Leading Ideas: The Power of Why

"He who has a why can endure any how." — Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and critic

A few years ago, a friend of mine started a media business. Recently it has really taken off. It's great to see as it's been a dream of his for 20 years. Along the way he started a marketing agency that met with mediocre success. During that time it always amazed me to watch his unrelenting enthusiasm no matter how well his business was doing. No matter what, he kept pushing. "I think the enthusiasm came from my purpose," he said looking back. "I could smile through the highs and lows of the agency business was because it was never my end game. I always knew I was building the foundation of something bigger."

Consider This:

No matter what path you choose in life, at times it can be difficult. The best way to get through it (and keep smiling in the process) is to be clear on your "whys". Why did you start doing what you're doing? Why are you still doing what you're doing? And why should you keep doing what you're doing? Be honest with yourself. There's a lot of power in your answers. A person with clarity and conviction is tough to stop.

Try This:

1. Take 15 minutes alone in a quiet room.
2. Honestly answer the 3 "why" questions above (this can be a good exercise even if you think you already know the answers - new ideas show up all the time).
3. Use your answers to get clearer on your purpose.
4. Reconnect with that purpose everyday.
5. Repeat this exercise regularly.

Question: What "why" lets you endure any how?

Add New Comment


  • Simon Cramond

    "Some men see things as they are and ask 'why?'; I dare to dream of things that never were and ask 'why not?'." (commonly attributed to Bobby Kennedy because when he used it he failed to credit the actual originator, George Bernard Shaw.)

  • Marcel

    But what happens when the anwers to the questions are not compelling enough to even continue. I found exactly that when I tried this and was quite shocked that I do not have the compassion it needs to continue doing what I do now.

    How do I find out what I really need to do?

  • Will Lichtig

    If this topic is of interest, I would suggest reading Peter Block's book "The Answer to How is Yes." He describes how purpose will routinely trump method.

  • Simon Cramond

    Sometimes it's the 'how' and sometimes the 'why' that seems relevant. And then there's the 'what', 'where' and 'when'. The NLP model of Logical Levels can be a good way to figure out which is the most appropriate intervention/approach for whatever it is you're trying to consider or achieve - see http://www.renewal.ca/nlp8.htm for an example.

  • Ozzie

    I also liked this article alot. It reminds me to focus on my why on doing business :)

  • dawn brown

    I really enjoyed this article. We tend to be so preoccupied with the "how" that we forget the "why".
    We forget our intention.