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Recently I watched a TED Talk with Simon Sinek about how great leaders think. There he presents a framework or a way of thinking that these leaders have. He coined that framework the ‘Golden Circle’ and argues that all great leaders communicate opposite to the way most of us communicate. Where most people go from talking about ‘what’ they do, through to (sometimes) elaborating about ‘how’ they do it to finally (almost never) about ‘why’ the do what they do, inspiring leaders start with the ‘why’ (Simon is doing a better job at explaining this). And that is ultimately what makes them the leaders they are.

I generally find a lot of sense and truths in what Simon is talking about, but there is another application to that golden circle that I think deserves some attention. That is the art of asking questions. There are 2 basic ways in which we learn: 1. by interaction and experience, and 2. by seeking knowledge from others. The former is a kind of reactive learning where we don’t have a choice about it and learn lessons from life (often painful lessons), where the latter is more proactive acquisition of knowledge, which is normally triggered by curiosity (or desire). But having curiosity is not enough to gain access to good information especially because today there are countless of questionable sources that supply bad information to the curious mind. However, knowing how to ask the right question will put the questioner at a certain advantage against these ‘junk sources’. 

Everything anyone will ever need to know is in one of these three questions: What, How and Why (WHW framework). And, as Simon points out, each question goes dipper than the former. So ‘What?’ is a question that scratches the surface (what do you do?) and helps you get to the next layer by raising those kinds of questions – the ‘How?’ questions (How do you do it?). Finally, after we understand what something is and how it operates (or came to be) we ask ‘Why?’ (why do you do it / why is it important / what is the purpose of it?). ‘Why?’ is the deepest question of all and it goes to the core of the subject matter – its purpose. In interpersonal interactions, getting to the ‘Why?’ may be a very personal and intimate experience so you should proceed with care and dig in carefully with ‘What?’ and ‘How?’ before getting to the why. But for yourself, it is important to ask ‘Why?’ often.

So, much of our learning is done by asking the right questions (and I will go farther by saying that inspiration stems from these questions) and because I believe that it is a crucial skill for entrepreneurs I will post different questions that I have struggled with in the past in the ‘Question bites’ page. Feel free to comment and add interesting questions of your own. Hope it helps.

I’m currently working with a close friend of mine, who’s a martial artist, on a martial arts themed website. While we were working, we took a break and spurred for a while. At first I was using a lot of energy and force, as opposed to technique, and although I got some progress in my position, I got tired really fast and obviously lost.

To be honest I never expected to win because my friend is almost like a black belt level whereas I am barely a white belt. So loosing was not the problem. The problem was that I lost, was completely hurt and exhausted and I didn’t learn anything. Even worst, I thought I was doing pretty well.


Then my friend, who has 13 years of martial arts training under his belt, told me “Neil you’re doing it all wrong”, and suggested that I avoid using any muscle power and try to focus on technique. In other words he was telling me to work smart not hard.

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We “rolled” for another round and this time I applied his advice. Consequently I lost even faster than before. In fact, I got submitted much faster, but I wasn’t hurt or tired and I actually learned a couple of new techniques. The next round I still got easily submitted but I was a tiny bit better than the  previous round – and that’s progress!
That experience taught me a very important lesson. Namely that Only when I allowed myself to let go of my ego and concentrate on learning rather than winning, I made progress.