The Nine Questions of Breakthrough Achievement

From discovering new drug therapies to winning triathlons, the capacity for human achievement is humbling. NASA scientists reached Pluto this week, beaming back stunning imagery of the distant planet. Brian Acton and Jam Koum, who founded WhatsApp in 2009, sold their startup to Google for $19 billion just five years later. Easton LaChapelle built a robotic hand out of Legos and fishing wire in his bedroom at age 14, and his invention is now helping amputees around the world.

Triumphs take many forms, but the greatest achievers ask themselves nine critical questions to help map their path to success. As you embark on your own mission, these same questions can provide an effective strategy for achieving just about anything you can imagine:

  1. Why am I doing it? Starting with a clear understanding of the purpose is critical. Make sure you are crystal clear as to why your efforts are needed and important.
  1. What is my big vision? Craft a vivid, 3-D, Technicolor image of exactly what you want to achieve. The more specific the better. This serves as your North Star, your guide.
  1. What’s my realistic starting point? You can’t chart a course without truly understanding where to begin. Get clear on your current strengths and weaknesses (both internal and external) so you can forge a thoughtful plan of attack.
  1. Who (or what) is my enemy? Identifying the obstacles up front will allow you to see them clearly along the journey. Think who or what could derail your efforts, and build a strategy to overcome. Know thy enemy.
  1. What resources do I need? Mountain climbers need gear. Politicians need voters. Startups need capital. Make a detailed resource list so you don’t run out of gas along the way.
  1. Who needs to help me? Even seemingly individual sports like boxing and tennis require coaches, trainers, and promoters. While individuals may take the credit, nearly every major human achievement is a team effort. Identify the critical roles that will help you accelerate growth, avoid risk, and provide needed support.
  1. How will I measure it? The old adage, “what gets measured gets improved,” is spot on if you’re looking to drive big results. Measure and track each input and output to understand – and then optimize – your model.
  1. How can I break it into manageable tasks? Enormous projects, such as mapping the human genome, are always accomplished by tackling a long series of sub-tasks. Slice up the work in to small, bite-size chunks.
  2. When can I begin? Greatness starts today, not next week, if you have time, or when convenient. A sense of urgency is far more important than waiting for that perfect time.

We each have our own calling in life, but asking yourself these universal nine questions will help propel you to achieving your mission. Put these nine questions to the test; the answers will make you unstoppable.