friend), I routinely ask a form of this question after someone has shared a complaint or given me feedback. Vast treasures of intimacy and growth are buried in the “last 10%”.


Vast treasures of intimacy and growth are buried in the “last 10%”.

“Would it be helpful if you find out you’re wrong about that?”

We all have ruts in our thinking. It could be the limits we assume we’re working with. It could be a demeaning sense of self. It could be a fear we have around a new idea. This inquiry allows the person to imagine how much better life could seem if their ordinary mindsets were make believe.


“What are you pretending not to know?”*

Sometimes, the most helpful question is an antagonizing one. As a mentor and a coach, leaders will frequently ask me for advice. I have no shortage of opinions, but I prefer to assume the person seeking an answer already has the it. “Should I quit?” “Should I fire them?” “Should we close that division?” By the time they’re asking someone like me, they have usually made up their mind and are simply trying to work up the nerve.


*My friend, Brandon Dickerson gave me this one (and I believe he got it from his dad).


“Who do you know that you think I should meet?”

No one reading this lacks access to the people they need to accomplish their vision. Not a single person. However, some of the people who’d be thrilled to partner with us, buy from us, consult us, hire us are 2 or 3 degrees from us. Ask this question every time you talk to every person about your vision. No exceptions. This habit has made me hundreds of thousands of dollars and has made it possible to bring some of my greatest value to the world.


“How do you know that’s absolutely, always true?”

This question is a direct descendent of the work of Byron Katie (if you’re unfamiliar, start with reading Loving What Is). It’s impossible to live without making assumptions, judgements, and meanings from our experiences. When our spouses don’t do what we want, when our friends disappoint us, when our efforts don’t create the results we expected; we intuitively create a conviction around it. “She hates me” “I’m a failure” “He always puts my needs last”. If you force analysis—almost scientific, data-driven analysis of that meaning—you will find yourself living in a world of greater grace, possibility, and hope.


“Is character outpacing competence?”

Not only would there be fewer layoffs, but the world would be re-shuffled if we asked this question more often. We are easily dazzled by a resume wrapped in charisma. We’re prone to trust, hire, promote, like, and enable people with a shelf full of trophies and a shiny smile. But I urge you to place more emphasis on the evidence of nobility than the allure of achievements.


*A variation on this would be, “Is character stronger than the platform?” Before granting someone the power of public communication (if it’s yours to give), do what you can to examine patterns of honesty, punctuality, generosity, patience, self-control, sobriety and faithfulness.


I know from personal experience that your life will change if you commit to curiosity. It will change exponentially as you adopt better and better questions. I hope this list helps in that pursuit.


I’d love to learn from you! Any questions you would add to the mix? Leave in the comments below.


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2 Comments


These are excellent! Looking forward to putting them into practice. One of my favorite questions to ask people is “Who told you that?” Often times people are believing lies just because someone spoke it to them or because they heard it somewhere and never evaluated the truth of it. Its astounding how such a simple question can bring such freedom!

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These are great! “Would it be helpful if you find out you’re wrong about that?” I’m always asking myself if I might be wrong about something. I ask, or pay attention when suggested I might be or am wrong because if I am, then I have a chance to correct my thinking and then be right! But I also get the question in that, especially in these crazy political times. Even more than that, we seem to get so invested in knowing what we know. Thanks again for this great stuff!


When will you read my new novel, LOST IN LOS ALAMOS??? It’s a great spiritual lesson in perseverance. 😁

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