Get Inspired With Dean Ryan’s 5 Essential Questions In Life: A Speech Becomes a New York Times Bestseller

A Simple Title With A Big Message

If we think about critical questions to ask in life, both at home and work, we all come up with a different list of questions.  This task is not always easy.

Standing in line at FedEx I found a little book with a two-word title, Wait What?  And Life’s Other Essential Questions“.

I started reading the intro, and I was hooked, with humor and logic. I bought the book and went to my car started reading it in the FedEx parking lot. After the intro, I couldn’t resist the urge to listen to the speech which gave birth to this book.

The speech was great!

First a Speech Then a New York Times Bestseller

Dean James Ryan first offered the 5 Essential Questions In Life at the 2016 commencement speech for the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

It was exceptionally well received, went a bit viral, and a publisher, HarperCollins, asked him to turn the speech into a book which became a New York Times bestseller,  Wait, What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions.

I find Dean Ryan’s speech inspiring, and  I can listen to it many times. It is filled with words that make you laugh and make you think deeply.

Wait What, is a fast read and offers you a chance to slow down and reflect more deeply to ask yourself how you can use the 5 Essential Questions In Life. I feel that I am gaining superpowers in listening (and less talking) when I use the questions, in one form or another, both at home and at work.

Dean Ryan takes you into his life, and you get to know his family as he shares funny moments and how he stops to ask his question.


When I Use the Questions

I have used some version of the 5 Essential Questions at work when I discuss or think about many topics. For example, when I am taking care of patients, reflecting on physician burnout, resolving problems and conflict at home and at work, to name just a few.

I have also shared the questions with my children who are navigating life in their twenties pursuing their careers and learning how hard it is to find work-life balance.

The questions help me hit the brakes when I am speaking too much and not listening enough to my wife, my kiddos or my colleagues.


Questions #5, One of My Favorites

I intentionally did not list all the questions.  It is far more inspiring and entertaining to listen to Dean Ryan than to read a bullet list of questions.

At this point, you know the first question, “Wait What?”

Here is question #5: What truly matters? I ask this question almost daily and in many contexts.  It is a compelling question.

When you need to hit the brakes in your busy life to stop listen and contemplate, Dean Ryan’s questions will serve you well.

Thanks for visiting.


The Speech: 6 Minutes

(6-minute excerpt)


The Book: Read a Sample

Harper-Collins the publisher has a sample you can read, or you can head over to Amazon.




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Created and maintained by Raf Rizk, MD | Division of Gastroenterology | Michigan Medicine

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