"The 3 Questions"

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Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy, photo courtesy of Biography.com

A client recently asked me how I determine what’s the most important thing to focus on.
Her question reminded me of a short story by Leo Tolstoy, The Three Questions and first published in 1885 with other stories in a collection called What Men Live By, and other tales.
There was once a king who believed he’d never fail if he knew 3 things:

  • When is the best time to do each thing?
  • Who are the most important people to work with?
  • What is the most important thing to do at all times?

While many scholars attempted to answer the questions, none succeeded.
The king decided he needed to ask the local wise hermit.  Since the hermit would only see commoners, the king disguised himself as a peasant, left his guards behind and went to town.
The hermit was digging flower beds when the king arrived. The king asked his questions, but the hermit went on digging without answering.
The king offered to dig for him for a while. After digging for a bit, the king again asked his questions.  Before the hermit could answer however, a man, bleeding heavily, stumbled out of the woods.
The king cared for the stranger and they spent the night at the hermit’s.
By the next day the wounded man was doing better and was shocked at the care he’d received.  You see, he had recognized the king and actually come to kill him as the king had executed his brother and seized his land.  On his way to the kingdom, the guards intercepted and wounded him.
The man pledged allegiance to the king, and he went on his way.
The king asked the hermit again for his answers, and the hermit responded that he had just had his questions answered.

  • The most important time is now. The present is the only time over which we have power.
  • The most important person is whoever you are with.
  • The most important thing is to do good to/for the person you are with.

 What if you were 100% present and focused in everything you did?

  • Put away your smartphone when in the company of others
  • Listen rather than multitask
  • Have only that which you’re working on “open” at any given time

How would things change for you and the person/people you’re with?
Are you ready to join in an experiment with me to find out?  Let me know below. 🙂