Ask better questions

“If you ask better questions, you’ll get better answers!” —  Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins often tells the story of how early in his career he offered to help the US Army improve a pistol shooting program. He asked the best sharpshooters in the world what they did mentally and physically to achieve effective and accurate shooting. From this exercise he found out what these shooters had in common and then replicated it for teaching purposes. He managed to cut the training time by 75% and produce more competent sharpshooters than before. How can someone who had never shot a gun in his life figure out the common beliefs, thinking and strategies of shooters? By asking better questions.

So how do you ask better questions? Although Robbins may not have used this approach, one that is good at forcing critical thinking is Socratic questioning. Named after the Greek philosopher, it tries to prevent fragmented thinking by getting us to ask six specific types of questions. What distinguishes this questioning method is that it is systematic, disciplined and focuses on getting deep enough to uncover the fundamentals.

Here are the six types of Socratic questions with generic examples but also possible questions to help you think about your choice of career path:

1. Questions for clarification 

2. Questions about assumptions

3. Questions about reasons or evidence

4. Questions about alternate viewpoints and perspectives

5. Questions about implications and consequences

6. Questions about the question

In my own life I have found that questions can be more important than answers. Self-reflection is critical to knowing if you are still happy with the path you are on and if you think it can lead you to where you want to go. In fact, some promising paths will go unnoticed all together unless you ask certain kinds of questions of yourself and others.

In summary, the six types of questions you should ask:

  1. Questions for clarification
  2. Questions about assumptions
  3. Questions about reasons or evidence
  4. Questions about alternate viewpoints and perspectives
  5. Questions about implications and consequences
  6. Questions about the question

The only way to get started with this is to simply try it. Start asking better questions if you want better answers.


If you’re interested in more examples of Socratic questions then check out this link I saw in a recent Farnam Street newsletter.

I first heard about that Tony Robbins story from an interview that he and Peter Diamandis did for the Tim Ferriss Show podcast a few months ago.