This article was originally published on riskology.co
The question “Why?” doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves.
When we’re 5 years old, we ask it incessantly — it’s the one tool we have to understand the world around us. We ask it again and again…and again until we’re satisfied that we know why something is the way it is.
Then we grow up, and “Why?” becomes taboo. For some reason, once you’re an adult, you’re considered annoying or a nuisance when you ask “Why?” It’s as if once you’re old enough to put on a tie, you’re supposed to accept that if you don’t already know why, then you don’t need to; you just need to do it. Of course, that’s ridiculous. The world is always changing and “Why?” is always a relevant question.
In fact, “Why?” is the most important question in the whole universe.
The potential that it carries when it’s asked is immense and the knowledge and empowerment it provides when it’s answered is unmatched by any other force. Once we’re adults, we might not say it aloud as much, but we’re still asking.
Every day, everyone on earth is asking “Why?” and if you’re on a quest to lead a meaningful life, you should keep asking it, too. In every action you take, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? What will I get out of it? Is this what I really want?” It’s so easy to pass over these questions and just do what we think we’re supposed to because everyone else is. Taking a second to actually ask yourself “Why?” — and I recommend doing it out loud — can quickly put so many things in perspective.
It can change your whole life. I know it’s changed mine. I spent years doing what I thought I was supposed to do until I finally sat down and asked myself “Why?” The answers were shocking. Now I spend 99% of my time doing things that are actually important to me.
Just as important as answering it for yourself is answering it for others. It’s important to show people the reasons you do what you do. In fact, if you ever want to have any influence, answering “Why?” for your audience is the most critical question you’ll ever address.
- Why should they care about what you’re doing?
- Why should they pay attention to you?
- What do you have to offer that will help them?
Why do I climb mountains, run marathons, and chase other random adventures?
Because it’s thrilling and I want to live a very full life. Because I can’t be satisfied with doing only what’s expected of me. A full life to you may mean something else, but that’s what it means to me. That’s my answer.
Why do I write Riskology.co?
Because I want to help others see how they can pursue their own uncertain path. I want you to know all about the lessons I learn on my own adventure so that they might help you start your own. Every time I write an article, send a tweet, or answer an interview question, I ask myself why you should care about it.
Some things I do just for me, but most things I do for both me and you. I think that’s really important to leading a meaningful and influential life — constantly asking yourself why someone else should care. If I didn’t do that, I have no doubt you’d never come back here. That applies to anyone doing something interesting.
- If you’re an artist, ask yourself why your audience should care about what you’re creating. How can you get into their head and produce something that is really meaningful not just to you, but to them. What do they want in a piece of art and how can you give it to them in your own unique style that shows that you care?
- If you run a business, what problems do your customers have that you can fix for them? Why should they pay attention to your product instead of your competition’s? How does what you sell allow them to live a better life? If you want to survive, you have to answer these questions.
- If you’re an adventurer, what can others learn from your experience? Why do they need to know about the things that you do, and how does knowing that help them improve their own lives? Why should anyone else care that you do crazy things?
- If you’re a volunteer, are you helping to solve real problems for real people that actually need help, or are you just doing something to make yourself feel better? Why should the people you’re helping use your resources to help themselves? If it’s not obvious, they probably won’t.
After about 10 years old, we’re generally discouraged from asking “Why?”, but that’s only because it’s a difficult question to answer. It’s much easier to just accept that “that’s the way it’s done.” But to ask “Why?” is human nature. Even if it’s not being said out loud, always know that it’s being asked internally.
“Just because” is a common answer, but it’s never satisfying. If you can answer “Why?” with a meaningful response — to yourself and to others — you wield an incredible power to change the way people perceive the world. Use it cautiously.