what_vs_whyThere are some very successful blogs out there that focus on what to do and how to do it in our industry–actually, there are quite a few. Some of them even promise they will teach you the “secret” to becoming an overnight marketing success (for a price of course), see Your Tricks Are Already Too Late for my thoughts on those.

Every time I consider what kind of traditional, instructional content I might put out there, I struggle. It’s not that I don’t know my craft and how to instruct people in many of the techniques that are part of it. It’s just that I don’t know that I would be adding much to the conversation–not anything that revolutionary anyway. More importantly, I really don’t think there is a lack of information on how to do things once you decide what you want to be doing. We live in an age that you can learn virtually anything you want online, almost instantly and most times for free. Where I think people often get stuck or (even worse) start going down the wrong path is not on the what, but the why. Yes, you are doing this or that, but why? Simon Sinek put it perfectly “People don’t buy what you do–they buy why you do it”. Oh and by the way it’s science, check out his Ted Talk.

So, again every time I start to think of writing about what I think you should do or how you should do it, it doesn’t flow naturally. In thinking about it, the what/how isn’t really of interest to me. They aren’t the things that get me out of bed every morning. They aren’t the things that drive me to do what I do every day. More often than not, to me, they are just tools to accomplish my true goals and they are often expendable and interchangeable. They aren’t my “why”.

You hear the word passion get thrown around quite a bit nowadays: “We are passionate about providing you with the best widgets money can buy!” Are you really?! Is anyone? Passion is important, but when people use the word or discuss it, I often find myself having an Inigo Montoya moment…“



When people say, “If you follow your passion, you are bound be successful…”, I agree, but there is a caveat to it–you really need to understand what your true passion/s are.

I am lucky to have many passions and interests (and the ability to pursue them). When I dig down, they all stem from core personality traits or natural inclinations I have. One of my passions is creative problem solving–the bigger and more complex the better. Another passion of mine is learning new things, getting to know people and their stories–I am naturally curious. My biggest passion is helping other people, even if in small ways–it simply makes me happy. In my business, I get to do all of these every day. It’s why I really love what I do. It’s why I don’t struggle getting out of bed in the morning or start feeling down on Sunday night because the weekend is coming to an end. These are my “whys”. When it comes to the “whats” and “hows”, they have changed for me over the years, but the whys have remained constant.

So, how do you figure out your whys? Passion is the starting point, but you need to dig deeper. When I was identifying mine, I looked at what really drove me and established some ground rules:

  1. Does it excite me both personally and professionally? What is the passion or underlying trait/s I have that give me the same satisfaction while designing a mobile app and rebuilding an old Lambretta motor?
  2. Is it a constant? Can I trace it back to my childhood? Has it always been there in one form or another? I have been a “creative” since I could pick up a crayon or paintbrush. I knew my career would involve design since the fourth grade. I could never have envisioned where I am now, but it fits. When I look at the others, there are countless examples of them throughout my life; at all stages and in many circumstances.
  3. Does it drive more than one task/activity? My creative problem solving obviously drives my design work, but would you guess it is important to how I deal with company finances? Would it surprise you that it is the driving force when it comes to shaping my company’s strategies and culture?

These are my whys, what are yours? Think about your “Why/s”. Spend some time to really meditate on what makes you tick. The what and how are much easier to get to once you have that figured. Notice I said “easier” not easy, nothing worth doing is easy. Chances are that your whys, like mine, are demanding little beasties hungry for difficult challenges that help you learn and grow. Learn them, figure out what they “eat” and then work on how to feed them.

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