The Critical Question

A Motivational Message from Leadership Expert Jim Stovall

This column is for people who are attempting to achieve something extraordinary. The principles are designed to help you realize world class results within a limited scope. This advice should not be applied to creating lifelong balance and stability in your personal, professional, family, financial, fitness, faith, or other areas of life.

As an Olympic weightlifter, I remember focusing total energy into short term training bursts that culminated in magnifying that energy into one moment of competition. I believe this can be accomplished by invoking the critical question.

The United Kingdom, for centuries, was known for their nautical prowess and elite naval forces around the world.  It was a point of shame and frustration that the English rowing team did not win a gold medal between 1912 and the end of the 20th century. While training for the 2000 games, the coach of the rowing team came up with a revolutionary question that focused the team’s energy and culminated in them winning a gold medal. This technique is something you and I can use when we are facing short term, high-level goals or challenges.

Regardless of the task, inquiry, or activity, the coach instructed the rowers to ask themselves one simple question, “Will it make the boat go faster?” Whether it involved attending a late-night party before an early morning workout, eating ice cream, engaging in debates or conflicts with teammates, maintaining their equipment, or any other activity, the simple question, “Will it make the boat go faster?” created focus and clarity on how they should proceed.

Over the long haul, life cannot be lived in this way, but for short term, high-level activities, employing this kind of self-examination can make all the difference. I believe we have the ability to do anything in this life, but we can’t do everything.  Napoleon Hill may have said it best, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” This requires us to focus all our energy which involves us eliminating any and all distractions.

Olympic gold medalists, master artists, and thought-leaders engaged in social change all have the ability to bring their best efforts and all of their energy to the task at hand. In much the same way that a cheap magnifying glass can focus the rays of the sun and create a flame, all of us can gather our attention and energy into one focused, directed effort and change our lives and even change the world.

As you go through your day today, remember that you will find the answers you seek when you ask the right question.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift. He is also a columnist and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK  74145-9082; by email at; on Twitter at; or on Facebook at

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