Friday, December 24, 2010

20 Ruthless Questions to Achieve Breakthrough

Dec 23, 2010 -

For many people, and many businesses, 2010 has been a year of breakthrough. But for many others, 2010 has been a very difficult year, a year of crisis. I believe there's a connection, one that has to do with mindset and perspective.

The word in Japanese for crisis iskiki. The characters used to write kiki have two sets. One set means danger. The other set means opportunity. In a crisis situation, danger and opportunity coexist... two sides of the same coin. The challenge is to see the opportunity, which may be hidden, when danger is far more visible.

It's the ability to see crisis as opportunity that leads to breakthrough. If you think about it, the word breakthrough itself implies the breaking of, or with, something—a mindset, a routine, a course of action. Breakthroughs of any kind require something to break through—an obstacle, problem, or challenge.

And when it comes to obstacles, many times it is the involuntary ones, the setbacks, that harbor the power to transform—forcing us in new directions, directions we perhaps should have taken anyway, but new directions nonetheless. Approached as an opportunity—admittedly no easy task when simple survival is the first order of business—a crisis can result in an altogether new lease on business, work and life.

Why? Because it is during these trying times that we are perhaps most introspective, reflective and receptive to the signs that might point us toward a better path. With a certain urgency, we begin to ask questions of our circumstances (Why is this happening to me?), of ourselves (What am I going to do?), and of our outcomes (Why isn’t my plan working?).

It is in the process of how we address these questions that we can turn crisis into opportunity.

And so while the OPEN Forum Idea Hub has delivered countless answers through hundreds of articles over the course of 2010, my gift to the readers of OPEN is in the form of questions. Twenty ruthless questions, which, if reflected upon and addressed head-on, will help make 2011 a breakthrough year for you, no matter what your situation.

I've grouped them loosely into four categories, four "P's": purpose, preparation, perseverance, and possibility.


What is the reality of my situation—the dangers and opportunities?

What am I avoiding?

What thoughts are holding me back?

What must I commit to?

What am I really trying to accomplish?


What specific objectives support my commitment? What is the order of priority?

What must be accomplished? When must it be completed?

What are my plans and strategies for meeting my objectives?

What kind of assistance and support will I need from others?

What is my “plan B?”


What are the hardest tests I face, what barriers block my way, and what am I struggling with most?

Which of my activities steal my energy without return?

What can I simplify? How can I exploit or better manage complexity in my life?

What can I eliminate, reduce, or subtract to make more room for what matters most—what would those who matter most love for me to stop doing?

What can I leave unfinished without loss of impact?


What is the “why not?” in my field; the “what if?”

What rules, routines, and regimens seem limiting?

How can I use those limitations to spark new ways of thinking?

What can I do to take a physical or mental break from what I’m struggling with?

What new rules can I develop? What new standards?

These aren't easy questions to answer. They aren't even easy to face. Okay, let's face it, they're brutal. But any honest treatment of them will help put you on the path to a very important "P": progress.

Matthew E. May is the author of The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change. You can find him on Facebook here, and you can follow him on Twitter @matthewemay.

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