The Most Important Question In Any Project

Here’s the simplest advice I can give you about how to succeed with a creative project.

“Ask “What if…” as often as possible.”

Ask it of yourself, your collaborators, customers, and audience. Use it to shape what you create, how you create it, and how you present it.

If you do, your chances of success will rise. Here’s why…

It’s a great way to start a project.

Generating ideas isn’t complicated.

Get in the habit of asking yourself “What if” as often as possible in your day-to-day life and you’ll discover valuable ideas you may not have considered before.

The question forces you to think about things in new ways and identify possibilities to create projects that provide value to others.

It forces you to think bigger.

When you have an idea for a project, continuing to ask “What if” drives you to think about it in a deeper way.

It leads you to explore what’s possible and pushes you to move beyond the easy, obvious version of the initial idea. It pushes you past the surface level to reveal what makes it unique — and valuable.

It removes assumptions.

We all have assumptions about anything we work on — a set of rules that govern what it can be, how an industry works, what people want, what we’re capable of, and what success looks like.

But repeatedly asking “What if” forces us to question those assumptions and reveals many of them to be untrue.

Success is often found by removing existing assumptions and asking “What if” is a great way to do so.

It’s a powerful follow-up question.

The more you ask “What if,” the more you’ll get out of it.

The flexibility of the question makes it as valuable a follow-up question as it is an opening question.

The deeper you get into your concept or project, the more you should ask the question. You’ll often find the third or fourth time you’ve asked it reveals exponentially more valuable answers than the first.

It’s a better response than “No.”

“What if” is also a great question to ask of the people you work with on a project — especially if their initial ideas are not what you’re looking for.

Responding to other people’s suggestions with a “No” is counter-productive — it’s more likely to squash creativity and momentum than to push it forward.

By contrast, responding to someone else’s idea — even a bad idea — with a “What if” question propels the project forward in a positive direction. It keeps the other person engaged in the process and makes them feel a part of its eventual success.

They’re no longer a person whose idea was shot down — now they’re a person whose idea helped lead to the ultimate path you chose.

It has no wrong answer.

“What if” is the rare question that has only right answers.

There is no wrong when the goal is to consider other possibilities, even if those possibilities don’t ultimately work.

The point of “What if” isn’t to solve a problem — it’s to generate more ideas that might. That’s a powerful question.

It’s a great way to end a project.

As helpful as it is to ask yourself “What if” when in the early stages of a project, it may be even more beneficial to do so when the project is complete.

As you review the success (or failure) of what you’ve created, examine what might have happened had you done things differently through a series of “What if” questions.

What if the project was marketed differently? What if it was designed differently? What if it was priced differently?

Asking “What if” questions about a completed project is a great way to analyze what you’ve done and spark ideas for how you can improve on it the next time around.

It completes the circle…and starts it over again.

How To Rewrite The Story Of Your Life

Our lives are a compilation of stories we tell ourselves.

Stories of what we’ve done, how we’ve done it, and what we want to do. Stories about who we are and who we are not.

These stories create our reality, but they’re not always real. They’re our interpretations of the truth, filtered through our perceptions, expectations, hopes and fears.

Sometimes these stories don’t work for us.

They don’t lead to what we envisioned and they may even hold us back. We wind up stuck, unhappy, disappointed, or worse.

“But the stories of our life are malleable. We can rewrite them as often as we want.”

By doing so, we create a new reality for ourselves.

If you feel like your life story could use a rewrite, here are a few ways to start…

Change your villain.

Maybe it’s a person, maybe it’s a condition, maybe it’s something within you that holds you back.

Whatever is the enemy in your life story — the thing you think prevents you from getting what you want — you have the power to change it.

You may not be able to make it disappear (though sometimes you can), but you can shift how you see the role it plays in your life.

“Just think: What if the thing you think is the villain in your story isn’t actually what’s held you back? Maybe you’ve battled the wrong villain all along.”

Change your origin story.

Every hero has an origin story, but it’s possible you’ve chosen the wrong story to define how you came to be the person you are.

Think back on the choices you made, the path that led you to where you are today, and recognize there may have been other circumstances that were just as influential to your development in better ways.

Perhaps your story isn’t one of somebody who suffered misfortune in your youth, but rather one of somebody who overcame incredible challenges.

“This may sound like semantics, but semantics matter in storytelling.”

Change your location.

If you move across the world, it’s safe to say your life story will be rewritten. But you don’t have to make that drastic a location shift to alter your story.

Think about the locations where you spend the majority of your time and consider how things might change if you altered those locations.

A different neighborhood, a new workplace, an alternate hang-out spot with your friends.

“What if you took the five places you spend most of your time and replaced three of them with new places where you did new things with new people?”

Sitcoms typically have all their scenes take place in the same couple locations because those are the situations in which the show is based. If they change those situations, they change the show.

The same is true for your life.

Give yourself new powers.

Your life story up to this point has been based in large part on the abilities you have developed — your powers. But, you can always learn new skills and these newfound powers can drastically change the course of your life.

They can be career related, a hobby, or passion, but stretching yourself and learning new things will also change the course of your life.

Change your supporting cast.

Who is the supporting cast in your life? What friends, family, and co-workers occupy the most space in your story?

Think about the influence they have on your life and how you feel about it. Is it positive? Negative? Distracting? Inspiring?

“Switching up the supporting cast in your life — or the ways you interact with them — can drastically change your story.”

End the chapter you’re in.

Most stories are told in chapters and every chapter has an end.

If your story isn’t heading the direction you want, look at what’s happening in your life and consider which chapters you can end.

“Ending a chapter creates space to begin a new one which takes your story in a fresh direction.”

Change your genre.

If you had to pick a genre for your life story, what would it be? Action? Comedy? Tragedy?

It’s a tough question to answer, but it reveals your perspective on the life story you’ve told yourself.

What would happen if you started to see your life through the prism of a different genre? If you made a conscious decision to change your tragic outlook to a comic one? Or if you chose to focus on romance over drama?

Make your end your midpoint.

As we get older, we settle into our lives, careers, and relationships and begin to feel our story has been written.

If you don’t like how it’s come together, that can be a problem.

But there’s a simple thing you can do to reframe your perspective and rewrite your story.

“Remember that wherever you are in your life right now is just the midpoint of the story — not the ending.”

In screenwriting, the story’s midpoint is where everything the hero thinks is happening in the story gets turned upside down and the hero realizes their story has actually just begun.

That’s not a bad way to think about the story of your life — no matter where you happen to be in it.