Asking Better Questions: How Instead of What

When talking to a person I admire, I love to ask what they do each day. What do they do at the gym? What do they eat for breakfast? What is their evening routine? What do they wear? I’ve always thought, if I do what the person I admire does, then I can be just like them.

When I learned that Mr. Rogers swam one mile every day, I eagerly jumped in the pool and started counting laps. When I learned that John Steinbeck wrote East of Eden with Blackwing pencils, I started writing with Blackwing pencils. It was as if I could become who I admired by simply mimicking what they did.

This doesn’t feel true to me now. Instead, I think we learn from others by studying how they process the world and make decisions based on that processing.  

The better questions are about the how, not the what. How do they think through approaching exercise and how did they end up choosing the routine they did? How do they think about what and when to eat? How do they relate to sleep, if at all?

You cannot become Lebron James by purchasing a hoodie he wore, even though I did exactly that a few weeks ago. In fact, you cannot become anyone else at all. That person is already taken.

No one has the same approach and view of the world as you do. And embracing that difference while refining you own process is the key to becoming a person you would admire. What you can learn from others is how they have related to their own processing. Asking “how” questions helps you better understand your own operating system.

The “how” of what you do is where the good stuff is. The “what” of what you do is just the by-product.

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