Hi, I’m Andrei, the human behind this issue of Upstairs. Leadership trainer and consultant for the past six years, various technical and management positions in software companies before that.
The purpose, the core idea, the reason to do anything. The Why as the generator of motivation, as the thing that brings teams together. Why are we doing this? What is our core purpose? What is our mission?
There’s a lot of why at the personal level too. Why should I do this? Why should I not do that? Why is this good for me? Why don’t I like this? Etc.
Exploring the why is useful, I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but today I want to talk about over-exploring the why. Overengineering the why.
This is a trap that I’ve fallen into many times, and I’ve had to learn to actively stay away from it.
It usually goes like this: I wake up one day, and I feel like I’m doing too many things, I’m too spread around, I don’t have enough focus, I’m wasting my energy. I say to myself, “I need to organize and prioritize.” I start making lists, objectives, and trying to figure out my priorities. I take every project, every idea, every thing that I do, and I ask myself: Why?
Why am I doing this?
Why should I continue doing this?
Why is this important to me?
Why should I take precious time out of my day to go into the city and take pictures of the streets? What does that really do for me?
Why should I take my tent and go camping in the forest for a couple of days? Yes, it’s nice, but could I use that time for something more productive?
Why should I play Starcraft 2? Is a video game going to help me get better at anything?
Why should I try to restart writing literature, as I used to as a student? What is that going to be useful for?
All these examples, and others, are real examples from my life that would never stand the test of “Why.” There is no logical, reasonable “Why” that would justify investing in these activities. There’s no “business” case I can make for any of them. They aren’t my profession, they aren’t going to be more than, at best, passions or hobbies. I’m not going to be “the best” at them.
These, for me, are not the kind of things that I will focus on to the degree that I can hope to become relevant in those fields or to influence anyone else.
Many times, I’ve stopped or cut these things down, or I had that voice in the back of my head as I was doing them, feeling bad that I’m not being “serious enough,” telling myself that I’m wasting my time. I’m just playing. What are you doing in this abandoned train yard, wasting four hours of your life going through deserted train carriages? You could have written a new newsletter at this time, or thought about a new training.
That is paralysis in the why analysis, and I don’t like it anymore, and I’ve come to a point where I’ve learned to take it easy on The Why. Not ignore it completely, but chill a bit with it.
I’ve come to consider that this exaggerated focus on The Why is bad. It sounds inspiring when you think about it, even the word itself, “Why,” sounds deep, but it can easily get to be the exact opposite. A limiting, accounting-like perspective on what you should be doing or not doing. You don’t want to organize your creativity and passion like a ledger.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t have to justify everything to myself by having a clear and reasonable Why. I can just do things because I like them. Because I feel like it. Because they’re interesting. Because Why Not?
That’s where my creativity comes from, and that’s where I push my limits. I’ve learned to take it easy on The Why.
Contributors of this story: Andrei Postolache wrote this gem, Oana Filip provided feedback and edited it, Andrei Ungurianu put it all together, George Olaru designed it, Răzvan Onofrei was in charge of the development.
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