The single most important question you can ask

by Ken Rupert. 0 Comments

One of the most probing questions I ask clients is: “If you are standing at the end of your life, what would the wiser, older you tell the younger, more naive you about life?” I have thought about this question many times as I have moved through the different phases of my life. What nugget of truth, what seed of wisdom, what parcel of discernment would the wiser, older me tell the younger, more naive me, to change the direction of my life? For me, it comes down to these simple answers: I would tell the younger, more naive me, to read the prospectus of life closely. Every prospectus has a disclosure statement that reads to some extent: “Past performance does not guarantee future results and the investment return and principal value of an investment in your life will likely fluctuate.” I would tell the younger me, you cannot depend upon your past successes and you should not dwell on your past failures. Past performance can be predictive of future results but does not guarantee them. To be predictive means that, without change, it is likely that your outcomes will remain the same. However, the likelihood that your outcomes will remain the same is not guaranteed. Without change, a failure could not turn into a success, but more likely your successes would end in failure.

Beyond that, I would tell the younger, more naive me that life will likely fluctuate between success and failure and between growth and contraction, much like the investment return and principle value of an investment fluctuates. Therefore, don’t over-react to these occurrences. Shield against the urge to think and speak in catastrophic terms concerning non-catastrophic events. Understand that people’s influence and interest in your life will ebb and flow. Friends will come and go. Some things will come easily while others will cause you to doubt yourself and your relationships. Equal opportunity does not mean equal outcome. This is the concept that “the investment return and principal value of an investment in your life will likely fluctuate.” I would tell the younger, more naive me that life is more about rhythm and less about speed; it is more about momentum than it is about chance. This simple disclosure statement carries an immense amount of wisdom. Projecting your past into your future robs you of the richness of today. Expecting more out of life than what you put into it is a quick way to ruin.

Another pearl of wisdom I might tell the younger, more naive me is to value empathy over sympathy, love over leisure, and others more than self. The word empathy comes from the Greek preposition en or “in” and the noun, pathos or passion. Empathy refers to the capacity to “feel into” or even “suffer into” the experience of another. This concept is different from the concept of sympathy which has its origin from the Greek sun which refers to the capacity of being “with” the experience of another. Therefore, the concept of sympathy means to be with someone’s passions or emotional existence, whereas, the concept of empathy means to feel into or suffer into someone’s passions or emotional existence. Contextually, sympathy is expressed from an emotionally independent position, whereas empathy is expressed from an emotionally interdependent position. It is more valuable to suffer within the passion of another person than it is to merely be with another person’s passion.

However, valuing empathy over sympathy will cost you. Therefore, I would further instruct the younger, more naive me to value love over leisure. Love requires action. Leisure is the antithesis of action. Not that leisure is necessarily wrong or inherently evil, but leisure is indicative of freedom from the demands of work or duty. Thus one who participates in leisure in large amounts becomes slothful and poor; not just poor in possessions but also poor in spirit. Love exacts a cost; the cost of action, purpose, and sacrifice. Therefore, leisure cannot be of greater value than love. When a person loves you, that person has paid a price for that love. He or she has done things for you that he or she might not have otherwise done for another. That person has been purposeful and intentional about acting towards you in a way that serves you and denies him or herself. Conversely, when you love someone, you have paid a price for that love. Love might be the only thing that you pay to give away. Therefore, value love over leisure in both your giving and your receiving.

Finally, value others more than self. In life there is a tension between your wants and desires and other people’s needs. This is never more apparent than during a blizzard. Have you ever gone to the grocery store just before a blizzard? I once watched a woman take the last five gallons of milk off of the shelves just before a blizzard. Now it is quite possible that her family goes through five gallons of milk a week, but could she have left a couple gallons for the next person? Valuing others over self includes empathy and love. But there is this constant tension in life that cries “Aren’t I just as important as you?” “Don’t I deserve to have the same things as the next guy?” Let me share with you an illustration that is applicable across many different experiences. It is called the “Rule of 25.” The Rule of 25 states: Twenty-five percent of the people never try. Twenty-five percent of the people try but quit. Twenty-five percent of the people try but fade. Twenty-five percent of the people succeed.

Let’s look at this rule in a little detail. Twenty-five percent of the people never try. It does not matter what the dynamics of the situation, they just don’t try. This can be equated to quitting before they even start. Twenty-five percent of the people try, but quit. These are the people who show an effort but quickly quit when the cost of the activity out paces the pleasure derived. Twenty-five percent of the people try but fade. These are the people who give a strong effort but end up tiring because of weightier issues of life. Finally, twenty-five percent of the people succeed. These people maintain a level of competence, engagement, intentionality, and determination that causes them to win. The amazing thing about the last twenty-five percent is that you will find that their return on investment is some thirty times, some sixty times, and some one hundred times their effort. Did you catch that? Twenty-five percent of the people succeed, they all maintain a level of competence, engagement, intentionality, and determination that causes them to win, but their return on investment is not equal. Why is that? It has a lot to do with the types of seeds they are sowing and the soil in which they plant that seed. What am I trying to say? Quite simply, you cannot control the outcomes as much as you can control the type of seed you plant and where you plant it.

The younger, more naive me wanted to conquer the world and the older me knows that that is impossible. You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once. The wiser older me would tell the younger, more naive me that if you value empathy over sympathy, if you vale love over leisure, and if you value others more than self, you will be the last group in the Rule of 25. Read the prospectus of life closely. Understand that past performance can be predictive of future results but does not guarantee them. Remember that it is more valuable to suffer into the passion of another person than it is to merely be with another person’s passion. Be a person who values empathy over sympathy, love over leisure, and others more than self. And finally, be the person who maintains a level of competence, engagement, intentionality, and determination that causes you to win. Be wise about the type of seed you are planting and where you plant it. Your increase is wildly dependent upon it.

If you are interested in building the types of behaviors that will cause you to win in life, consider hiring a life coach who is focused on strategic personal success. Visit http://kenrupert.com to find out how I can help you navigate the difficult terrain of life. Look out into your future and see if the wiser, older you would tell the younger, more naive you to begin life coaching today. It could be the best piece of advice you could give yourself.

 

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