As a special service to those of you who will be meeting a lot of new people over the Christmas holidays, here is a special script for the "What do you do?" question.

Used properly, you can take complete control of the conversation by asking the question first.

YOU: "May I ask what you do for a living?

OTHER PERSON: "I am in real estate (or banking, or whatever …)."

YOU: "That’s interesting. May I ask why you do what you do for a living?" If the person says something like, "I have an opportunity to make some serious money," go for the social kill.

This is where you position yourself as one of the sharpest, smartest people they have ever met.

YOU (smiling): "Come on now, you could make a lot of money doing a lot of things. Why did you pick real estate (or mortgage lending or whatever)?"

Isn’t this good? It makes an especially effective icebreaker around the table, because it is question that doesn’t get asked much and everyone stops talking to hear the response.

In fact, I am seldom asked "Why?" but often asked "How?"

Before we set our goals for 2011 and answer the "What?" and "How?" questions, let’s try to answer the "Why?" question. It could take a lot more thinking and time to answer than you might think.

If your answer is to "make money," keep probing. There are a lot of ways you could make money, other than commission sales. And as for "How?" please don’t tell me you are going to "think outside the box." If that phrase didn’t become some sort of yapping dog chasing a moving car, I don’t know what did.

Do you know anyone who actually did something — other than think about — getting outside the box?

We need to think. Period. Answering the "Why?" question gives us a clear vision to see why what we are doing is important and meaningful. It is a critical question. A cloudy vision causes us to stumble in judgment, dilutes our passion, and weakens our resolve.

A few years ago, a mentor asked about my goals for the coming year. He was as surprised with my response as I was with his answer to it.

"I have met every goal I set for this year, and am still not happy," I said.

Without blinking an eye, he said that he knew what I needed to do. Isn’t that just like the world? Everyone has a solution to the problem except the person who has the problem.

"You need to set your goals higher," he said.

Then, to my surprise, I asked him a question he could not answer. Perhaps you can, and if so I would like to hear from you.

"Let me ask you a question: If I set my goals higher and meet them, and I am not any happier meeting those than I am having met the one I set for this year, why do that?"

I was asking "Why?" without realizing it, but it changed my life.

My mentor paused, then said, "You know, David, "I have never thought of it like that."

I could not quit thinking about the answer to that question or even if there was one.

Thankfully, I came to understand that production without purpose is like drinking water from a leaky cup that only more production can keep filled.

But production with meaningful purpose is its own reward.

It’s why the single mother can attend the awards ceremony and applaud the top salesperson’s success, knowing that her production, while it wasn’t the highest, fed and clothed her family and got them through another year.

Find your "Why?" and you will find your passion. Try it, then watch your energy, expectations and productions soar.

What are your thoughts?

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription