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What Are Your Big Five for Life?

by John P. Strelecky -- International Best-selling Author of The Why Café

I am the author of a book called The Why Café -- also known as The Why Are You Here Café -- ( ). It is a fiction story about a man who wanders into an all night café and is surprised to find three questions on the menu. Why Are You Here? Do You Fear Death? Are You Fulfilled?

To my delight, since its release, the book has been tremendously well received. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages, and sold in over 36 countries on all seven continents.

As this was occurring, I started to get inquiry after inquiry from readers asking how they could find success in their life, like the characters did in the story. At the same time I was getting many requests from readers asking if I would speak on similar topics to people in their organizations.

While thinking of the best way to address these requests, I had a moment. Not just any moment, but one of those fantastic moments where all of a sudden, the world is as sharp and clear as it has ever been, and the answer you are looking for is literally right in front of you.

That answer is a technique that I call “The Big Five for Life™.” I have now shared this technique with thousands of people and have watched it help them make incredible progress in their lives. It has been profiled on the cover of Personal Excellence Magazine, and incorporated into the software called Safe Paths to Financial Freedom, from Wall Street Journal Best-Selling author Van Tharp. And, after multiple requests from audience members who learned the technique through my live presentations, a two CD set was released that is entirely devoted to how people can use “The Big Five for Life™” to speed up their progress to success.

Through this article, I want to introduce you to “The Big Five for Life™” technique. I say introduce, because it just isn’t possible to turn two CDs worth of content into a short article. Nonetheless, I’ll try to paint enough of a picture, that you see why this has had such a tremendously positive impact on so many people’s lives. My hope is that it has that type of impact on you.

In 2002 my wife and I spent nine months backpacking around the world. One of the most amazing places we traveled in was South Africa. While we were there, we took the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time on safari. When you are on safari, you quickly learn about the African Big Five. They are rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and lion. You learn about them because everyone is always talking about them. People are constantly asking each other, “Have you seen the Big Five? How many of the Big Five did you see? Where were the Big Five? Which ones did you see?”

The Big Five becomes a mantra of sorts by which people gauge the success of their safari experience. If they see all five of the Big Five, they consider their safari experience to be incredible. If they see four of the Big Five they are pretty happy, and if they only see one of the Big Five, they start planning how if they ever actually do see a lion, they are going to feed the ranger to it.

As you can imagine, that type of experience is something that stays with you. And it was from that experience that I came up with “The Big Five for Life™”. The Big Five for Life are the five things that you absolutely want to do, see, or experience in your life, so that if you do, see, or experience them, you will consider your life to be a success, however you define success. They are the things that on your deathbed, you can look back over your life and say “No matter what I did or didn’t get to, my life is a success because I got to my Big Five for Life.”

The Big Five for Life are very personal. This isn’t about what your boss, your parents, or the person sitting next to you thinks is success. This is about how you view success.

For some people, the Big Five for Life items are one time events such as climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. For others, their Big Five for Life items can be longer in duration. For example, number one on my list is to have a loving relationship with my wife. It is something that I envision going on forever. Others on my list are more the one time event types, like writing a song that breaks the top ten of the pop charts.

When I am speaking at an event and I share The Big Five for Life technique with the audience, I then give them time to write down their Big Five for Life. However, I only give them as much time to write theirs down as it takes for me to write mine down. Now that is not completely fair. After all, I created the concept, so of course I know what mine are. But I do it to prove a point.

You see, when I’m done writing mine down, I tell them that they have to put their pens down, that they can’t write anymore. Then I ask the group how many people have five, then four, then three, two, and finally one of their Big Five for Life. I find that on average, most people only have one or two.

This is a shame. It’s not their fault, it’s just the culture we all grew up in and now live in. You see we learn lots of valuable things in school like reading, writing, math, and science. They are all good subjects, all useful subjects. But in my 20 years of formal education I never had one person ask me for even one thing that I really wanted to do, see, or experience in my life so that I could say my life was a success. It never happened. Not even for one thing, let alone five.

What happens is that we grow up, and live our lives without knowing what the five things are that we really want to do, see, or experience in our lives so that our lives will be successful however we define success. And let me tell you what the biggest danger with that is. If you don’t know what the five things are that you really want to do, see, or experience in your life so that your life is a success, however you define success, then in all likelihood, you will not get to do, see, or experience them.

Interesting, isn’t it? It’s tempting to stop and ponder how we got to this point as a society. But we don’t have time for that. We have Big Five for Life items that we need to go do, see, or experience.

Now because I’ve found that most people are a little behind with their Big Five for Life, I want to share with you a method that will dramatically speed up your progress toward that goal. When I am presenting this to an audience, I share with them that this method has the potential to drastically change their life. I also share with them that it will probably feel awkward the first few times they try it. But if you want success in your life, however you define success, isn’t that worth an occasional awkward moment?

Here is the method. When you meet people who you don’t know, the conversation usually goes something like this. You shake the person’s hand, look them in the eye, and say something like, “My name is John (or whatever your name is), nice to meet you.” They then respond with something like “Hi John, I’m Chris, (or whatever their name is), nice to meet you too.” Now what is the question that usually comes next?

My audiences always tell me what the question is, because it is universal to our culture. The usual next question is “What do you do?” Now I find this interesting. The reason I find it so interesting, is because when I do my workshops, I find that 80-90% of people do not like what they do for a living. How interesting that after we just have this intimate exchange with a stranger where we shake hands, make eye contact, and exchange names, that we then go to what 80-90% of us don’t enjoy. We feel compelled to ask them about it, even though we really don’t want to hear about it, and they feel compelled to tell us, even though they really don’t want to talk about it.

So here is the method which can dramatically speed up your progress toward your Big Five for Life. The next time you walk up to someone who you don’t know, say to them “Hi, my name is John, (or whatever your name is), what are your Big Five for Life, and how can I help you fulfill them?”

Goodbye idle chatter and useless small talk. Get ready for some of the deepest and most profound discussions of your life. Now, in one of my classes I had just gotten done explaining this concept, and a student said to me “What do you do if the person thinks you’re a freak?” It was a great question. This type of exercise can bring to the surface some fears people may have about looking a little unusual in front of others.

I answered my student the same way I answer everyone who has asked me a similar question about this. If the person you are talking to hears the question, and they then ask you to explain it, and after you explain it they still think you are a freak, then you should walk away. Do you really want to waste your evening talking to someone who has no interest in talking about, or getting assistance with, the five things that define whether their life is successful or not? To me, this concept is the world’s greatest screening mechanism for identifying people worth talking to, and those to avoid.

Do yourself a favor. Give this concept a try. It may take a few times before you get comfortable with it, but I guarantee that in one of the first times you use it, you are going to get into an amazing discussion with someone. Once that happens, you will use this for the rest of your life.

Now I mentioned moments ago that one of the benefits of this method is that it dramatically speeds up your progress towards your Big Five for Life. The reason that’s true is that when you are done explaining to the person what the Big Five for Life concept is, and they are done telling you what their Big Five for Life are, they are going to ask you a question. Do you know what that question is? You’ve probably guessed it. They are going to ask you what your Big Five for Life are and how they can help you achieve them.

At that point you will be tapping into their entire network of friends, co-workers, classmates, family, and future people they meet. How is that possible? Because people love the idea of helping someone else achieve their dreams. If they know someone who can help you, they will do it. If months after that they meet someone who can help you, they will call you and make the connection for you. It’s just the way the system works.

People do this all the time for job related things. Trust me, they are way more motivated to do it when they can help you fulfill one of your Big Five for Life.

Using this method of introduction is a fantastic way to avoid a very common affliction that I find in my workshop attendees. Most people have a good grasp on where they are at in life. Once they have taken the time to figure out their Big Five for Life, they have a good grasp on where they want to get to in life. So, they know where they are, and they know where they want to get to. What’s the question they need to ask?

If you answered “How do they get there?” you are suffering from the same common affliction. I call it “Mad How” disease. Mad How disease is very debilitating, because as people struggle to figure out how to get from where they are at to where they want to go, they face all kinds of obstacles, roadblocks and learning curves. Usually, after the second or third obstacle on the way to their destination, they get discouraged and give up. They are a Mad How disease casualty.

When you know where you are at, and you know where you want to go, the question you need to ask is not how. The question is who. You see, no matter what is on your Big Five for Life list, I can almost guarantee with 100% certainty that some person, at some point, in the history of the planet, has done, seen, or experienced whatever you want to do, see, or experience. All you have to do is find them, or someone who knows about them, and ask what they did. Then you just imitate it.

Now you may hear about what they did and decide it is illegal, immoral, or unethical. What do you do then? Simple. You go find someone else and ask them what they did.

“Who?” will get you on the fast track to your Big Five for Life.

We often make this game of existence difficult. It doesn’t have to be. There is a way to play it where the game is fun, exciting, interesting, and enjoyable. I’ve found that figuring out your Big Five for Life is an excellent place to start. After all, what better goal to shoot for than achieving success in your life as you, and only you, define success.

I hope this brief overview of “The Big Five for Life™” has given you at least a little insight into why so many people have found it to be so powerful. And, I wish you all the success in the world with your “Big Five for Life”.

John P. Strelecky
is the international best selling author of “The Why Café”--, and a highly sought after inspirational speaker on; “How to Achieve Maximum Success with Minimal Effort.” His CD series of the same name has received rave reviews from listeners. A graduate of Northwestern University’s MBA program, John has served as a business strategist for numerous Fortune 500 companies. Through his book, CDs, articles, and appearances on television and radio, he has positively impacted the lives of millions of people. John can be reached through his website at, or by calling 407-342-4181.

Copyright © 2006 -- John P. Strelecky