! → ?
If language is magic then the question mark is the magician’s wand. It is the one character that makes everything possible.
Don’t believe me? Try it…
Think of 3 things that you deeply believe are impossible… Then at the end of every statement add an exclamation mark. Now read them aloud to yourself.
- I’m a night person! I can’t wake up at 5AM!
- I’m afraid to speak publically! I can’t give this presentation!
- Arabs and Israel have always fought each other! We will never have real peace!
- We are late for the game! There is no way we can become #1 in this market!
When we do that we discover an interesting pattern that is true on every level (personal, work, national etc.) Exclamation marks often come in pairs. The first “explaining” to us “how the world is” and then a second one telling us what is “impossible”
The magic wand
Do you feel the certainty in those sentences? Now Lets try using our magic wand, the question mark.
Write the same sentences only now replace the “!” with “?” and lets read the same sentences again:
- I’m a night person? I can’t wake up at 5AM?
- I’m afraid to speak publically? I can’t give this presentation?
- Arabs and Israelies have always fought each other? We will never have real peace?
- We are late for the game? There is no way we can become #1 in this market?
Do you notice what happens? :-) Can you feel the magic? Adding that little character automatically shifts our brain from a world of certainty to a world of doubt… And that doubt is the crack through which opportunities appear.
The paradox of leadership is that our brain hates uncertainty so when someone speaks with conviction we are more likely to follow them. In other words as leaders, we’re “incentivized” to avoid the question mark. we’re encouraged to speak with “!!!”s. To show “conviction”.
But if we look at history we see that great leaders were brave enough to use the magic of “?”…
“Humans can’t reach space?”
“The world is flat?”
Time and again it is the leaders who have the courage to accept the uncertainty that comes with the “?” that are able to imagine the impossible. With their question marks they create the crack through which options and opportunities appear. With that tiny character, they turn the impossible to I’m-possible.
Try it it’s magic :-)