After countless generations of searching and sharing wisdom, why does man’s quest for meaning remain so elusive? Or, if we know what we want, why is it often so hard to achieve? What’s missing? Answers are not enough—we also need insights.

Maybe you’ve heard it all before. Heck, you probably preach many of these lessons to your children, and staff, and people at cocktail parties … and wonder why they don’t immediately adopt all your hard-won wisdom. Oh, the pain and frustration that could be avoided if only they’d just understand and act upon what you tell them.

But this isn’t about them. It’s about us. Because we all seem to suffer from a similar problem—we often know what to do … and yet we don’t. We say we want to break bad habits, manage better, live healthier, be more successful, welcome more love into our lives, leap tall buildings in a single bound … and yet we plod along. Sure, we excel at many things, but those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. It’s much more interesting—and beneficial—to focus on where we could use some help.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”   —Rumi

Questions about personal and professional growth have been my passion throughout my adult life. And I know I’m not alone. As a boy, I often thought the world was crazy. I constantly saw grown-ups doing dumb and self-defeating things—like smoking cigarettes, eating horribly unhealthy food and drinking alcohol to excess. None of the consequences (whether heartburn, hangovers, heart disease or cancer) seemed to provide sufficient motivation for them to change. I also watched them endure dead-end jobs and miserable relationships.

Why couldn’t they see how restrictive and destructive their habits and choices were? And, if they could see, why did they persist? Why didn’t they choose the seemingly obvious, more intelligent alternatives? Why didn’t they practice what they preached?

Later in life, as I grew into an adult and became more experienced and self-reflective, I gradually understood that I had been right. More accurately, I’d been half right: People are easily influenced, shortsighted, self-destructive and frequently wrong. But I also discovered something much more important and powerful: I was essentially just as blind and biased as everyone else! How could that be?

My experience is hardly unique. That’s why most of us share the same fantasy: I wish I could go back in time knowing what I know now. Such a delicious idea! The heartbreak and humiliation we could have avoided. The fighting and frustration we could have sidestepped. The now-obvious solutions we could have implemented.

So what to do? Many years ago, I set out to find answers, and my book Elevate: An Essential Guide to Life, was the result of that research. Fortunately, as we probe deeper and open up further, we understand more and more. Sincere curiosity—an open heart and an open mind—is the path to enduring growth. And the best answers come from the best questions!

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