Tag Archive | Questions

Project Question-Templates

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I LOVE questions.

I want to master Questioning (The Art of Asking Questions).”

“What’s your approach?”

“I practice it constantly. I have a special notebook only for questions. 

Another thing I like to do is deconstruct questions. One outcome of this is the creation of question-templates [<link; medium length], which are a practical tool for generating questions. 

One of my latest projects is gathering all the question-templates in one place.”

“How do you organize them?”

“I have a document for each of the question-kernels:


Their structure looks like this (x, y, z are variables):

What x ?

What x now?
What [do you want to focus on] now?

What x next?
What [do you want to focus on] next?

What x y ?
What [beautiful opportunities] [are there around you]?
What [problem] [are you trying to solve]?
What [book] [do you want to implement next]?

What are x ?

What are [the answers]?

What are the fundamentals of x ?
What are the fundamentals of [Learning]?

What are the [superlative] x ?
What are the [most powerful] [resources you have]?

What can x ?

What can you x ?
What can you [add]?
What can you [subtract]?
What can you [play with]?

What can you x y ?
What can you [play with] [in this context]?
What can you [practice] [now]?

What do x ?

What do you want to x ?
What do you want to [feel]?

What do you want to x y ?
What do you want to [master] [in the next ten years]?
What do you want to [master] [in this lifetime]?

What does x ?

What does x y ?
What does [a quality rep] [look like]?
What does [a quality rep] [feel like]?

What if x ?

What if you eliminated x from y?
What if you eliminated [activity z] from [your life]?

What is x ?

What is [the answer]? (One Thing)

What is [essential]?
What is [exciting]?
What is [the next step]?

What is your x ?
What is your [compass]?

What is [superlative] x ?
What is the [most powerful] [resource you have]?

What makes x ?

What makes [you come alive]?

What makes x y?
What makes x [fun]?
What makes x [funny]?

What might x ?

What might [this look like from their perspective]?

This is but a very small glimpse of it.

As a mind-map it looks like this:


Beautiful Systems: Defaults

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the Defaults Life-System?”

“Think what a default is in computer use. Let’s say you have a menu with several options. Whenever you open the menu, one of them is always initially selected. That’s the default option.

Now, let’s say you use one of those options much more than the others. Ideally, you’d be able to change the default option, to turn the option you use most into the default option.

The same in life. We have a default option for all kinds of things, which serves as a cognitive shortcut.

I call all the default options in our life combined, the Defaults System.

One function of the system is to conserve energy and save time. This can work for or against us, depending on the nature of the default option and the context. By taking control of the system, you increase the likelihood that the system works in your favor.

There’s two aspects to it:
– examining and optimizing the existing defaults
– creating new defaults

As concerns the former, this means taking inventory of your defaults and eliminating those that do not serve you, or serve you too little. This requires self-examination and discipline.

As concerns the latter, you’re turning the system into a compass such that, in any moment, you know what you have to do.

For instance, you can ask yourself:

What’s the default macro-practice?

For me, it’s Loving Presence.

What’s the default micro-practice?
What are the details of the practice?

What is the mental component?
What do you want to think?

What is the behavioral component?
What do you want to do?

What is the representational component?
How do you want to think about it, to mentally represent it?”

Daily Rituals 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Viewed through the 80/20 (Pareto) filter, what’s the most important part of the day, the 20%?”

“The beginning and the end. Those are the parts you have most control over. They give the day structure and momentum. I like to think of them as the AM and PM Rituals.”

“What’s your process for creating them?”

“I start with two questions:

What do you want to think?
What do you want to do?

As concerns the thinking, there’s two aspects to it:

How do you want to think about the process in the moment? [as a means to make it meaningful]


The process as Ritual
The process as

What’s the first thing you want to think when you wake up in the morning?
What’s the first thing you want to think when you close your eyes at night?

You can have a (slightly different) little mantra for each.


I want to start and end the day with Love and Gratitude, so my mantra has the structure:

Good morning/night Dani
Love mantra
Gratitude mantra

As concerns the doing, this has to do with creating sequences of specific actions. You can think of them as checklists. You can start by having them written down, until you internalize them.


AM Ritual:
Making bed
Drinking water
Activation [
energizing yourself]
– Mental: Writing / Journaling
– Physical: Moving
Priming [
readying your Compass]
– Recommitment
[Purpose, Goals]

PM Ritual:
Reflection on the day
– Writing / Journaling
Preparation for the next day
Priming [
something for your mind to work on over night]
– MIQ (Most Important Question)

“Does the order in which you do them matter?”

“It doesn’t.

Play with them, experiment.
Experiment with the content,
experiment with the sequencing,
experiment with the duration,
until you find the structure that works best for you.

One important aspect is to not just go through the motions. 

How you do them is as important as doing them. 

Strive to do them mindfully, to be totally present in the doing. That’s the purpose of thinking of the entire process as Meditation. You can even ask yourself at the end:

How present was I?

The Beautiful Practice 3

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

You can practice something in any waking moment.

“The challenge is remembering it.”

“Think of it as part of the practice. 

Ask yourself often:

What’s the practice?

In any moment, know what you’re practicing, whether it’s a value or a skill.

You can even say it to yourself.

[I’m practicing…] 
– Presence, Love, Connection [Values]
– Questions-Thinking, Models-Thinking [Types of Thinking]
– Empty-Space, Inversion [Specific Principles/Models]

“In any moment? Is that really possible?”

“It’s one of those things worth striving for, even if you may never achieve it.”

On Learning and Implementation

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed. (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“There’s a quote I love by Eben Pagan:

Learning is behavior change.

I take this to be a fundamental principle of Learning.”

“What does this mean in practical terms?”

“Let’s take Abraham Heschel’s beautiful quote as an example.

You may read it, feel greatly inspired by it in the moment, and then totally forget about it. This is the fate of most quotes we read.

To learn it is to be transformed by it.

For that to happen, it takes active engagement. This means stripping it to its essence by extracting the principle(s), and formulating a plan of action by asking yourself:

How can I implement this?
How can I make this actionable?
How will this change my behavior?

“How would you implement this?”

“The principle here is that of radical-amazement, looking at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.

As a guideline, we might express it as:

Take NOTHING for granted.

To move towards implementation, we need to make it actionable and specific.

One way to make it actionable is by turning it into a question:

What am I taking for granted?

Unlike the guideline, which is passive, the question primes your mind to actively scan the environment around you.

To make it more specific, you might connect it with a specific activity:

Whenever I Center myself, I will ask myself ‘What am I taking for granted?’

“That looks like an algorithm [<link; medium length].”

“It is. An algorithm of the form:

– WHENEVER x, ask question q

Once an algorithm is formulated, the next step is turning it into a habit.

One thing to note here is that the practice is more nuanced. It’s not just noticing what you’re taking for granted, but also how. Slowing down to soak in how amazing everything is by engaging your Curiosity and connecting with the Child Within.”

Playing with nuances

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Who do you want to be?
Who do you want to become?

Which question is better?”

“There are many ways you can think of them, based on the meaning you give them. 

For instance:

To be means to manifest/embody something in the moment.
eg In situation x you act in a certain way.

To become means to form a persistent pattern of being.
eg In every situation x you act in a certain way.

In this view, the two complement one another.

The first question expresses the Micro.
The second, the Macro.

We could rephrase the two thus:

Who do you want to be now?
Who do you want to persistently be?”

The Inversion Game

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I lost balance yesterday. I went to bed very late, woke up late, and now today is lost.”

“Why do you say that?”

“It messed up my entire morning schedule.”

“No day is lost. On the contrary, those hold the greatest opportunities.

The structure of your day changed?


This is a stress test of how flexible your organizational structure is. 

There’s a quote I love: 

Your worst day can be your best day.

Ask yourself:

How can I make my worst day my best day?

How can I turn this obstacle upside down?

What can I practice?

What can I optimize?

How can I use this to EVOLVE?

That’s your life-puzzle for the day. Revel in it.”

Beautiful Systems: Simplicity

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Simplicity as a system?”

“It’s a deconstruction and systematization of the simplification process. A practical blueprint.

The system visually looks like this: 

All the components of the system are mental models.”

“Can you give a few details on how it works?”

“Let’s say you have a set of data-points you want to simplify. How can you do it optimally?

One way is through filtering. That’s essentially asking two questions:

What 20% of the inputs are responsible for 80% of the outputs?
What’s the most important / impactful thing? (from within the 20%)”

“What if there’s more than one most important / impactful thing?”

“Think of it as your focus-point. Isolating them individually allows you to explore each of them in depth.

Another way to simplify them is through elimination of data-points. 

What can you eliminate?

“Would you eliminate the 80%?”

“Depends on what you’re after. In some cases, yes, that’s the optimal approach. But in other cases, you just want to refine the data set. You can metaphorically think of it as editing, or pruning. You’re cutting away some branches to allow the rest to grow.

Another elimination approach is paraphrasing, eliminating data-points by rephrasing the language.

What can you express with fewer words?

The final way to simplify them is through integration. Joining data-points together to form a new emergent whole.”

On Magic and Models 5

A Magic the Gathering deck

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“As we’ve talked before [<link; medium read], I’ve turned Magic [the Gathering] into a complex mental model. So it has practical application.”

“Can you give an example?”

“One of the things I love about Magic is its modularity. This is an essential feature of the Magic-model.

Structurally, Magic can be broken down into two phases: deck-building and play.

Think of Poker. You have a fixed deck of cards, which are shuffled together, and cards are extracted from it in random order according to a specific set of rules.

Unlike Poker, decks in Magic are customizable. Magic cards can be combined in a myriad ways.

The Designer that I am, I’m constantly optimizing the many systems of my life. In fact I think of optimization itself as a system to optimize.

A (not that long a) while ago, I asked myself:

How can I optimize Optimization?

The answer opened up a beautiful design-space: Magic.

What if I created physical optimization cards, similar to Magic cards?

I started playing with the idea, did a little prototype, and loved it. So I started building on it, optimizing with each iteration.

Magic has a number of card types distinguishing different types of spells (creatures, instants, sorceries, enchantments, and artifacts). At some point I asked myself:

What if I created different types of cards?

I tested it, and loved it.”

“What types of cards did you create so far?”

Optimization cards – How can you optimize x ?
Implementation cards – How can you implement x ?
Questioning cards – various questions

Learning cards – refreshers on the things I’ve learned
Priming cards – cards with a priming effect

What’s beautiful about the system is that, since all the cards have the same size, they can be combined to form decks, which allows for deck-building.

Like this:

They’re not as as pretty as Magic cards, but they get the job done, and are a joy to play with.”


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What is templating?

Templating is the practical use of templates. You’re familiar with the template in computer-use.

You mean the preset formats for documents and such?

Yes. That’s but one application of it.

In essence, the template as a model is a structure with two components: one fixed and one variable.

Can you give some examples?


You can use templating to create an optimal structure for the day (day template). The fixed part of the template is the part of the day you have most control over: the beginning and end of the day. Someone called them the AM and PM Bookends. And you can go granular. You can have templates for the bookends themselves (AM/PM templates) and for your working hours as well (deep-work template).

You can use templating with movement (movement templates). You can have a fixed part of a few selected movements, and play with building on and around them.

To optimize any activity, you can turn it into a template.

You can also use templating with language (linguistic templates).

My favorite linguistic template has to do with questions (question templates).

For instance let’s take the question,

How can you optimize Optimization ?

We can transform it into a template by identifying the variable part:

How can you optimize z ? (Template)

z‘ here is a variable. You could replace it with… well, anything.

How can you optimize Learning ?
How can you optimize Conversation ?
How can you optimize Questioning ?

And we can further deconstruct the question:

How can you y ? (Template)

‘y’ here is another variable.

How can you beautify z ? (Template)
How can you play with z ? (Template)
How can you turn z into creative inspiration ? (Template)

The furthest deconstruction level is:

How x ? (Fundamental Template)

This is the most basic question template. I call it a question kernel.

I presume the other question kernels are:

Why x ?
What x
Where x ?
When x ?”

Indeed. These are the fundamental seeds from which the Art of Asking Questions (Questioning) grows.