What's Your Big Filtering Question?

We’re all busy. Sometimes unnecessarily so.

I was talking with my friend, Steve, the other day. Steve and I met on LinkedIn via a mutual friend. At that time, I had wanted to contact him to convey how one of his vlogs had positively impacted me. We have since taken “connection” to the next level. We actually talk. (I know, right?) We share ideas and, in the process, we enrich each others lives. ( I hope I do for Steve what he does for me.)

During the course of our conversation, Steve asked if I had ever listened to Tim Ferriss’s podcast. I had to admit that I hadn’t. Unlike what I now know to be Ferriss’s millions of listeners, I was only vaguely familiar with his program.

“So many options for inspiration and learning – books, other podcasts, articles. . . ,” I thought. “So little time.”

“I just listened to two of the interviews again: Jim Collins and Seth Godin,” Steve continued. “You owe it to yourself.”


My preferred method of taking in potentially relevant content these days is via a walk in the forest preserve near our home. Armed with my air buds, it’s the perfect setting for listening to podcasts or books-on-tape.


So, jumping ahead, with some twenty miles of walking behind me, I have now consumed both two-hour interviews and have a lengthy bulleted list labeled “Must think about this more.” One of the items came in response to Ferriss’s question to both Collins and Godin that went something like this: “You must get a crazy number of invitations to speak, participate in events and so on. How do you decide what to accept and what to gracefully decline?”


Both men responded without hesitation and with similar thinking.

“I ask myself whether I can teach something ‘here’ or learn something ‘here’”? Collins replied. ”If ‘No,’ I send a note respectfully declining attendance.”

Godin echoed: “Will this help me be better at what I do? If it’s unlikely. . . .”

Instead of hand-wringing over whether to attend and or participate in an event, Collins and Godin have set up a filtering question that reflects what’s important to them. If the invitation offered the potential to reach their respective high bars, “Yes, I’ll do it.” If not, “I’m so sorry, but. . . .”

OK, most of us don’t have an email box full of requests clamoring for our participation. But we do have an enormous variety of information sources vying for our attention and limited time to ingest their content. How to choose and simplify life versus trying to ingest it all?

Upon reflection, I recognized the filter that was at work for me when Steve turned over the “You owe it to yourself” card. It’s a filter that has served me well.

“Was I curious?” I was. As a career and leadership coach, being curious about what my clients are and aren’t saying is Job 1. So, I was curious what I “owed to myself” from two brilliant thinkers.

Was I later curious to locate the monograph Collins’s wrote and briefly referred to in the interview: Good to Great in the Social Sectors? As one who works with educators and not-for-profits, I was.

Was I later curious to read the book that Godin recommended, The Art of Possibility, which details a unique way to break free of the constraints that hold us back from what is possible in life? As a coach who works with clients who are “stuck” in one way or another, I was.

So, I’m curious: what filters do you employ, if at all, relative to critical aspects of your life: work, home, information, inspiration, hobby etc.?

If you do have filtering questions, how are they benefiting you?

If you don’t have them, what’s been the impact?

Jeff Ikler