When WHY Isn’t ENOUGH: Meet HOW

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Let’s start by making something abundantly clear. I LOVE the conversation about WHY. It’s inspiring. It moves me. I respect and admire the people who write and speak about tapping into our why, inner purpose, North Star or whatever other term you’d like to use.

When I first tapped into my WHY, I was transported into a utopia that I will never quite forget. It began to shape my career, personal relationships and even how I treat my barista when snagging my Pike Place roast with a splash of sugar-free cinnamon dolce.

As a coach, in my 1-1 practice I often work with people in career transition. Having stayed in a job or career for perhaps too long, they are searching for deeper meaning and fulfillment. In a recent conversation with a talented and inspiring client, a frustration arose about what next steps to take. He wanted some deep long exercise to reveal some hidden “aha” experience that was going to catapult him into enlightenment.

It soon struck me. He wanted a moment or an epiphany. The problem is – we already had excavated his “why.” He knew exactly what it was. He declared it in beautiful language in previous sessions and it moved me as much as it moved him.

I had to deliver the bad news. WHY is inspiring. It moves us, it gets 6 million views on YouTube.

What follows WHY is not super sexy.

It’s not a powerful quote meme or TED talk moment. What follows the dopamine high of motivation is old-fashioned effort.

It’s the HOW. HOW is the sometimes-boring structured twin of WHY lurking in the shadows. How is the grind. It’s the strategy. It’s the repeated mundane acts that Jeff Olson speaks of in his fabulous illustration of HOW’s dance (The Slight Edge).

HOW is not BETTER than WHY, it’s just necessary to make WHY more than a fleeting moment of feel-good. HOW makes WHY real in the world, in an organization, in a relationship, in an approach to managing health or any state of change a person or group is trying cause.

We need WHY. It wakes us up, it keeps us running on fumes. Just don’t let it fool you that it’s all we need. It’s the not so sexy co-star HOW, that gets it done. Driven by WHY, HOW sweats. It screws up. It has a wardrobe malfunction. It repeats. It tries again in a new way to get a new result. HOW is the secret silent partner and investor that gets no glory. That is all for WHY. Why is the ingénue, the Jessica Rabbit who captures you with her sultry voice.

To tell you the truth, I am rooting for HOW (being a Mets and Jets fan, I’m underdog friendly). He’s my man. She’s my BFF. How never lets me down because HOW MOVES, starts and finishes. You can put HOW down and pick her up again and she will still go to work for you.

Do you begin with WHY? YES. But you create with HOW. You forward with HOW, you achieve with HOW by way of WHY. That almost sounds like algebra. Maybe it’s just as simple as math.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your intimate introduction to my close friend HOW. If anyone was wondering what my WHY was, it is something that I committed to at age 19 that has followed me through every personal and professional endeavor: to ensure that each and every human being on the planet has whatever they need to beat any and every odd, infinitely.

HOW it up. Your WHY will thank you. 

Stay tuned for my new series From WHY to HOW coming next!

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