When I was a college professor, I loved teaching incoming freshmen. Most of my peers dreaded it. They felt like they were teaching “13th grade,” my colleagues said. But I saw it as an opportunity to make a memorable impression on students who were full of promise but also full of fear. I welcomed the chance to set them up for success in life. So, on the first day of each class, I asked my students one question: Why did you come to college?
Invariably, they said (and I’m paraphrasing here) “to be successful.” They believed having a college degree would give them immediate success. But I challenged them by asking another question. “Do you want to know the secret that would guarantee your success, whether you finish college or not?” Of course they did. So, I told them—it’s these four simple questions that, if asked consistently, will help you experience success in life faster and positively impact the people around you.
Question 1: How can I help you?
Jesus tells us in the Bible that the greatest among us also should be the greatest servants. Imagine if every in encounter you had, whether with your wife, boss, friend, or a stranger, you always asked: How can I help you? What do you think that would do for your relationships? The great Zig Ziglar used to say that “you can always get what you want if you help enough people get what they want.” And as I told my students, ironically, neither Jesus nor Zig Ziglar graduated from college.
Question 2: How can I do this with excellence?
What if, before doing anything, from mowing the lawn to giving a presentation at work, you always asked, “How can I do this with excellence?” Not only would the quality of your work change, but it would impress the people around you. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, even if you are called to be a street sweeper, “go out and sweep streets like Michaelangelo painted his pictures.” Someone will always notice and appreciate a man of excellence. So add a touch of excellence to everything you do.
Question 3: What can I learn from this?
Life is about learning. And as I told my students, life is a series of tests that will repeat themselves if we don’t pass them. Likewise, every test we pass prepares us for the next one. Why not treat life as a learning experience? When something good or bad happens, ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” The lesson may not reveal itself immediately, but the question is always worth asking. Don’t miss your opportunity to grow in and through your situation.
Question 4: Is this the best use of my time?It’s easy to be distracted by the interesting, the more exciting, and the most fun, while we neglect the most important.
As an educator, I’ve noticed that the biggest challenge for students is applied focus. It’s easy to be distracted by the interesting, the more exciting, and the most fun, while we neglect the most important. A lot of us carry this into adulthood. If you want to avoid being destroyed by distractions and entangled in interruptions, always ask yourself this question: “Is this the best use of my time right now?” If the answer is no, stop what you’re doing and do something more productive.
Sound off: How can you apply these to your life right now?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How do you view success?”