The Essential Question

The first time I met the now famous motivational speaker & author Tony Robbins was at his house in 1987. I was brought in as a marketing consultant and during our small informal meeting, Tony asked me a personal question that I remember vividly 30+ years later. He said, “Ed, so what’s most important to you in life?” Then he smiled and said, “I like asking simple questions.”

I thought it a very strange question and it seemed out of place in a business meeting.

I don’t recall my exact answer, but I’m sure it had something to do with my family.

Tony became a client & friend of mine. We worked closely together for several years. During that time I learned why he asked that “What’s most important to you in life?” question.


Tony wanted to get a sense of my personal values. By understanding what I valued most he could get a sense of my character.  He could also better understand what motivated me to do what I do.

What is most important to you in your life?

Regardless of what just popped in your head, stop and re-think about that question.

Oftentimes we get into habits when it comes to questions, like if you walk into a department store and salesperson sees you and says, “Can I help you?” a programmed response for many of us is… “No thank you, I’m just looking.”

Many different things are ‘most important’ to us over the course of our lives. What is truly most important to you now?

As you may have seen in my personal “Encore Entrepreneur Assessment” among the most important things to me was personal freedom and personal growth. I wanted, and still want, to be able to work on my terms and I don’t want my life to become stagnant. I want to grow and continue to stretch my comfort zone.

Be honest, and thorough, what is most important to you in your life? What do you MOST VALUE?

Now… What does your retirement business need to provide, or not require, so you can live true to your highest values?

This process of getting clear about your highest values and making sure your retirement business is in harmony with these values is essential.  If what ‘you do’ is not in harmony with who ‘you are’ there can be no true success.

2 thoughts on “The Essential Question”

  1. Interesting value question which Bill Bacharach built a career on. When I first heard him talk about asking the right questions to prospects and suspects, he simplified the process of figuring out whether you were chewing the fat or, depending on response, you were asking the right folks who would further engage in business. As a retirement planner having taken personal inventory on my own values, I found it important to forge relationships with folks who had a clear sense of their own core values. It is a challenge to uncover these values because most folks are unconscious competents and many can be guided to realize what is really, really important.

  2. Ray, Bill was a client of mine in the late ’80’s. You are so right, uncovering true values can be exceedingly difficult. It took me a couple of years of posing myself questions and “sitting with” answers before I felt OK with shifting my career to something more aligned with my values.

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