in Life Lessons

Toddlers often have more clarity and curiosity in life than most adults. Categorically, they aren’t afraid of asking “why?” to seemingly every question that has an obvious answer.

It’s no wonder that asking higher quality questions leads to better outcomes in your personal and professional life. So the real question is why do we not ask “why” more? Why do we assume we already know the answer, and become more preoccupied with asking what, how, when, and who?

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” —Albert Einstein

So why is it important to stop asking the wrong questions? Why should you start with why? Here are 5 reasons to Start with Why:

1. What and How are Functional, Why is Inspirational

People, organizations, and teams who start with what they need to do, how they need to do it, and who needs to do it are short-sighted. They focus on plans, strategies, and tactics, missing the goal. Asking “why” is inspirational, it creates tightly aligned but loosely coupled teams, because while everyone on the team may be unique in their approach towards a solution, they are all on the same page regarding why they are seeking a solution in the first place.

2. Asking Why Eliminates Confusion

The best way to get context in any situation is to ask “why” a lot. Asking why eliminates confusion caused by pre-conceived assumptions, which are fueled by lack of knowledge, or more dangerously, partial knowledge. To err is human after all, so asking “why” defines a clear path and brings everyone on the same page. This doesn’t just extend to teams though, introspectively you can ask yourself “why” you are following your own life’s path in your day to day life, work, and relationships.

3. Asking Why Gives Your Endeavours Purpose

Do you ever feel like you’re working “hard” but not getting where you want to be life? Asking why is a great way to remind yourself of the size of the prize you are pursuing.

4. Asking Why Separates Achievement and Success

Have you ever felt luke-warm about an achievement? Perhaps you got a raise, scored that difficult deal, or just joined a new role, but you didn’t feel happy or successful? Achievement is defined by the “what” you need to do, and that’s not always aligned with the “why” you need to do it. This is precisely the saying “you gotta do, what you gotta do” is counter-intuitive. Instead, focus on “why” you must do anything at all, and you’ll realize that maybe you need to change direction to feel truly successful.

5. Asking Why Positions You to WIN

In business, good consultants and salespeople ask the customer what their needs are, when they want to generate results, and who’s involved in making it happen. Great consultants and salespeople start with “why” instead. They provoke their customers and clients to think differently, constructively challenging them to questioning them to question their assumptions, and ask “why” themselves. This is the difference between professionals who position themselves as an Authority vs. those who just offer a Commodity.


Inspired by Simon Sinek’s wonderful book: Start with Why

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