One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from reading books, interviewing smart people, and having conversations with my mentors is that questions are more important than answers.
But that goes against everything you learn in school where you’re rewarded for the quality of your answers.
However, that’s not what you should judge a person on. Instead, look at the quality of a person’s questions, like Voltaire famously said:
“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”
And one of my friends who’s a consultant at one of the big three management consultancies, once told me that, “my job is to be ignorant.” He was referring to Peter Drucker, arguably one of the greatest management consultants of all time, who said:
You can easily measure a business by looking at the numbers. Turnover, profit, costs, employee churn, etc.
But how do you measure your life? There are no universal metrics to assess your life.
So it’s up to every person to create their own way to measure where they are in life.
Some do that by looking at how much they earn compared to their peers. Some look at how far they climbed the corporate ladder. Others measure themselves by how they look.
I have studied how the most successful thinkers of our time measure their lives. The answer is surprising. You rarely hear that successful people measure their life by the size of their bank account or any other conventional measure.
Ever since I was little, I worried about many things. My favorite topics were money, health, and my future. What’s your favorite topic to worry about?
And don’t tell me you never worry or fear nothing. Because if you have zero fear, that means you’re a robot!
Everyone spends time thinking about things that will never happen. Because that’s what fear is. Michel de Montaigne, the 16th-century philosopher, said it best:
“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.”
We all know that fear is meant to save us from trouble. But in the modern world, that’s simply not true anymore. These days, fear is only something that occupies your mind.
Our thoughts are so cluttered with fear, worry, and stress, that we can’t focus on our goals. In my personal experience, living a full life has nothing to do with the resources or opportunities you have.
I’ve got a simple question for you: Who are you?
Look, this is not a job interview or any type of interview.
I’m not looking for a politically correct answer. “I’m a person who’s serious about his career. I like to spend time with my family and friends.” That’s true for every single person who is determined enough to have a job.
No, I’m talking about who you truly are — deep down.
Because let’s face it, you and I both know that we all have two personalities, who live two different lives.
That’s what I think three or four times a month.
To be honest, the thought of quitting whatever I’m doing in my life has been on my mind as long as I remember. When I was in high school, I wanted to quit and just find a job. When I played basketball, I wanted to quit.
When I started a business, I wanted to quit and get a job. When I got a job, I wanted to quit and get back to my business.
I can go on and on until I reach the present. I know, it sounds like an existential crisis that people in the first world only have. But that’s not what’s going on.
You’ll never find me crying about stuff like missing out on parties, not being able to get my hands on a ‘one-of-a-kind’ t-shirt (you hype beasts out there), or a dead battery.
But no matter how much I love what I do, the thoughts of quitting and just walking away show up in my mind every time things get hard. And in the past, those thoughts cost me many nights of sleep.
Some say life is like chess, running a marathon, or playing a video game. I like those simplified looks on life because it’s already complicated enough.
But even though those ideas are fun, they don’t provide a practical strategy to base your life on. Sure, you must be smart, strategic, try to accelerate your learning, get results, and be consistent at the same time. We get it.
But what do you do when things don’t work out?
About three years ago, I wasn’t satisfied with my life and career. It’s difficult to explain why. To be honest, I didn’t understand why at the time. I just didn’t know what I was doing.
I just did what others expected me to do. Or, things that conventional wisdom tell you to do. I went to college, got two degrees, started a business, but I thought I also needed to work for a multinational firm, live in a big city, buy expensive stuff, and drive a cool car.
Socrates, considered as one of the founders of Western philosophy, was once named the wisest man on earth by the Oracle of Delphi. When Socrates heard that the oracle had made such a comment, he believed that the statement was wrong.
Socrates said: “ I know one thing: that I know nothing.”
You might be a wise person, but still, you know nothing. You can learn from everything and everyone. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to have great mentors, teachers, family, friends, that taught me about life.
We might learn things quickly, but we often forget things at the same rate — and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the things we’ve learned.
Here are 25 of those reminders that others taught me. Illustrated by Maren Katelaan.