QBQ! By John Miller

QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life may win the award for having a title that takes longer to read than the book itself. This is a quick read, and a good one. There are so many parallels to the gospel that it is hard to find where to begin and what to highlight. Miller even invites you to read the book again when you are done (a good strategy).

This book is about personal accountability. Miller invites the reader to not just whine and complain when things don’t go the way she wants, but rather asks the reader to ask a couple more questions. “What can I do?” becomes the clarion call of the QBQ thinker.

There are two ways I want to illustrate how we learned this simple account of personal accountability.

First, the hymn, Have I Done Any Good (Music), is the exemplification of Personal Accountability and QBQ!

Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.

QBQ! is about finding ways to be the solution to the problem, not another complainer. This hymn is great because it reminds us to go out of our way to solve problems and help others. One of the great stories Miller shares is of a server in a busy diner that saw that Miller didn’t have anyone helping him yet. When Miller asked for a Coke, the server mentioned that they only served Pepsi products, so Miller asked for water instead. Much to his surprise, a couple minutes later, the server returned with Miller’s food and an ice-cold Coke. When Miller inquired of the server where it had come from, he learned that the server had sent his manager next door to the grocery store to buy one so Miller could have what he wanted (needed). Personal accountabilty is about “making better choices” (14) like the server did to get what someone needed.

Second, there is the story of Nephi. Miller relates a story about a girl and her father flying in a small airplane when the engine stopped. The pilot (the father) told his daughter he would have to fly a little differently than usual. He put the plane into a nose dive right over Lake Michigan and tried to get the engine to start again. When that didn’t work, he tried again, still over frigid Lake Michigan, and a few hundred feet closer. This time, it worked. Miller says:

When faced with a new situation, [the father] took action and solved the problem. But if he had resisted the change and instead spent his time whining and complaining…things might have come out much differently. (30)

Like the father in this story, Nephi, the Book of Mormon prophet, saw a problem and he fixed it. When the bows of his older brothers had lost their spring, and Nephi’s bow broke, everyone else immediately started complaining. Nephi had personal accountability and asked himself, “What can I do?” Then he did something-which is essential for a QBQ thinker-he made a bow, and asked his father where the Lord would have him go to find food. 1 Nephi 16:23:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did amake out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?

Nephi gave the most excellent example of a QBQ thinker throughout his life, but this is one time where he  did what truly needed to be done. He didn’t blame others for their weak bows, nor did he blame his father for dragging him out into the wilderness. He saw a problem, and dealt with it, the best way that he could, by finding personal accountability and taking action. Nephi didn’t just solve the problem, he also didn’t even blame anyone. “Who do accountable people blame? No one. Not even themselves” (49).