The Wrong Question

When author Jim Collins first met his hero Peter Drucker, whom many regard as the greatest management thinker of all time, the two men where at very different points in their lives. Here, a man in his thirties, eager to start a new endeavor, a new self-directed path, but equally terrified by the uncertainty of the outcome. There, in his rattan Wicker chair, the seasoned and accomplished 86-year-old – curiously asking questions and answering those of his counterpart with eloquence and wisdom.

When their long conversation came to an end, Collins, thankful for all the advice he had received, asked Drucker how he could pay him back. Drucker replied:

“You have already paid me back because I have learned.

But I do have a request: that you change your question a little bit.

It seems to me you spend a lot of time trying — worrying about if you’re going to survive. Well, you’ll probably survive. And you spend too much time thinking about if you’ll be successful. It’s the wrong question.

The question is, how to be useful.

From a great conversation on the Tim Ferriss Show, episode #361. Transcript.


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