Knowing Your True Why

The 5-Why Method

You may have heard of the 5-why method. It’s a way of looking at cause and effect to understand the true reasons behind something happening. The reason why it can be so useful is because the obvious causes may not be apparent when you ask the question of why? the first time. This is especially true when it comes to human motivation.

The First-Time Manager

My first management job was a rough time. For some reason, my employees and I didn’t ‘click’. I attributed it mostly due to the fact that all of them were very bright, intelligent engineers, and very capable of handling themselves. I also thought it was because I was inexperienced. Both of these factors played a part in the rough time I was having. But I realized only later on there was a much bigger factor – I wasn’t being authentic with them.

Who Was I Kidding?

Why did I want to become a manager in the first place, you may have asked? I would’ve told you what you wanted to hear. I’d say that I had leadership potential and wanted to exercise that. I wanted to help my team excel, grow, and maximize their potential. And I believed I could help my team become their true best. The problem was, I wasn’t my being my true best.

I was lying to myself, and I was lying to them.

Human Nature

I wanted to be a manager for the title, position, and the power more than any other reason. Sure, everyone heard what they needed to, and I was as good as the next person at saying it. But, nobody would hire someone if they they knew that. So I said what you’d expect a leader to say.

It doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to know when someone is a fake.

Eventually we tell ourselves lies often enough that we believe them. But no matter how much you believe something to be true, only the true why comes through in your actions, behavior, and, in little ways, everything you do. While we can try to hide true intentions with the right words, the right elbow rubbing, and conjured encouragements, you can’t fake genuine care for your people. They know.

The Change

Through maturity and experience, I came to acknowledge the truth of why I wanted to become a manager. Everything changed when I became honest with myself. And I mean everything. I didn’t intentionally change how I managed, but how I managed changed my intentions. It happened on its own. Once I accepted that I did enjoy the position, title and prestige of being a high-level manager, that is, perhaps, when I became an actual leader.

I was able to truly lead my people. I didn’t pretend to care about them, I did care for them. Forcing myself to learn about them as a person wasn’t necessary anymore. There was genuine interest from me. When there was an opportunity for them to grow to my level, I didn’t feel threatened. My desire for them to be successful and fulfilled outweighed their existential threat – the threat I previously would’ve felt.

Why The WHY

Understanding WHY it is you want something is not just important.

It is monumental.

Knowing the answer can take you down the right road versus the wrong one. You’ll save significant time pursuing something. You won’t waste it to find out later it wasn’t what you wanted. And asking the why will help you to be a better leader.

Perhaps most importantly for successful people across the board: When the WHY becomes so clear that it is crystal in your mind, and so powerfully strong to overcome any and all barriers or obstacles – you can accomplish just about anything.



When I  was a young professional, my perspective on growth was different. I remember as a first-time leader talking to my people about the need to constantly improve yourself, never be satisfied with where you are, and that if you aren’t growing you are dying. I would encourage them to frequently look for ways to study their strengths and weaknesses and work on making themselves better, as I did for myself. Now that I have a few more seasons under my belt, that perspective has changed. We DO need to continue growing ourselves – yet doing so with contentment is equally important.


Contentment is the state of being very satisfied. And it is a skill that can be learned. There are varying levels of contentment because we have different areas of our lives that we evaluate. While nobody has yet developed a scale for contentment, I believe that if one is satisfied simultaneously in the majority of areas of their life they are relatively content. Practically, it is difficult to be in a state of limbo between contentment and discontentment. In most cases you are either content, or you are not.


Contentment doesn’t happen by accident. And the practices we perform to create contentment generally apply to all areas of our lives. Learning to be content is one of the most powerful ways to create fulfillment in our lives. Feeling fulfilled is one of the true measures of each person’s life. It answers the basic question: Why am I here and what is my purpose?


Being content with yourself means accepting, appreciating, respecting, and loving yourself for the person you are right now, no matter where that is. Anyone can be content with themselves at any time. It’s a matter of perspective mixed in with a dose of gratitude and appreciation for the good things in your life. It also always comes with an acknowledgment of where we’d like to grow ourselves. Growing yourself while being satisfied with how far you’ve come is contentment. It’s the balance between eternally accepting everything as-is and eternally pushing every part of you for change.


Leaders have the ability to affect their tribe’s contentment. And because leaders are often tasked with creating significant growth in their tribes, it is especially important they recognize the need to create contentment within their organizations. It doesn’t happen automatically. Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Ensure that the organization’s values are clear and understood by all. Being part of a larger purpose creates contentment within its team members.
  2. Create events monthly or quarterly to celebrate progress.
  3. Create environments of encouragement. Focus on the positive growth opportunities versus fixating on the achieved failures
  4. Endorse the complete health of each team member. Allow for mental and body health activities. Encourage a balance between work and play.
  5. Recognize a team member’s progress along with constructive feedback.


Leaders are not ultimately 100% responsible for the contentment of their organizations. More than anyone else, though, leaders have an enormous impact. While many believe that growth can only grow through constantly pushing the envelope, experienced leaders understand the importance of balance. Leaders using the tips above will find they achieve far more than they ever would with just constantly pushing. Their teams will be far more content. And what they accomplish may be surprising!

The T Factor

Ask a baseball hitting coach, “What is the single most important factor to a great hitter’s success?” Is it their strength and power? No. Is it their size? No. How much practice they perform? Yes, but practice improves most factors, it’s not the skill itself. Is it good hand-eye coordination? Bat speed? Not exactly but you’re getting close. The success of a great hitter comes down to this – how often the bat meets the ball at the intended location on the ball and the intended place in space.

In other words: Timing.

How often do we hear someone tell us that “Timing is everything”? Well it may not be everything but it is such an important factor in so many consequences to warrant a discussion of its importance. On a technical basis, ranging from the internal combustion engine (think your gas-powered car) to the electronics device you are reading this on, timing isn’t an after thought. It IS the thought. For virtually everything using modern technology, proper timing is mandatory for proper function. It simply doesn’t work if not timed correctly.

I’m not a baseball player, you might say, nor an engine designer, so why should I care about timing? How about if you’re a politician, comedian, or actor? What about a writer, business person, or anyone that’s ever been in a relationship? If you perform an internet search on famous people who’ve said that timing was critical to their success, you might be surprised to find a wide range of people from all walks of life that attribute their success to good timing.

Knowing when is the best time to do something, anything, can make the difference between success and failure. It certainly isn’t the only factor in success, but depending on the circumstances, it can often be the largest. That’s certainly true in business. Remember the Apple Newton? Hint: It was a ‘smart’ device, capable of keeping your calendar, editing documents, reading your handwriting, had a touchscreen, and you could play games on it among other features. No, you don’t remember it? That’s because it was introduced in the early 1990s and failed quickly. So how can a device similar to what most of us use today have failed so badly? It was simply ahead of its time. In fact, some would say that all ‘smart’ devices (or PDAs as they were called) might have been ahead of their time in the 1990s. The Newton and its competitors (Palm Pilot, for example) went by the wayside relatively quickly. Along with feature issues, the consumer was simply not prepared to incorporate their use on a day-to-day basis. By 2000, few people used them at all. Fast-forward 10 years from the Newton’s discontinuation, when touch-screen technology is massively improved, the internet has exploded, and technology becomes essential to the everyday person, and Apple takes a similar, albeit far better product (the iPhone) to the moon. The timing was now right.

Whenever I have a new product, idea, or company I want to start, I always consider timing. I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars creating products that I’ve had to shelve because I failed to consider the timing of their introduction. It doesn’t mean one day I won’t be able to sell it, but at the time, I failed to see that it wasn’t – the right time. I don’t do that anymore. I perform test marketing. I perform consumer surveys. I gather as much information as I can on the usability NOW for a product before putting in motion the actions to build it. I seek out forecasts in the area that I’m working in to understand where the masses believe it is heading. After all, where the consumer masses believe something is going, it tends to go.

As for my personal life? I just believe – Believe that timing is indeed critical. With many decisions it’s sometimes never the ‘right time’. But, there are certainly better times than others. Consider the decision of when to start a business. Starting a business at any time may seem challenging, scary, or hard work. But if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have waited until my late 30s to start my first business, I would’ve done it in my 20s. Ideally, the best time to start a business is when you have the least amount of obligations to others. It’s hard enough to keep that ball rolling until you achieve critical mass, but when you have to consider the time spent on your spouse or family, or keeping up payments on a mortgage, it makes succeeding in the business harder.

Similarly, one has to consider the best times to be in serious relationships. When I was starting my first business in 2010, my restaurant-owner Lynne told me, “Chris, don’t have a girlfriend when you start your business. She’s going to complain that you don’t spend enough time with her…” I ignored her. And found she was right. In the end, I couldn’t keep up the 80+ hours a week I was spending on the business and a relationship at the same time. It wouldn’t have mattered if I thought my girlfriend was the perfect person for me in every way. The timing wasn’t right if I wanted that business to succeed. Lesson learned…

I did meet a woman one year after starting my first business. She was intelligent, beautiful, charming, and I wanted badly to see where the relationship would go. But I’d learned my lesson. I was still working many hours on my business, and I decided it wasn’t the right time. Fortunately, she understood because the timing wasn’t right for her as well.

2 years later, my business was doing great and we reconnected. The timing was now right. Today, we’re married.

Finally, I timed it right. And hit a homerun.

Buying Is Easier Than Building

90% of buyers never follow through with buying a business.

50% of potential deals between a buyer and seller fall through.

And only 20% of businesses listed ever sell.

So why would I ever recommend buying a business as your first option if you’re seriously looking into breaking free from the wage-earner world?

Because if you’re successful, you will have taken years off of your cycle time.

When I first looked to starting fresh, free from earning my keep from a corporation, the thought of building a business from scratch was daunting.   I already knew what it took to run a business since I’d already gained the experience of running a multi-million dollar P&L center for a previous company.  That I already knew how to do.  But how did that business get there?  How was that business built little-by-little over time?  I had very little idea.

Starting Over

I was 37 years old, just divorced, and laid-off by the technology start up I was working for.  It was 2008 and the sub-prime mortgage crisis was wreaking havoc on the economy.  I had been wanting to run my own business for years, and with the confluence of events in 2008, I had to make a major decision.

As with how I assess risk in most cases, there was an upside and downside to the various paths I could take.  One path was to become financially independent.  The upside was that I could obtain my goal of becoming financially independent and see my children when, and how often, I wanted.  It was a significant reward.  The downside:  There would’ve been a financial burden on all of us.  But, I believed that with the increased amount of attention and time I could pay to my children, they would hopefully not just understand but appreciate it more than anything that more money could provide.  The other path wasn’t so different than what I’d been doing for years – taking a corporate job that involved lots of travel.  The upside to that is that we wouldn’t have to struggle financially.  The downside:  I wouldn’t see my children as often as I wanted.

Making The Decision

I decided that since the worst that could happen was basically already realized and there was everything to gain, I would try to become financially independent.  It was a tough, meandering course, but with a solid commitment, long hours of work (when I didn’t have the kids), and persistence – I made it.

There’s so much involved in making the decision to go into business for yourself, much more than one article could articulate.  One has to be in the right place, they have to have their personal lives in order, they have to be free of financial obligations that might derail business ownership, they have to have a strong network of support, and so on…

So here’s why when you make that decision I recommend the first option you consider is buying your first business.  Even with the statistics backing the likelihood that you will fail to complete that attempt, the upside benefits of successfully completing a purchase significantly outweigh the downside of failing to try.  Here’s why:

Buying a Business Is Easier Than Starting Your Own

1.  If you’ve evaluated the business correctly, you will be buying one that has already established processes to succeed

Most businesses take 3 to 4 years to figure this out.  And most businesses will either be alive or dead in 4 years.  95% fail within 10 years.  There are numerous statistics on this which can be searched all over the internet.  And those businesses fail for a number of secondary reasons but there is only 1 reason a business fails:  They run out of cash.  And they run out of cash because they couldn’t get enough sales to cover their expenses.  Now some businesses do close their doors even when they have a positive cash flow, but the owner(s) may have deemed that their time expense was simply not worth it.  In essence, they were not paying themselves enough to continue.  In any event, the end result is the same.

It takes a lot of work to figure out all of the processes that make a business successful – product, marketing, sales, human resources, operations, and on and on.  And making one major mistake in any of these areas during a business’ infancy can be fatal.  The one way to minimize this risk is to buy a business that has already figured this out and become successful.

2.  Time.  It’s simple.  It can work for and against you.  When it comes to business, it works against you when starting a business from scratch.  Starting a business from scratch in most cases requires consistency and persistency in many different areas over a few years.  Lots can go wrong during that time.  From the business side, the market can change, technology improves (for better or worse), or the economy can hit a road bump.  From the personal side, you might develop obstacles caused by the time spent on the business, you may have a life change that forces you to adjust, or you might simply run out of steam.  Buying a business that is already running (and profitable) reduces the impact of changes over time on your chances of success.

3.  The stress caused by low and unpredictable cash flow is minimized.  This might be number 3 but it is no less significant.  The burden on your will to go on during periods of financial uncertainty can be massive.  Unless you’re one of the lucky few that happened to find the right formula at the right time, it can be a slow slog in starting a business from the ground up.  Watching little to no money coming in for even just a short period of time can make many throw in the towel at its first sign.  If you’ve made a good choice in buying a business, cash flow is predictable.  Even if the business is seasonal, you’ve got data to show you what to expect and prepare accordingly.  That, in and of itself, could be the difference in you keeping your will to carry on, or quit.

Do Your Research

When I was looking for businesses to purchase in 2010, it was probably the worst time in recent memory to do that.  The economy was in the midst of the ‘Great Recession’, a period of economic hardship that was second only to the ‘Great Depression’ for the 20th century.  I couldn’t get a bank loan for any type of business that I didn’t directly have experience with.  It was a problem that eventually led me to start my own company and buy, instead of an entire business, a book of clients from another company.  That way, there was at least some level of confidence that I would have customers from the get-go.  Still, there was a huge learning curve in establishing the processes I mentioned above.  While the learning experience was invaluable for future business development (I started another company later on), my first choice would’ve been to purchase a successful business in the beginning.  And while one learns so much from starting a business from scratch about how to do just that, you don’t need to know how to start a business in order to successfully run a business.

How to select the right business to purchase, financing that purchase, and preparing your personal life for it is a huge topic base.  There are a lot of resources available at the click of a button.  As always, do your research.  If you’re entrepreneurial-minded and want to break away from working for others, you might find that the best way to hit the ground running is to buy that business rather than build it yourself.  If business success is your ultimate goal as a business owner (and it should be one of them!), you’ll have a much better chance of achieving that goal.

If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs. – Dhirubhai Ambani

Really, How Hard Is It To Get Exercise?

The Benefits of Exercise Are Clear.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few decades, there is ample evidence of its benefits on all 3 pillars – mind, body, and spirit.  Most of the benefits are received by the body, but there is also increasing research of positive effects on the mind and spirit as well.  If you need some refreshers, there’s plenty: Mayo Clinic, American Psychological Association, Healthy Living, Greatest among hundreds of articles.

So if there is so much anecdotal and scientific support for exercise, why do so many of us achieve so little of it?  What is stopping us from actually doing it?

Why Don’t We Do It Then

I believe there are a number of explainable reasons for this:

  • Typical lives today don’t incorporate any physical activity at all into their work environments
    • Think:  Do you sit in a cubicle for 8 hours a day?
  • Automation has made it easier to simply not move to accomplish something
    • Think:  Do you have to get up from the couch to change the TV channel?
  • People from a young age have significant entertainment that does not involve physicality
    • Think:  30 years ago, children played outside.  Today, they play Xbox.
  • As children have grown up without internalizing the benefits of physical exercise, they place less importance on it.

to name a few…

But here’s what not explainable:  The amount of ‘free’ time in the United States for the average person has increased by 10-25% over the past 50 years (see here).  So why do so many of us not prioritize a widespread and ubiquitous understanding that exercise is essential to maintaining our health?

Part of the reason is that it’s work now.  It wasn’t so much work decades ago.  It was your work.  And it was just part of what was required to accomplish your overall work objectives, much the same as typing on a keyboard might be part of accomplishing many objectives of today’s workers.  The problem is, exercising your fingers only goes so far!

Find The Right Reasons

Work for the sake of working is hardly satisfying.  So unless you are receiving something very important, and very instant from it (money), then few of us will make it a priority to do it.  And there’s the rub.  When medical advances, automation, and fewer physical job requirements all make exercise more work than anything else, it becomes more and more difficult to do it.

And yet it is crucial to your well-being to move.

So what do you do?  From my perspective, you do one of two things:

  • You build the discipline to exercise on a regular basis
  • You build exercise into recreation and the activities you enjoy

The latter is much easier to implement.  Find physical activities that are rewarding to you in any way.  Many people start simply:  Walk.  Yes, it’s pretty simple.  Walk.  Here’s a great article on incorporating your life into one that incorporates exercise.

The former is quicker to achieve, in my opinion.  You have to hit it.  You have to bring it.  And you have to see results immediately and realize quickly that moving your body is awesome!  There are some very simple things you can do in just a few minutes every day that will quickly lead to the state of can’t-go-without exercise.  It may vary depending on what makes you tick, but some of these activities will quickly elevate your well-being and lead to long-lasting exercise discipline:

Simple, Yet Effective

  • Do 5, then 10, then 20 pushups at one time every day for 30 straight days
  • Do 10, then 20, then 30 body squats (simply squat straight down) for 30 straight days
  • Do arm circles (arms straight out and creating circles with them) for 30, then 45, then 60 seconds – for 30 straight days
  • Dance for an entire song every day, then 2 a day, then 3 a day – for 30 straight days
  • Stretch during your evening TV viewing for at least 30 minutes – any stretching and whatever you feel you need at that time

These exercises take 5 minutes to start!  The benefits will be recognized immediately.  You’ll feel stronger within 2 days.  Do it for 30 days straight and you’ll be looking for more!  And when that happens, you won’t need to be reading articles about how to start, you’ll be reading articles about how to continue to expand this new part of your life.

It’s that simple.  5 minutes a day to start every day for 30 days.  Once you begin setting aside time in your day to move and you do this month after month, you’ll start incorporating movement into your recreational activities.

I’ve been moving for over 25 years.  These days if I don’t move, I am not happy.  I get grumpy, irritable, and tire easily.  That’s my mind, body, and soul telling me to get a move on!

Keep at it.  You’ll get there.

Keep Your Enemies Close

Know your enemy and know yourself and you will always be victorious. – Sun Tzu

  • Your enemy is not the competition
  • Your enemy is certainly not the customer
  • Your enemy is you

“What are you talking about Chris?”, you might be asking yourself.

Fight The Natural Tendency To Protect Yourself

Today I received a call from a friend of mine, my direct competitor in my business.  He informed me that one of my customers had asked him for a service quote and the customer accepted it.  My friend realized a short time later that it was my customer and withdrew the bid.  How can this be possible in the cutthroat business world we live in?  It’s called strong business ethics.

The ‘enemy’ I speak of was the belief I had when I started my companies (and sometimes still have to fight) in caring at all for my competition.  It was the belief that business should be conducted independent of any consideration of your competition with the exception of knowing their pricing and practices.  Over time, I realized some things:

  • Your competition is owned by a person – just likes you
  • Your competition is trying to support themselves, their families, and achieve their own dreams
  • There can be value in establishing a friendship with your competition
  • The pie is always much larger than you think

Prioritize Your Customer, Sometimes At Your Own Expense

The easiest way to achieve good relationships with your competition is to always think of the customer first!

One of the first customer service practices I established was to provide a referral to a competitor when we were too booked to perform the service ourselves.  This is win-win, all the way around.  The customer sees that you care for their well-being.  They understand you are willing to give business away for their own welfare.  And because of this, you have built trust.  Your competitor sees this is an olive branch.  You are extending your hand for a handshake.  And because of this, you have built trust.

In time, you may actually become friends with your competition, as I have.  I regularly talk to them about many different aspects of our businesses, our markets, and even pricing.  I don’t even have to play games with pretending to be a customer to get pricing!  Now how cool is that?

Even more cool are some unintended consequences:  We’ve established turf.  If our customers go to a friendly competitor and it’s purely a pricing issue, we don’t take our competitor’s customers.  As any good business person knows, nobody wins in a price war, especially small businesses.  If the customer has decided that they had a different customer service issue with their original service (not related to pricing), we take the business but then call our friendly competitor to tell them what happened.

Sounds crazy, right?  It isn’t if you think about it.

What is another consequence?

You can build pseudo-partnerships.  For example, there was a potential customer that required a very large amount of resources required to provide what they needed.  Independently, my friendly competitors and my own company could not solely provide the services required.  So, what did we do?  We teamed up and submitted a joint bid for the service.

You are probably saying, “Well that’s nice, but it wouldn’t work in my market.”  Maybe not.  It’s a little more complicated than that as corporations scale up in size.  For as corporations scale up, the ability to see that there are people in those organizations begins to diminish.  We tend to see large corporations as giant beasts rather than a sum of its employees.  And giant beasts will consume as much of the market it can.

And yet even at those levels this doesn’t change:  The enemy is not the competition.  The enemy is the force that compels corporate leaders and business owners to see their competition as the enemy rather than people.  The pie is almost always huge and there’s usually plenty to go around.  It doesn’t mean we aren’t competitive in our pricing, delivering high product value, and excellent customer service.  It’s just a shift in philosophy in this one area, and one that will return business success back to you tremendously in the long run.