A Rhetorical Question About Work

Peter Bregman recently wrote a post entitled “A Life-or-Death Question to Start Your Day”. He tells the story of how, during a long-ago trip with his wife to the wilderness for kayaking, they assessed the risks they were taking each morning. Every day before they left shore, they asked themselves: “If we died today, what mistake could have done us in?”

Years later, Peter still thinks of that approach to each day, except the questions (and the risks) are quite different. Peter’s take on the new questions is: “Am I prepared for this day? For the meetings I have planned? Have I anticipated the risks that might take me off track from achieving my goals?” Ultimately, Peter realized that if not prepared, each precious day could be withered away.

It’s a great story and a very meaningful lesson.

Yet I am thinking that the most important lesson for me might be to take it one more step.

Should my questions be:

  • If this were the last day of my life, how would I treat each person I come in contact with?
  • What would I appreciate most about life in each moment that I have left?
  • Would achievement and power, or collaboration and compromise be my approach to whatever has to be done?
  • Would I be concerned about my title or my salary – or would I recognize the opportunity I have, every moment, to be a thoughtful, kind and useful person?

These might be rhetorical questions, but I feel good about the perspective they push me to understand about life and work.  

Terry Del Percio. www.workstrategies.com



6 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Terry Del Percio. Terry Del Percio said: A Rhetorical Question About Work: http://wp.me/pmXxX-8J […]

  2. Hi Terry,

    This is a beautiful post covering the important things that we should be keeping in mind every single day of our lives.

    Unfortunately, it is usually only after one has experienced the loss of a loved one or illness that one truly pays attention to these types of ideas… and even then, it may be hard to keep them in mind every single day as the regular day-to-day stresses pile up.

    That said, your questions raise a wonderful list of actions/attitudes to aspire to on a daily basis. I especially like: What would I appreciate most about life in each moment that I have left?

    I will try hanging this question up somewhere prominent so as to keep it in mind despite the regular busyness of everyday life.

    Thanks for this inspirational post!

  3. Thanks for your feedback, Dorlee. I have a feeling that you have an awareness about these things that could be a model for the rest of us. You are such an insightful and compassionate person. Thanks for your comments.

  4. I just love this post. I’m a big fan of rhetorical questions – I even use them in my career coaching sessions, and I encourage clients to come up with their own!

    I think their power stems from the fact that we don’t *have* to find answers to them – we can just let them guide us into a comfortably contemplative state, from which all sorts of useful insights can arise.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Hi Brian,
      Thanks very much for commenting. I also find them very useful in coaching. Especially in this day and age when many of us don’t have much time to do reflecting. I’m afraid I think this is to our detriment. Especially during any process of change, reflection is so important to our emotional health and it is such a critical factor in making good decisions. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  5. I am very proud to say that if this was the last day of my life, I would only to say “Thank you” to whoever has given it to me.

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