Some people compulsively wash their hands and use Purell to avoid germs. Other people give in to and feed addictions like gambling or drinking.
If you asked me what I was addicted to I’d probably tell you sugar. I can’t walk by a cookie without trying to figure out how to get my hands on it and I could happily eat ice cream in a blizzard.
But my love of treats and baked good pales in comparison to what I’m truly addicted to and what I compulsively do in almost any situation.
And that’s asking why.
I can’t stop myself. I need to ask why to satisfy my desire to understand. I gather knowledge and information the way a collector pieces together complete, detailed sets of one thing after another.
This often leads to frustration in others in conversation with me. Growing up, my dad told me I could carry on an argument with a brick wall because I just didn’t stop pressing for more. As an adult, a boyfriend told me I could never just drop anything because I always had something else to say, another question to ask.
I understand asking why, why, why distresses other people in my personal life. And I feel badly about that.
But I find asking why a useful, important tool. Looking for the why uncovers the real reason behind something. It removes layers and masks and forces us to get to the bottom of issues, problems, and claims.
What Asking Why Can Do for You
Asking why is essential if you want to dig deeper and challenge preconceived notions, beliefs, and ways of doing things.
Why can help you discover deeper meanings. It can also reveal when there’s no good reason for taking an action a certain way (and that means finding an opportunity to take a new, better action).
Asking why forces us to stop and examine what’s going on here. And at times that’s really unpleasant — especially when we realize we don’t have a good answer.
I say we because I am absolutely, 100% including myself in this. My own lack of a good answer is what got me thinking about my desire always seek out why in the first place.
Discover What’s Missing When You Keep Digging
A few months ago, I realized I wanted to quit my job. I worked as director of marketing for a financial services company. I started as a contractor for one of the co-founders before the business even launched, and eventually accepted a full-time position to manage content marketing and the brand as a whole.
Why did I want to quit? Because I wanted to build my own business instead of working to build someone else’s.
Why did I want to build my own business? Because I wanted to focus on creating products and services that took the value I could offer and delivered it to financial advisors trying to build and grow financial planning firms.
Why did I want to create specific products and services for a particular audience? Because… well, this is where my thinking broke down and I realized I didn’t have a good answer.
I had an answer. Just not a good one. Initially the answer to why I wanted to turn what I knew and felt good at into products and services was because I wanted to earn a living doing something I enjoyed.
I don’t think that’s bad or wrong. But that answer bothered me. It was self-serving. But more importantly that focus meant I’d fail at achieving one of my “whys.”
Wanting to do something so I could earn a living from work I enjoyed didn’t allow me to actually deliver value to the people I wanted to work with. It put the people I worked with in the position of delivering me value.
It meant I was just selling, not serving. And that’s not how I wanted to run a business.
The Importance of Developing Values and Philosophies to Stand By
So I took a step back. I spent several months asking myself why — why did I want to do this? What drove me to want to create my own business, beyond some self-centered need? Why did I want to serve people by providing value through a specific offer?
I finally found the answer as I skimmed through a newsletter from Loyal.is, curated by Kyle Studstill. I stepped onto what he wrote and got smacked in the face with realization in the same way cartoon coyotes step on rakes and get bonked with the handles:
The brands I most admire have a strong, personal answer to the question, “What does a life well-lived look like?” Their marketing embodies and romanticizes a clear and specific set of values; their products help customers go out and live them accordingly. Create your set of values, your philosophy, about how we can do business.
I didn’t know my why because I never committed to a philosophy. I never committed to a set of values around business that I stuck to with consistency. And I certainly never romanticized anything about the life my work could help other people create and live.
Instead, I approached everything — even myself and what I did — with such heavy-handed skepticism about its value that I killed any chance of finding a why. Or, if I’m being honest, any chance of doing great work along with that.
I tiptoed around owning my value and also my values. I tried to hide in the shadows so I didn’t have to show up in the spotlight and claim my confidence — or proclaim where I stood.
I didn’t know the why behind building my business because I was scared to death of drawing a line in the sand. What if someone told me I was wrong?
I stopped asking myself why because I didn’t have a good answer, and I needed to be bold, visible, strong, and confident in order to develop one. I took the easy road instead: avoidance.
As a result, the idea of building a business stalled. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what audience I wanted to build. There was no room to serve anyone else, only to sell them.
But that changed when I read Kyle’s words in that newsletter. I realized I needed to go back to asking why. So I asked why until I understood my values, my philosophy, and my answer to the question about what a life well-lived looks like.
Why I Created This Business and Want to Serve Others
I believe that creating compelling content is the best way to do business, because it’s a strategy that allows you to share your story in a way that resonates with the exact people you want as customers and clients.
You don’t need to sell anyone if you create useful, helpful content. The right content can expand your reach, establish your authority, increase your influence, attract prospects and leads, and most importantly, build an audience for your and your business.
Content marketing is just the term. I believe what that really means is using opportunities to use content to create an audience of people who show up for you because they like, trust, and admire you and the work you do.
Creating content means sharing who you are — and of course, why you do what you do. As people, we deeply desire the kind of connection that comes from sharing stories and ourselves. That’s what content marketing is for, and that’s why it’s the best way to gain influence and clients for your business.
My philosophy is that content marketing is the best way to achieve big, long-term business goals like generating sustainable growth and establishing authority within industries. It’s the best way because it allows us to show up as our authentic selves and just share in the interest of serving someone else value.
I believe businesses should seek to educate their prospects first instead of pressing them for sales. I believe using content in a variety of ways gives you the most opportunity to build authentic relationships with others. And I believe that a holistic, comprehensive approach to marketing is best for the people you market to because they feel seen, heard, and empowered.
I value putting people’s needs and desires over sales goals and metrics. Content allows us to educate, inspire, and attract the right people with problems we can solve.
This way of marketing makes a positive impact and puts people first. It allows you to actually serve them, regardless of whether they pay you for a product or service.
A life well-lived is one where I can do business in a way that focuses on the needs of others and solves someone else’s problem — and one in a way that can show others how to do the same.
A life well-lived is one full of stories and people sharing themselves in a way that touches those around them and inspires others to take action.
When we create and distribute content, we make and share more stories. People express themselves. They explore and see more. And life is better that way.
Creating compelling content that’s good, valuable, useful, and helpful starts a domino effect that results in people who are more empowered and better educated about solutions and opportunities in their lives.
Don’t Be Scared to Draw a Bold Line in the Sand
Perhaps it sounds grandiose. Maybe it sounds extreme. It’s marketing, after all. No one’s saving the world over here.
Maybe we’re not saving the world today. But what if we could trace what a single blog post can do to change someone’s life, from the day they read it and it planted a seed of a new idea in their mind? What if we could reliably track the moment a thought shared in a piece of content caused someone to undergo a personal paradigm shift?
Maybe then we could see this is so much more than marketing, and that content really could be the start of something really, really big.
I stand for my philosophy that says through content, we can share not only our businesses but also ourselves. And when we share our stories, we create ripples that touch first one person, then another, then someone after that.
Opening up is contagious. Sharing with someone in a way that compels them to take action not only impacts them, but it impacts other people who see or experience that action.
Remember, what starts as your blog post or your social media post or your email newsletter or your website copy can other people to claim the power they need to explore their world and the possibilities in it.
That’s my why. That’s why I help business owners find their focus and share their unique value through compelling content. That’s why I want to show you how to tell your story in a way that resonates with the right people.
Asking Why Can Help You Stop Selling and Start Serving
You can create compelling copy that’s more than just a blog post or status update. Your words can impact others in incredible ways.
You can inspire someone to think differently. You can motivate someone to finally get in action and cause positive change.
If you ask why you’re operating your business, you can move beyond trying to convince someone to buy from you. You can discover a greater mission, a value and belief system that you want to share with others because you genuinely, sincerely know that it can help someone live a better life.
Get in touch with your why and so you can focus on serving others instead of just selling to them. Ask why, and ask why again. Keep digging until you get to the root of what drives you.
What are your values? Your beliefs? What philosophy do you operate under? What does living well look like, and how does your business help make that happen for yourself and others?