How many of you in business for yourself ask WHY? How many question anything you are told or advised? Or do you just accept anything you are told? WHY would we question things? WHY wouldn’t we question things?

I always remember someone saying to me that WHY is the most powerful question in the English language. Children ask it all the time. This is how they learn. On a number of occasions because parents were asked that question so many times, the standard answer borne out of frustration was “Just because it is” because they got to a stage where they didn’t really have a good enough answer.

Most of the time people just accept everything they are told. They don’t question anything. They see everyone doing the same thing so they just follow. WHY would this be? Well, from my article last week on conformity, there is your answer. As adults we generally just fall into a life of conformity rather than asking that powerful question – WHY?

I had someone ask me a while ago, what drove me to run the same business for over 30 years – a business I took from concept to sale of a 30+ period of time. My reply was that I kept asking questions. It kept me fresh, it kept me on my toes, it kept me ahead of my competitors. I questioned everything I was told. Knowing how to do something was one thing, but I wanted to know WHY. As the quote from Benjamin Franklin says, the person who asks WHY will be the boss of the person who knows how. 

95% of the population fall into this life of conformity. The 5% are the ones that always ask questions. This is why so few people run their own businesses or are successful in life – and I am not just talking about financial success. 

The best way to get context in any situation is to ask WHY a lot. Asking WHY eliminates confusion caused by preconceived assumptions, which are fuelled by lack of knowledge, or more dangerously, partial knowledge. To err is human after all, so asking WHY defines a clear path and brings everyone on the same page.

There is a great book on WHY called “Start with WHY” by Simon Sinek. We all need a reason WHY in life. We need to know WHY we are doing what we are doing otherwise there is no purpose, and we have no direction. If we don’t know where we are going or WHY we are going there, we are probably not going to like where we end up. It is a question I frequently ask of my clients.

I was interviewed for a podcast with a couple of great business colleagues on Friday this week and was asked at the end of the interview, what would be one tip people could take away from the interview. I said ask WHY and ask it constantly, so before you do anything in life or are asked to do anything, ask WHY? And just don’t take the standard answer, check it out. Get the facts. Be sure of WHY you are doing anything before you do it.

This article was first published on LinkedIn by Richard Knight on 16/05/2021