Why I’ll always start with “Why”

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A reason based business approach

I always used to be jealous of the type of guy whose occupation was predestined by his circumstances. I’m talking about the guy whose father was a mechanic, whose father’s father was a mechanic. Whose first toy was a little plastic wrench and to whom the smell of oil and the sound of pneumatic drills are the sensory comforts of ‘home’.

It just always seemed appealing to me that this guy had a path in front of him. Sure he could do something crazy and not become a mechanic, but at least he had a base to start from. Perhaps he could become a marine engineer, or a mechatronic engineer, or a racing car driver. He could become any of these things, but in all likelihood he’d fulfil his destiny as a motor head.

You might think that this would be a boring existence that would be devoid of too much decision making, existential introspection, or any type of freedom. To me though, this sounds like a life with a lot less stress and anxiety — mainly because this person would never have to truly ask themselves the question:

What am I going to do with my life?

They might challenge the nuances of their field, but not their entire occupation — “Who” they are.

The reason that this has always been so appealing to me is that if this motor head did not have to continuously ask himself what he was going to do with his life, he could focus on other things like his family, bass fishing, drinking beer and all the other things motor heads do when they’re not motor-heading.
I’ve been in a couple of different start ups, have education in two very different fields and truly feel like the proverbial master of none. This feeling has always left me to do a lot of work on “what I should do with my life” and moving between companies or travelling hasn’t helped me get to that same peace of our bass-fishing motor head. The internal struggle has constantly plagued any moments of future planning or evaluations of my own happiness.

Forgetting the “What”

There are times in my life that I’ve consciously done things that I don’t agree with. I’d overridden my values (my “Why”) because I was in pursuit of product success in the hope that said success could define the “What”. I’ve similarly neglected my “How” and worked in conditions, hours and management structures that don’t sit well with me, in pursuit of career success to define what I do.

I knew I had to start my own business. This would take away any excuse I might have of not having control of these aspects, and taking this leap would force me to ask myself:

“Okay, you can do anything you want. Now WHAT do you want to do?”

I sat with a pen and paper and wrote with a fervour, putting my thoughts down on my new business. After almost 30 minutes of noting all the things that were really important to me I realised I hadn’t answered the question. All of the sentences and doodles were things like “Mutual-respect”, “Discovery”,“Learning”,“Work with people I love”, “Values-based approach”, “Work-life balance” and the word “Trust” circled multiple times.

I had a startling, deep, true, existential (and every other adjective that describes that this had fundamentally shook my being) realisation that my mist had cleared. All I had answered was the “How” and the “Why”. The “What” simply doesn’t matter to me.
I want to work in a beautiful place, with people that think like I do, and that I can trust. I want to approach people with a set of values and methods rather than with a prediction of the future “What” of my business. I want to answer people when they ask me “So Who are you” with stories of my family and my friends, of my town and of my passions, rather than answering with my occupation. I want to be able to spend the hours I need or want to in the pursuit of wealth, and the hours I need to in the pursuit of happiness. I want to treat people with respect. I want to challenge, and to be challenged. I want to know that every decision I make, in conjunction with others or alone, has been made with a fundamental reliance on the Reason and the Method, or the “Why” and the “How”.

Something touched me deep inside,
the day the “What” died.

It’s the “Why” and the “How” that really make me my “Who”

You might be thinking, “Yes, Yes. You can’t always get what you want.”

Well this is me taking the leap.

This is me trying sometimes.

You might just find,
that I get what I need.





Posted on March 31 2016 by Stephen van der Heijden
Stephen is the founder of UNO Digital. He loves digital products, digital people, and people in the digital world.


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