Two Burning Questions That Keep Popping Up Like the Gopher-Bopping Game at Carnivals

By Bill Cottringer

“Bold questions deserve bold answers.” ~ The author.

There are two burning questions that keep popping up in my life, just like the gopher-bopping game at carnivals. Bop them down with the bopper and they quickly pop up somewhere else. For me, these two burning questions first came from two much different times and places; but both served as pivotal, tipping point, “defining moments” in my life.

As it has turned out, these two questions are so much part of one another, that they answer each other. Here are the questions:

1. Are people basically born good, bad or neutral?
2. How can you be sure that what you think you know is in fact really so?

This first question came at me in 1974 in a very stressful interview to get into counseling graduate school in Illinois. Somehow I gave the “correct” answer (neutral), but didn’t realize completely why until the second question popped up. The second question was fired at my youngest daughter Abby as a high school transfer question for graduation—How can you be sure that what you think you know is in fact really so? Obviously the answer to that question is closely tied to the first question. Or like the lawyer says, what do you want the answer to be?

According to where I am looking from, there seem to be just three main ways of being in this world that determine all the outcomes. We all lean more towards one of these three directions than the others. One choice you can follow is to actively become a genuine hero—being totally optimistic, idealistic, and hopeful in dealing with negative things positively and doing something positive to multiply more positive things with a win-win, trusting, and abundance mentality.

Another choice you can explore is to passively wait to be a victim—accumulating a pessimistic, worrying and cynical attitude about both positive and negative things with a win-lose scarcity mentality. Or yet another choice is to wait until your jury returns and become a “realistic” wait-and-see evaluator—judging how to react to successfully survive life one moment at a time.

The “wrong” answer to the second burning question is what starts all wars and destructive arguments. In reality, you can never be fully certain that what you think you know is in fact so—in all that you believe, think, feel and do as being right, true and correct. It depends. Moreover, the correct answer is always tied to your main viewpoint about life and your role in it—hero, victim or realist?

The further I go in this journey, the more I realize that there is no single best way of being in the world and with people, and that over-embracing one way over the others, can be a dangerous, dead-end road. I am now beginning to wonder if there isn’t an even more important question of choice behind these other two burning questions. This question has to do with our approach to capturing the truth, which is really necessary if you don’t like something that is happening and you want to change it for the better.

Should we stop over-focusing on all the alluring, distracting half-truths and illusions causing today’s chaotic overload and start looking harder for the few isolated moments where we can close our eyes, hold our breath and jump in with all fours?

I suspect that we are all born into and learn how to play out one of these three main roles in life, which are equally important to positive outcomes for us all in the long run. Unfortunately we can’t see this far ahead and that limitation over-flavors what we think is or isn’t so and our expectations for outcomes. Then all the arguments start and never finish.

The answer to these two burning questions can only come when we learn what to let go of and what to hold onto with all our might. And that defining moment is more precious than anything. By the way the answers to all three of the questions are the same—Yes.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA and also a business and personal success coach, sport psychologist, photographer and writer living on the river and in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, The Prosperity Zone, Getting More By Doing Less, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, “P” Point Management, and Reality Repair Rx coming shortly. He can be contacted with comments or questions at 425 454-5011 or