If You Want To Be Effective, You’ve Got To Be Specific

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on September 10, 2012

Burt Miller, New York City taxi driver, told me that there are a few essential ingredients for driving a taxicab successfully. You need a comprehensive understanding of how your city is laid out. You need an excellent reference map, committed to memory when possible. And you need to know what questions to ask and when to ask them to get your fare to their destination.

One midsummer’s night, Burt was sitting in his cab outside of a disco. A lady came out, got in the back seat of his cab, and then began sobbing uncontrollably. “Hey, lady, you alright? What’s going on?” Burt asked. Her reply, a repeatedly muttered “Nobody cares about me. Nobody loves me.” She chanted these words over and over again. Burt said, “Lady, who doesn’t love you?” She stopped crying for a moment, looked confusedly at Burt, then blurted out the name “Tom” as she started sobbing again.

Burt told me that such is the power of questions. In a single question, he was able to reduce 6 and a half billion people (nobody) to one person (Tom.) Burt told me that if somebody says “Take me to the river,” he wants to know “Which river specifically? We got two of ’em!” When somebody says, “Follow that car,” Burt has the good sense to ask, “Hey pal, which car? We’re surrounded by ’em!” Burt taught me that to drive a cab, there’s nothing as usefully important to success as asking the right questions that get you the specific answers you need to get safely to your destination.

Seems like a life lesson to me!  Your comments and feedback are welcome!

Be well,


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