I was a guest on a radio show and everything was going well (in my case "well" means I hadn't said anything that made me to cringe) when the host said, "One last question."
Cool, I thought, already patting myself on the back. That went really well.
"You've talked to hundreds of successful people," she continues. "So tell me: What one question does every successful person ask him or herself?"
Crap. One? I quickly rifled through my mental file cards. "What is the real problem I will solve," maybe? "How can I delight customers?" "Is there a viable market?"
Ugh. All I could think of were clichés.
So I punted and stammered through something goofy like, "Since every individual is unique then every person asks different questions so there could never be just one single question every successful person asks him or herself..." and what had been a decent appearance staggered to a painful close.
I thought about it for the next few days. Is there one question every successful person asks?
Finally it hit me.
Success -- no matter what the endeavor -- is difficult to achieve. We all fail sometimes. When we do, it's easy to get discouraged and out of (however momentary) self-pity ask ourselves questions like, "Why doesn't my boss recognize my unique talents?" "Why don't I ever get the opportunities other people get?" "Why aren't my friends more supportive?" "Why can't I ever catch a break?"
In short: "Why me?"
Every successful person asks him or herself a different question:
"Why not me?"
Entrepreneurs will start a restaurant in the same location where five other restaurants have gone out of business; those other guys may not have succeeded -- but why not me? Entrepreneurs will start a software company with nothing but an idea; sure, the competition has deep pockets and a huge market share -- but why not me? Hard-working professionals will look at all the people with more experience, more education, and better networks and think, "Okay. Fine. But why not me?"
Successful people don't assume other successful people possess special talents or some gift from the gods. They look at successful people and think, "That's awesome. Why not me?"
By asking that question, they embrace belief and ignore self-doubt. They put aside any feelings that they might not be smart enough, or experienced enough, or adaptable enough.
At some point every successful person looks in the mirror and says, "Sure, lots of other people don't succeed..." and then turns the question into a bold statement, "But why not me," because more than anything, they believe in themselves.
So here's an even better question. Why not you?