Do You Know Your Why?

I wasn’t going to ask this question. But when John, the entrepreneur I was talking to, asked it, I realized this was the perfect way to end our conversation. I simply sat back and listened. It was clearly a question he wanted to answer for himself.

John started a company from scratch four years ago. He was focused on solving a problem which was slowly being recognized in the market. The new technologies being used in the market created new opportunities because they created new problems which needed to be solved.

This was the fertile ground for his new company creation. John was operating in the early stages of this problem as it was becoming obvious to the rest of the market.

He brought in a few angel investors to build the initial solution. But then the problem turned into a clear market need. When this happened, professional money wanted in. He landed a venture capital round. With the first professional money in the company, he is credible and sustainable. He is building a valuable company.

John answered his own question.

“So why do I do this?”

He said, “I enjoy it. I like building products. I like building a company. I want the products and the company to make an impact on society. I want to put my dent in the universe, so to speak. When I see our big customers using our product, it flatters me. It’s fulfilling.”

After giving me this answer, he went quiet. He was thinking about what he had just said. He was analyzing whether or not he was comfortable with his answer. Was it truthful? Was it complete?

Then he said, “But this isn’t all I am about. There is more to what makes my life enjoyable. Creating the product and company to commercialize it is just one piece. I have other elements in my life which make my life complete.”

“Tell me more,” I said.

“I like to scuba dive. I like to travel with my wife. We enjoy our time with our friends and take the time to be with each other. We enjoy our church and worshipping together. These elements of my life are of equal importance to me. I am not just all business,” John explained.

When John finished telling me this, a picture of his life formed in my mind. He had asked the question, “Why do I do this?” His initial answer to his own question was as an entrepreneur and founder, but after he thought about his answer, he realized this wasn’t his only “why.” He needed to answer the question more broadly, “Why do I do this life?” He realized he is far more than an entrepreneur and founder. He is a man with many roles and interests in life.

Above is the diagram of John’s answer which came to mind for me.