Today I’m going to talk to you about business philosophy.
Except I’m going to talk to you like a two-year old would.
Don’t be offended.
This isn’t meant to be patronizing. I’m not trying to talk down to anyone here.
But this needs to be said. In fact, I wish someone had done me this favor a couple years back.
Before you make your next major business or life decision, do me a favor and ask yourself a question:
Get the toddler reference yet? Even if you don’t have kids, I’m sure you’ve been around them enough to appreciate just how much they LOVE this little three-letter inquiry.
At a certain age (usually shortly after they learn to walk), kids just refuse to accept things at “face value” anymore. Dismissive explanations from parents don’t carry the same weight they once did. These terrible toddlers are relentless in their drive to figure out what makes things the way they are.
Nothing is off-limits for their curious minds; everything from why the sky is blue, to other, less comfortable things . . .
Eventually, usually around the time we’re sent away to begin our education, we “grow out of” our curious phase. Most of us become more receptive to accepting things that are drilled into us again and again by teachers and textbooks.
It’s time to reactivate that curiosity.
And it’s as easy as asking “why?”
Start right now. Wherever you are at this moment is exactly where you should jump in. Don’t stop after just two or three inquiries. Follow your why’s all the way down like any respectable toddler would until you have your answer.
I’m going to pull in a figment of my imagination – a middle-aged, slightly overweight, and painfully average in every way American male – to help demonstrate what I mean. I’ll call him “Bob.”
Let’s take a look at Bob’s attempt at this little thought experiment:
“Why am I reading this post right now?”
“Because I’m bored at work . . .”
“O.k . . . but why are you bored at work?”
“I finished all my assignments this morning, so I have to find something to do to kill the time before I get to go home . . .”
“Oh . . . why are you in such a hurry to get home?”
“It’s work for crying out loud! I don’t like being here. Besides, I’m still tired from all that partying I did over the weekend. I want to relax.”
“Why did you do so much over the weekend?”
“Because I was so stressed from work last week I had to blow off steam. I only get two nights a week to do that.”
“Hmm . . . why were you so stressed out about work last week?”
“You’re really starting to test my patience, ‘toddler Bob!’ And last week was stressful because I didn’t get the promotion I wanted. I really needed to make more money.”
“Why do you need more money?”
“To cover rent for that new downtown apartment close to work . . .”
“Why do you need to live so close to work?”
“So I can spend less time commuting and more time working!”
“So . . . why do you need to spend more time working?”
“Cut it out! Are you that dense? To make more money – ”
“Wait. Let me guess: so you can spend more time being bored at work reading posts like these.”
*Like most toddlers, toddler Bob’s attempts to discover how the world works drive his more mature counterpart from the room in a fit of frustration*
Why do you do what you do? What underlying force or motivation guides the small decisions that make up your days?
Do you even know? If you’ve never asked yourself before, it’s impossible to reach the end of the chain. Instead, “the world” steps in and steers the ship for you. Complete with its circular logic and unrealistic expectations.
And you get stuck in an unsatisfying cycle of react, react, react to external influences.
Maybe it’s been a while since you asked yourself. Maybe you never have.
No matter. Do it now. Take a second to re-evaluate your priorities. Or make some for the first time.
Don’t stop asking until you get to the end of the chain . . . and you like the ultimate answer.
P.S. What is your “ultimate answer” to the Why Question? What gets you out of bed every morning ready to take on the day? What did this little thought experiment show you about your business philosophy? Leave me a comment and let me know!