The motivating host of one of the nation's largest leadership conferences offers a collection of inspirational and applicable life lessons through conversations with various high profile people.
Albert Einstein once said, “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” What is true of science, I’m convinced, is true in all of life. Great questions are often the keys that unlock possibilities for human advancement. That truth has been proven again and again throughout human history, as great interviewers from Bob Costas to Barbara Walters have captivated audiences and ignited imaginations. In a world where the messages of public figures and politicians are carefully crafted by publicists and media consultants, we often receive only partial pictures and manipulated facts. The right questions uncover truths we might not otherwise know. They pull back the curtain on the wizard and give us a more accurate view of reality. —Excerpt from the Introduction
If you could sit down with the people you most admire and ask just one question, what would you ask?
One Question invites you to peer over the shoulder of a master interviewer with access to today’s best and brightest as he delivers carefully crafted questions and collects answers guaranteed to surprise, challenge, and inspire.
• What is Coach Tony Dungy’s advice for achieving success while maintaining integrity? • What advice does Malcolm Gladwell give parents about instilling a work ethic in our children? • How does President Jimmy Carter suggest we continue forward and reinvent ourselves in new seasons? • What does Robin McGraw have to say to women about reaching their full potential both inside and outside their homes?
Agatha Christie’s unique ability to weave intrigue and suspense into a web of excitement explains why she is the bestselling novelist of all time. Though she has been dead more than three decades, she has sold more than four billion copies of her books to date. I first experienced Christie’s work when my high school drama teacher, Joy Bryant, chose The Mousetrap as our spring play my junior year. The murder mystery holds the honor of being the longest-running show of the modern era.
When the announcement was made, I determined that I would audition for the lead role, Detective Sergeant Trotter. I wanted to be a star, and it seemed the best way for my seventeen-year-old self to realize it. When I arrived for the audition, however, Ms. Bryant threw me a curveball. She asked me also to read for the part of Christopher Wren. Confused and feeling slighted, I reluctantly agreed.
My anticipation mounted for the next two days as I waited for the announcement to be made. When the list was posted, I rushed down the hall and ran my finger down the paper. There it was for all to see: “Ken Coleman—Christopher Wren.” My disappointment was difficult to hide.
After class, I waited around to confront Ms. Bryant on her poor casting ability.
“I know you wanted the lead role,” she said. “But you are perfect for Wren. No one in this school can play him like you can, and you will notice, if you read the script, that he steals the show. Just trust me.”
Christopher Wren is the mad character that Christie added for comedic relief. I recognized the prominence given to him in the script, but I didn’t care what he was. I was only concerned with what he wasn’t: the lead. After sulking and mulling for several days, I decided to give the role my best.
No one perhaps has spoken more about playing the role you were meant to play than John Maxwell. He is a New York Times bestselling author of cornerstone leadership books, including Developing the Leader Within You, Make Today Count, and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. His mission in life is to equip people to identify their strengths and maximize their effectiveness as influencers. When I had the opportunity to ask him one question, I decided to frame it around the subject of niche.
KC: My father said to me over and over as a kid, “Find your niche and fill it.” We all have unique talents and strengths, yet so many never find their niche. How do we find it?
JM: My father helped us a lot too. He was very committed to his gifts and used them well. As we grew up, he basically told us the same thing: “Find the one thing you do well, and do it. You are not able to do twenty things well, so find the one thing that you do well.” So when people come to me about their niche, I always ask them two questions. One is “What are you passionate about?” And number two is “What are you good at?”
I have known a lot of people who are very passionate about things they are not good at. So the good news is they really loved what they were doing, and the bad news was that they were not any good at it.
I have known people who were very good at something, but they were not passionate about it. So the good news was that they were really good at it, and the bad news is they could not stick with it. They could not even stay in their sweet spot, because they did not have the passion for it. So it is not either/or, it is both/and.
Once you can answer, “What am I passionate about?” and “What am I good at?” you can marry those two things. Then you have the energy to take you over the long haul to be the person that you really want to be. When people are doing one thing but would like to go do something else, my whole advice is then “Quit but-ing and start going.”
My advice to a lot of people when they come to me and say, “What do you think I ought to do? I am getting worn out with this” is “Quit.” And then they will say, “What do you mean, quit?” I say again, “Quit. You have to stop doing what you are doing today if it is not effective, or you do not enjoy it, to be able to start doing what you want to do, tomorrow.” That takes a little bit of security, but I do think that is the key.
You really have to love what you do. I cannot imagine anybody, every day, going to work just because he has to go to work, and just kind of filling in the day with something he does not love. People who do not love what they are doing are Cape Canaveral people: ten, nine, eight, seven, six. . . . They are counting down before they can quit work. They are counting down before they can stop that relationship. I say, “You ought to be counting up, not counting down. You ought to be going up.” So put your passions and your gifts together, and then you have found something.
Maxwell gives us a simple but profound equation: passions + gifts = niche. Some people label this “calling,” but the moniker doesn’t matter as much as the principle. Too many people live lives of desperation and dissatisfaction, but we all possess the road map for the way out of that gloomy town.
When you operate outside your niche, you’ll end up being one of two types of people. First, you may become a person who is good at his job but not passionate about it. This is, for example, the corporate marketing executive who is talented at crafting a message and knows the company’s needs well. He makes a great living and has a beautiful office atop a tall tower. But he is wasting away.
My friend was a lead Web designer for a large corporation, making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. He was great at his job, but he needed a client he could believe in. One day, he simply quit his job and moved to Maui, where he now designs small websites for nonprofits. You may be working a nine-to-five in accounting or customer care or insurance sales, but your heart desires to go work with special-needs kids. Like Maxwell, I’d tell you, “Go work with special-needs children.”
The second type of person is passionate about his job but not good at it. You see him on reality talent shows every day. He loves to sing, but he doesn’t have the talent to carry it. You wince when confusion washes over his face after he’s told he is “pitchy.” Lack of talent is only a symptom; the real problem is a failure to identify his niche. You won’t be your happiest or most effective until you can find a place where you are both passionate and talented.
I’d add another subcategory to Maxwell’s list. This is a person who has identified both his passions and his gifts but lacks the backbone to make a change. Once we locate our niche, we need the courage and discipline to pursue it. If you find and fill your niche, you’ll never “work” another day in your life.
Flashback to opening night of The Mousetrap. The cast is pacing backstage, driven by our collective nervousness. We have two back-to-back shows, and both are sold out. When I take the stage, I feel a surge of another person in my veins. I deliver my lines, not as Ken but as Christopher Wren. As Ms. Bryant predicted, I steal the show and earn a roar of applause at the end of each performance.
Driving home that night, I realized that Ms. Bryant had been teaching me about more than just acting. She was instructing me on niche: you need to know who you are, and you need to play your role to the best of your ability. My drama teacher knew me better than I knew myself, and she handed me a valuable life lesson that I will teach my three kids.
The spotlight now turns to you. Have you found your niche, and are you filling it? If not, what are you going to do about it?
Play the role that only you can, the one you were born for. If you marry your passions and gifts, when the curtain closes and you wait for a response, you’ll find you’ve done more for the audience than you ever imagined you could.
Ken Coleman is the talk radio host of The Ken Coleman Show. Ken's show has been seen on The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, The Daily Show, Colbert Report, NBC Nightly News, Fox News, CNN, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Fox & Friends, and in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and London's Daily Mail. Ken has published articles with The Huffington Post and Success Magazine. Ken has been called a “young Charlie Rose” by legendary Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, and talk radio superstar Dave Ramsey has labeled him "one of the best interviewers in the country." Ken's invigorating and insightful commentary combine with acclaimed interview skills to make him one of broadcasting’s rising stars. Most importantly, Ken is blessed to be Stacy's husband and Daddy to Ty, Chase, and Josie. Follow Ken on Twitter @kencoleman.
"Ken Coleman has a gift of asking the questions we should all be asking. One Question gets to the heart of the most important issues in our lives and taps into the wisdom of some today's most admired achievers."
– Mark Burnett, Creator of The Voice, Survivor, and The Apprentice
“The simplicity of a singular question can hold great power to inform and inspire. Ken Coleman has asked great questions throughout his career. He is as good an interviewer as there is in this country. In One Question he gives us invaluable answers to the questions we all ask.”
– Mike Krzyzewski, Head Coach, Duke Men's Basketball
“Ken Coleman asks the questions that need asking. His questions elicit simple and powerful truths that everyone can apply to his or her own life. Ken strips away the veneer and uncovers the truth with simple, direct questions that cause us to stop, think, and examine what is truly important. One Question is a book that everyone will connect with—the questions and answers are illuminating and inspiring!”
– Zach McLeroy, CEO and co-founder of Zaxby’s
"Ken Coleman has delivered a game-changing challenge with One Question. The answers to our biggest questions are readily available if we have the courage to ask them. This book will help you get the answers you need."
– Grant Teaff, Exec. Director of the American Football Coaches Association
"Ken Coleman allows us to eavesdrop on his insightful questions with many of the brightest and most respected minds in our world. One Question is a delightful, inspiring mandate to never stop asking."