What’s your why? Print E-mail
News - Final Word
Tuesday, 24 November 2015 22:28
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“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

So said philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, born in 1844. From the earliest philosophers to latter-day visionaries, the pursuit of purpose remains never-ending. We all want to know why. Why now? Why is it important? Is there a plan and if so, where do I fit in?

Discovering people’s ‘why’ is the mission of co-founders Ridgely Goldsborough and Gary Sanchez of ‘The Why Engine’, a marketing and messaging programme.

Ridgely is an American marketing expert and I suspect the plan was initially to get companies to discover their ‘why’. The programme took off and also resulted in a book in which individuals and families started discovering their ‘why’.

It’s like this: You fall victim to your circumstances if you don’t know your ‘why’. You never define life on your own terms; you react instead of act; you merely go through your daily motions instead of understanding what really motivates you. If you don’t know why you act in certain ways, it’s as if you go through life sleepwalking. Whereas, when what you do aligns with why you do it, you have zeal.

There’s a definite ‘why’ behind acting the way you act, thinking the way you think, dressing the way you dress and speaking the way you speak. When you understand your ‘why’ and learn how to show it to others, there probably won’t be any false expectations in relationships. If you start a business and use your ‘why’ to put together teams and create slogans that reflect your ‘why’, you will attract the kind of customers you’ve been dreaming about.

‘The Why Engine’ declares that there are nine different ‘whys’ with an unlimited number of ‘hows’. A ‘how’ is the way you can express your ‘why’. Here are the nine ‘whys’ with examples of famous people who have those ‘whys’ as their defining feature:

  1. To contribute to a greater cause, add value or make a difference: Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Michael J Fox and Jim Rohn.
  2. To build trust or create relationships based on trust: Goethe, Elton John, Stephen Covey and Sam/Frodo/Merry.
  3. To make sense out of things, especially if complicated or complex: Alan Watts, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Cisneros.
  4. To find a better way: Elon Musk, Isabel Allende, Bela Karolyi and Ross Perot.
  5. To do things right or the right way: Henry Ford, John Wooden, Eleanor Roosevelt and W Clement Stone.
  6. To think differently and challenge the status quo: Steve Jobs, Herb Kelleher, Sara Ramirez and George Carlin.
  7. To master things or seek knowledge: Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Michelangelo.
  8. To clarify, create clarity and understanding: Robert Frost, Vincent Van Gogh and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
  9. To simplify: Confucius, Joan Miro, Peace Pilgrim and Henry David Thoreau.

So, girlfriend, what’s your number? I’ve really been pondering this. With this ‘why’ knowledge in mind, for the first time I can look back on my life and see a pattern. I can understand why I went to alternative clubs, instead of trying to fit in with the mainstream crowd.

I can comprehend why I chose to do promotional work for an alternative health company, instead of the allopathic ones. I also understand why I did a publication for a computer company that didn’t go the IBM-clone route in the early nineties.

So, I guess I must predominantly be a number six. ‘The Why Engine’ names the example of Apple. Their tagline is ‘Think differently’. That is their organisational ‘why’, not their ‘what’.

But, thinking differently is not an end in itself. So what if you sit somewhere on an island thinking differently? I want to do it to make a difference, so I guess there’s a lot of number one in my ‘why’ as well. Still, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa and I? Weird thought.

I guess it’s like Walt Whitman says in ‘Song of myself’. He starts of by saying “I celebrate myself, and sing myself” and then later gets to: “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

In ‘Night train to Lisbon’ Pascal Mercier asks: “Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us – what happens with the rest?”

“We are all patchwork, and so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment, plays its own game. And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others.”


© 2020 Die/The Bronberger