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online-business-why-is-overrated-1I see lots of programs on finding your “why.” This means that you should figure out why you are in business, the deep-down real reason that motivates you.

The idea is that when you know why you’re doing something, you’ll have a deep motivation that drives you to action.

This is a big thing with coaches. It goes something like this.

Why are you in business?

To make more money.

Why do you want to make more money?

So I can improve my life.

Why do you want to improve your life? What would your ideal life look like?

I would be able to take more vacations. I’d be able to give my family the things they want. I could donate money to causes I believe in.

Why do you want those things?

To make my family happy, to make others happy, to make me happy.


Supposedly, when you “realize” this, you’ll be more successful.

Really? I don’t think so.

I know this is controversial.

I think we all know that we want money for the happiness it might bring — and by the way, money doesn’t bring happiness.

The insidious side of this


I’ve seen this type of reasoning used in a sales meeting or free consultation. The next thing that happens is the coach says, “I have a program that can do just what you want, show you how to make more money so you can make your family happy and yourself happy. Can I explain how it works?”

You’re supposed to be so inspired by this vision of your ideal life that you’ll agree to anything, even if you don’t know whether it will work or not. You might know nothing about the coach except what the testimonials say. But she got you to envision your dream life, so you’ll sign on.

It’s a marketing tactic.

Why I don’t buy it

Of course, knowing why you do something is important. It’s just that it’s usually pretty obvious. And knowing why you want a certain result won’t by itself help you get there. If you wanted it before and didn’t get there, why is now different?


Instruction, guidance, personal attention, and accountability will help. But not because you know now why you want something. They work because that’s what you need:

  • Instruction so you know what to do
  • Guidance so you have the right strategy
  • Personal attention so your plan is right for you
  • Accountability to keep you on track

In fact, they’ll work even if you don’t know why you want something. If you want it, that’s enough inspiration to take action.

Go ahead and figure out your “why” if you want to, but don’t expect it to bring you any miracles. Taking action with the proper guidance is what will work.

Find your “what” and your “how” to succeed

You do need to know WHAT you want to do, what you’re good at or like, and what there’s a market for. You need to know what you know so you can decide how you can help people and what your message is.


Then, you need to know HOW to succeed. What steps do you take? What technology do you use? What strategy do you follow? How do you describe what you do so others will respond?

I coach people who have knowledge and/or experience that can help others. I show them how to get their knowledge out into the world through powerful writing and speaking. I guide them through the technology and strategy of creating an online business so they can share their message with the world and turn it into an online business.

We do spend time on the message, the target market (who you can help), and what their problem is. We don’t spend time on the “why.”

If this resonates with you, check out my Reach the Stars Club membership program here.

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    18 replies to "Finding your “why” is overrated"

    • Brenda Trott

      I agree with you. The “why” is rarely a motivation, and Ive seen it often dig into people’s subconscious i. A negative way. It makes them look at something they dont yet have instead of forward to the next step.

    • Jennie Vee

      Oh my gosh! This resonates well with me! I know it’s important to know the reason why we do things, but no matter how hard I try, it always boils down to “I just want to have more than enough money so I can support my lifestyle and my family.” Helping others along the way in whatever little or big way I can is the bonus. Maybe that’s why when I was younger, I easily fell prey to marketing tactics you mentioned. Whatever got me the money, I did it like doing various multilevel marketing schemes.

      When you said “Find your “what” and your “how” to succeed”, I honestly got goosebumps. For years, I’ve been wanting to make a living sharing my knowledge, skills, and experiences as a virtual assistant. It’s like all these ideas are in my head. I know I could help a lot of people especially now that the world is going home-based because of this pandemic, but it’s the steps, the strategy, the “how” that I have yet to really have the time to dig deep into, do some research, sit down, focus, and write my plan of action. They’re just always on my to-do list. I guess it’s time to start ticking off that list sooner rather than later.

    • Hanz

      It’s good to know that “finding the why” is overrated because until now I still don’t know what my why is. But I know what I have, I just need the guidance to know what to do in order to make what I want succeed.

    • Tuz

      It’s sometimes difficult to know what I have that I can offer the world and make a living out of it. I know I have it in me, but how do I unearth what it truly is?

    • Ellen Finkelstein

      Brenda, it works as a sales technique, but not as a way to move forward, as you say.

    • Ellen Finkelstein

      Jennie, glad this resonated with you! Please, take some steps to share your knowledge! Yes, write that plan of action! Set a deadline and put some time on your calendar for it. Wishing you success!

    • Ellen Finkelstein

      Tuz, here are some links:
      All my posts on “Deciding what business to do”
      “What should I do?” this is one of my first blog posts!

    • Connie Ragen Green

      I must respectfully disagree. My own ‘why’ gave me the motivation to leave a career that was killing me and inspired me to do more with my life. I now work with people who, once they’ve identified why they want to become authors or entrepreneurs are willing to take action and change their lives.

    • Ellen Finkelstein

      Connie, I do think we need to think about why we’re doing what we’re doing, especially if it isn’t what we want to be doing. But I don’t think this going deeper and deeper does much. If your career was killing you, that’s a simple why. You didn’t like it and that was why you needed to make a change. And I think that most authors and entrepreneurs know why they want to do what they want to do pretty instinctively, so going through a process to find their “why” won’t give them much. They are inspired already and now they need the “what” and the “how” which you give them so well.

    • […] Sometimes this is referred to as finding your “why” and even entrepreneurs differ in their beliefs on this topic. My colleague and co-author Ellen Finkelstein has published an article sharing her views on why she believes Finding Your Why is Overrated. […]

    • Martha Legare

      Ellen, you are misinterpreting the “Find Your Why.” Assuming you are referring to the book of the same name by Simon Sinek, the example you use is NOT what he is saying at all. Your “coaching” example is using “why” as one would use it in root cause analysis – a tool great for problem-solving (especially defect analysis), not this. Sinek’s “Start with Why” (his original book) identifies what organizations and individual’s deeper purpose is – and it’s never to be happy or wealthy or successful. It’s a deep, intuitive, and self-disclosing look at one’s core motivation in life. Read his book – and maybe get to know some better coaches 😉. Best wishes.

    • Martha Legare

      PS – Rather than read the book, you could watch Sinek’s TED Talk – much faster:

    • Roger Revell

      As someone else has posted, I think we often discover our “why” when in motion. The feedback we receive while moving ahead confirms or does not confirm our direction. My first career “why” was unconscious, and that lasted thirteen years. My next was conscious and very intentional; it propelled me for decades. I have had at least one client who missed many of life’s opportunities while ruminating about his “why.” Important concept, and useful.

    • Ellen Finkelstein

      Roger, it’s always good to be conscious about why you’re doing anything. We shouldn’t go through life just following the direction others have set for us. Maybe I overestimate how conscious people are, but my reason for doing things has always been pretty obvious to me. I question my life automatically, I guess.

    • Ellen Finkelstein

      Thanks, I’ll look at it.

    • Sonia

      Why do I have to have a huge bodacious “why”? I agree “what” and “how” gets me going in a more productive way.

    • Ellen Finkelstein

      Martha, I listened to the entire TED talk and I don’t think Simon Sinek is talking about the same thing. Most of the time, he’s talking about selling a product, which actually bolsters my point. His example is how Apple sells its phones. He’s not talking about an individual finding their own “why.” The only closer example is the Wright Brothers. He says, “The difference was, Orville and Wilbur were driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief. They believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it’ll change the course of the world.”

      But I didn’t say you shouldn’t have a purpose or know why you’re doing things. Just that most of us already know what that is, instinctively. So the exercise of “finding your why” will usually result in getting you to the same place you already were. And it shouldn’t be the basis for a buying decision. Imagine if you went into an Apple store and said you wanted a computer. They asked, “Why?” And you’d get deep down to the fact that it will help you meet some important goals of yours. (You already knew that.) And then they said, “We have just the right computer for you. It’s a ‘meet your goals’ computer.” Not the way to make your decision about which computer to buy!

      Simon Sinek’s book is again mostly about selling. On Amazon’s page for his book, it says, “In 2009 Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work and, in turn, inspire their colleagues and customers.” Yes, a company needs a compelling story. That’s different from you as an individual finding your “why.”

    • Kit

      I agree with a lot of what you said Ellen. Most of us know our basic why and then as we take action and grow our why deepens as we see and believe we can do so much more to impact others. It’s too easy to waste time “contemplating our navels” and trying to discover a huge why and never move forward.

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