This week I was challenged by a very good friend and colleague. He was complimentary of the work I do with startups and young entrepreneurs, but he seriously asked me why I did it. Having an answer for everything, I started rambling about how they needed help, it is good for our community, I enjoy the challenge, I like to share, blah blah blah.

My friend shut me down “Whoa cowboy, I’m not asking the kind of casual ‘why are you in business’, or the ‘why don’t you retire’, but the dig down deep inside brain massaging demon dwelling question of why do you exist? What are you here for?”

Hmmm… that is a tough one. So I took a couple days and started thinking back through my motivators. Once upon a time, I thought there were only three true motivators: fame, recognition, and love. Of course, a doctor of psychology friend of mine over dinner one night politely pointed out at least 27 motivators I missed. The lecture was painful.

But let’s stick with my three for today. Fame, recognition and love. Some entrepreneurs are certainly going for the fame. Getting their name in lights. Recognition is a desire to capture some sort of self-worth. A need to have people acknowledge intelligence, or hard work, or some other ideal a person is striving to be the best at. For instance, a top sales person may not actually be motivated by money, but instead motivated by recognition. He/she wants the big pay check to buy a Lamborghini super car, so peers and neighbors will recognize him or her as a superior sales person.

Now love is the most interesting to try to explain. Remember our father’s advice to find a job we love and we will never work a day in our life? Well, that is hogwash in my opinion. Sorry Dad. I love taking a nap on the couch on Sunday after church with the sun warming the room through the window and the sound of Phil Mickelson winning another Master’s on the television. But I decided I could not put my Dad’s grandkids through college with a sweet couch gig.

Perhaps what my Dad meant was to find a cause we believed in and pursue a career which supports that cause? If you love the environment, start a recycling center. Go around to schools and talk to kids about the importance of recycling, so a generation later when those kids grow up, they will all have blue plastic tubs in their garages full of empty gluten free beer cans.

Back to my friend and his challenging question I was sort of avoiding. What is my “Why”?

After hours of sorting through all my old personal vision statements, core values worksheets, and “the folder” of post it notes and coffee napkins, here is the resulting “What is My Why”;

By helping startups, entrepreneurs and emerging leaders I strive to;
– Respect those who have led, coached and mentored me over the years,
– Honor my family and friends for their sacrifices along the way,
– Inspire my kids to be all they can be on their own journeys,
– Positively share the experiences and resources entrusted to me,
– Promote ethical business practices in a challenging world,
– Encourage others to push through to achieve their dreams, in their own way.

I also strive to learn and keep learning. Being around startups, entrepreneurs and emerging leaders is both motivational and educational.

Bottom line, if there is something of value in my failures and successes, I want others to have that knowledge so they can move forward faster and easier.

This exercise was challenging, but it should be the first step in any new venture. It will be a longer harder road if you don’t know or can’t articulate why you are on the road to start with.

Get your business off on the right foot by answering the question; what is YOUR “why”?


Photo credit to Optimal Performance