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Asking “Why?” Breeds Excuses!


“Ours is not to reason why.

  Ours is but to do or die!”

(source unknown, but help me out please if you know it)


     What makes this such a powerful one-two-punch thought is that it is based on the fact that anytime we ask “Why?” we are setting ourselves up for inaction.  We are investing ourselves in maintaining the status quo.  We are committing ourselves to going nowhere. We are on the road to over-analyzing!

     How is that possible?  Scientists are always asking “Why?” things do what they do, or “Why?” things are the way that they are, and their analytical pursuits end up helping all of us . . . hardly the stuff of status quo!  And what about accountants and history teachers?  They earn their livings by questioning “Why?”  And doctors need to check medical histories in order to . . .


Asking “Why?” Breeds Excuses! 



     Imagine the range of answers to the question, “WHY were you late to work?”  Are any of those answers NOT a “reason” or “excuse”?  Now imagine the answers to instead asking, “By the end of the day, can you please give me–in writing– three ways that explain HOW you will prevent yourself from being late to work?” 

     Excuses (aka reasons)are responses we give out of laziness, ignorance, lack of self-discipline, lack of sense of reality, or when we seek to rationalize or explain something (like history teachers, archaeologists, sociologists, and accountants whose careers revolve around analyzing the past).

     Oh, and –by the way– the same do-nothing mindset infiltrates the entire vocation of self-proclaimed “SEO Specialists” and “Sales Conversion Specialists” who seem more often than not to simply be experts at smoke-and-mirroring you into a corner.  They LOVE when you ask “Why?”  Guess (ahem) “Why?”  They salivate at the thought of dragging unwitting non-geeks into their dark and mysterious corners of overkill analysis, and charging higher rates the darker it gets! 

     The bigger the organization asking, the more valuable the SEO and sales conversion answers pretend to be, and the results?  Well, the results in big-company cases are both more expensive to obtain AND more readily offered as justification for changes that should have been made on the fly, months or years ago without all the “Why?” questioning in the first place.

     In entrepreneurship training

and coaching, we call it

   “getting tangled up in your underwear.” 

(Not exactly a flattering image!)


     BUT it is this very point that in fact distinguishes entrepreneurs from the rest of the business world.  A genuine entrepreneur will not typically care about “Why” something is the way it is as much as taking trial and error steps immediately to do something about it.  True entrepreneurs believe in themselves!  “Don’t analyze the thing to death; you think too much!” you’ll often hear an entrepreneur say.

     An outstanding American business leader I knew in my second full time job always said that he didn’t ever want to hear problem-centered discussions about who did what to whom or when or why, that he was only interested in the solution, and that there was no better way to find the right solution than to try out what you believe to be right, and keep trying and acting on it over and over. 

     In retrospect, my guy must have been listening to Thomas Edison who disavowed public mockery of his 9,999 failed attempts to invent the lightbulb by simply explaining the attempts as 9,999 discoveries of ways that could be eliminated in his quest.      

     Passive minds do nothingAnalytical minds exhaust themselves in circles of reasons, rationales, and excuses.  Active minds get things done

     Any entrepreneur will tell you that some action is always better than no action, and that the only way to move forward is to move, to act on gut instinct and limited knowledge . . . because, in the end:

Instinct and limited knowledge

     are all we ever have anyway.    


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One comment so far


  1. Hal Alpiar’s Blog » INSTINCTon 01 Feb 2011 at 11:45 pm

    […] “Good heavens, man!” most town, county, state, and federal employees, and most low-tech, no-tech, and medium-tech corporate suits would exclaim, when challenged to get to the point without analyzing stuff to death. […]

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