The Kipling Six

My mentor Peter Thomson has framed ‘six seemingly simple questions’ which are perfect for analyzing any specific situation, problem or circumstance that you and I may encounter in business or in life.

(That is of course if we choose to separate those two contexts).

Those questions are:

  1. Where am I now?
  2. How did I get here?
  3. Where am I going?
  4. Why do I want to go there?
  5. What are the obstacles?
  6. What am I going to do next?

I’ve found these really useful when dealing with specifics and challenges but they aren’t as effective when it comes to answering the ‘big life’ questions of where you and I ‘stand’ in the ultimate question of ‘life the universe and everything’.

Peter’s questions are great for dealing with goals, targets and obstacles, but don’t quite (to my view) have the ’power’ to deal with the big visions and ‘dreams’.

Rudyard Kipling famously identified his ‘six serving men’:

“I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.”

All the right words, but as Eric Morecambe said (in another context) “not necessarily in the right order”.

To get the set of questions that we need to answer our own personal question of the meaning of life, the universe and everything, you and I can follow Peter’s formula.

The six ‘seemingly simple questions’ become:

  1. Who am I now?
  2. Where have I been?
  3. What do I want?
  4. Why do I want it?
  5. When do I want it?
  6. How am I going to make it happen?

They do seem very simple, don’t they?

They are, simple, but not easy, not easy by a long chalk.

The first question – Who am I now?

Ask yourself who you really ARE at this point in time. What sort of person are you? What does your life mean to you and to other people? Who are you to other people?

Hard questions which will take some time and meditation to answer.

Question two – Where have I been?

This is about how you became who you are, what has influenced your development over the years, what has given rise to the person you described in question 1?

Question three – What do I want?

This is your ‘dream’, your vision of who you want to be, what you want to do and what you want to have. It could include your ‘bucket list’, your 25-year plan etc.

This sounds like an easier question, but it might take you some time to really think it through because then you and I come to –

The fourth question – Why do I want it?

What will all those things on your ‘bucket list’ achieve for you? What will having all those things you want achieve for you? How will all these things contribute to your purpose in life – who you really want to be, and why do you want to be that person and be seen by others as that person?

Oh yes, and if you discover going through this process that there’s anything on your ‘list’ in Q3 that doesn’t contribute to your life’s purpose, your ‘why’, then perhaps you might consider taking it off – or at least seriously downgrading its priority!

The fifth question – When do I want it?

For most people this may seem the easiest – just pick a date. But it might not be that easy.

Sometimes, well most of the time really, you and I need a ‘plan’.

There are often some things that can’t happen until something else on the list has happened. So as part of this answer we have to get all the ‘stuff’ we want in the right order.

The final question – How am I going to make it happen?

You might say that this is a sort of a ‘trick question’.

You see, most people will first of all have been trying to answer this question as they go through the others, particularly question three.

Most people will spend a lot of time trying to figure out what they need to do and how they need to do it in order to achieve their objective – in order to get what they want.

But for these questions, as opposed to some extent to Peter’s questions, it doesn’t work like that.

For these questions, for the questions about your purpose in live, your dreams and ambitions, it’s not really about figuring out the ‘how’ of ‘doing’ all the stuff you might think you need to do, it’s more to do with thinking about you.

The thing is that now you know who you are, where you’ve been, what you want, why you want it, and when you want it, you ask another question –

Who am I then?

Who will you be when you’ve achieved your purpose, done what you wanted to do, and obtained what you wanted to have?

Imagine yourself then – write down in the present tense (as if it were now ‘then’) what your life ‘then-now’ is like, making it as vivid and specific as possible.

Over time the ‘how’ of getting there will reveal itself – provided you keep your vison ‘alive’

Once again –

Whatever the mind of a man can conceive and believe, it can achieve

Napoleon Hill

Have a thoughtful week!