Bottom Line Up Front: The first, most important conversation you have every day is with yourself. Each second of each day you can ask and answer three questions: What am I focused on? What am I making of it? What am I doing about it? The questions you ask yourself and the answers you give determine your entire life, seconds and minutes at a time.

That little voice inside your head.

Don’t let anyone kid you—what we say to ourselves is powerful. Words are weapons, words are tools, words can hurt and words can heal. Even if we don’t say them out loud, the words we use and the conversations we have with ourselves shape our thoughts and our thoughts shape our actions. Our actions shape our networks.

What you think, you do. What you do, you become.

It all starts with the conversation you have with yourself. I know some men who would take a swing at me if I said to them what they say of themselves. That unhealthy conversation is part of the story they tell themselves. If it’s an unhealthy story they will get an unhealthy outcome. The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, the questions we ask ourselves when we are alone in the car and the answers we give are the powerful tools and weapons that build and shape or harm and destroy our lives, dreams, hopes and ultimately our relationships with those we love and lead. They make us the men we are or fail to be.

Knowing the importance of the first question.

When you are in a situation with another man and he asks you a question, pay close attention to what it may set up in the ensuing conversation. The question he asks may be a good question, but it may not be the best first question. The first question sets the stage for the next and the next and the next. Just as the first conversation sets the stage and tone for all that follow on any given day.

So… be careful.

Shouldn’t we exercise caution about what we say to ourselves in that very first conversation?