Know the “Why?”

Jay Mahaney was the cutest little dude. He was one and a half and I was a much more worldly 8-year-old.

  I loved being with him until he hit the dreaded two’s. Then he started asking, “Why?” We’d answer him. He’d ask “why?” again. And again – like every 2-year-old. Little did I know that he would become my great philosophy teacher.

“Why” drives us all, whether we know it or not. “Why” should be our core question if we want satisfaction and continued success – however we measure it in our lives, relationships and at work.

“Why” is the question we answer with  “Because�” which reminds us of our purpose. Purpose gives meaning. This is not some aging baby-boomer robes and sandals kumbaya concept as we look for the meaning of life (though it works there, too). 

Understanding what drives people – connecting to their core values and purpose, makes for deeply satisfying relationships. Think about the conversations that might ensue if you asked of your friends, “Why are we out together tonight?” “To see a movie” is not why. It is “what.” The why could be to “have a laugh,” “to forget stress,” or “to remind myself how important your friendship is…”

Purpose is the great differentiator in business. Sometimes we call it  a “mission.”

Purpose keeps us focused in the noise. It keeps us moving forward when there are obstacles. And purpose profits us handsomely – both psychically and financially – by following our “why.”

“We do things because they’re just and right,” says Apple CEO Tim Cook. He doesn’t mention profit, yet he is a important part of one of the most valuable companies in the world – and the second most profitable. Apple employees and customers are evangelical – sometimes in spite of occasional poor quality (Apple Maps), less than ideal employee practices, and high-priced products. Why? “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” That’s why!

People stand in line for fast food at a restaurant that is considerably more expensive than its competition – and provides much slower service. Why? Chipotle’s mission is “Food with Integrity.” That costs money. It’s healthy fast food, with integrity. A contradiction in terms? Business naive? It now has over 1,700 stores, revenue is over $3.6 billion, its market cap doubled in the last 24 months to $21 billion.

At our core, we all want to be like my friend Jay Mahaney. Help those key to your company understand “why.” Why the company exists. Why the team exists. Why the task needs to be done. It will bring personal and financial profit. ?

Steve Garber is director of Third Level Ltd. Contact him at 561.752.5505 or email him at sgarber@thirdlevel.com.

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