Inquiry Institute; Great results begin with great questions.

This note is for each of you in our Question Thinking Learning Community. It’s not a newsletter, or information about upcoming events, or anything like what I’ve sent you before. When you read this, I think you’ll see why I was inspired to write it.

I recently had a very moving conversation with my friend Michael Topf. What’s amazing about this is that Michael actually died for a moment after experiencing what he calls a “life-threatening cardiac event” (it occurred while he was on a long, solo bike ride). Thanks to a cell phone, a quick police officer, a great medical team, and perhaps some grace, Michael is with us still today.

There’s an interesting coincidence in all this. Michael’s professional life is devoted to safety and wellness. He told me that he’s already incorporating this amazing experience into some of his work. If you want to learn more about what he does, his website is

Michael asked me to help him come up with questions that could open up his possibilities and directions in the future since he’s been given the gift of a “second life.” You’ll find some of the questions that he and I worked on together at the bottom of this email. Not surprisingly, his experience got me thinking about my own life – my relationships, goals, experiences, and expectations. It’s already impacted some choices I’ve made. Then I realized that hearing about Michael’s “wake up call” could be a gift for many others too, so I asked him if I could share his story with you. I also asked him to write a note for you about all this, which you can read below.

I hope that hearing Michael’s story contributes to you in wonderful and unexpected ways. If any of you have had similar experiences, or more questions to suggest to Michael that he could ask himself about his new lease on life, you can contact him directly by clicking here. Thank you for any message you send him, including your prayers.

On another note, I’m curious about any feedback or thoughts you might have for me about this unusual letter today–including if this writing gives you other ideas of what we at the Inquiry Institute might provide for you. I’d love to hear about any of that, too.

With appreciation,


A Note from Michael

I have an opportunity granted to few human beings. I lost my life and was given it back. I’m filled with gratitude and am determined to use this extraordinary experience as the catalyst for a richer and more meaningful future and new life.

I’m 67 years old, married to Linda Noble Topf for 31 years, and dedicated to my profession of helping people live more safely – literally. I teach and consult with both small and large companies about how to prevent accidents, injuries, and health/environmental incidents and also how to increase people’s awareness and commitment to their own and others’ safety, health and well-being. I’ve also tried to live this way personally. I’m very fit, eat very consciously and healthily, work out consistently, bike, and do martial arts. For many years I’ve had a strong spiritual life, as does my wife, who has MS and is the author of You Are Not Your Illness.

The irony of this is not lost on me. Here I am, a guy committed to safety and wellness, facing my mortality and given a second chance at life. I care deeply that this very rare gift makes a big difference. So I started a list of questions to get me thinking about this new lease on life and then I shared it with my friend Marilee Adams. She added some questions to the list and also gave me two other questions to think about: “How could others contribute to you now if you let them?” and “How might others benefit from your experience?” Then she offered to share my story with the thousands of people in her virtual learning community – people she says are already awake to the life-changing power of questions. I’d be very grateful if my story makes a difference for me and others as well or if you would like to add any new questions for me to think about. Thank you!


Michael Topf

mquestionsHere are some of the questions we’ve come up with so far:

  • Where do I take my life from here?
  • What kind of person will I be from this point forward? What kind of person do I want to be?
  • Where did I hold back and not express myself fully in all areas of my personal life and also my professional life? What did I allow to hold me back?
  • What is the message from the malaise I experienced prior to my “heart rejuvenation” experience? How can I summon the courage to look at any darkness and learn from it?
  • Where have I let fear cloud my vision or my boldness?
  • What has my heart been whispering to me that I wasn’t able or willing to listen to until now?
  • What will I do with my life other than work?
  • What things (activities, projects, experiences, etc.) would be most deeply satisfying to me (whether or not they make sense to anyone else)?
  • Where do I want to make a greater difference? How could this experience help me do that?
  • How could my experience make a difference for others, including how they might create more meaningful lives for themselves and those around them?

Do you have additional feedback or questions to add to our list? Click here to let us know. Thanks!