Last night I had a brilliant hangout with one of my all time favorite people, mentors and idols, Wayne Rickard. We met for beers at the La Jolla Karl Strauss. We first met way back in 1998 when i started my first tech startup Centripetal to do the first ever Storage as a Service (the original SaaS sorry guys) in a partnership with Level 3 Communications. I met Wayne at one of the many storage world events I attended. Wayne was one of the early founders of Gadzoox the people who invested fibre channel.
Fast forward a year and I gave up my startup and left San Diego and moved to the Bay Area to join Gadzoox pretty much because I was so impressed with Wayne that I wanted to be on a team where he was. It was an amazing, glorious life changing time. The glory days of storage and SAN.
One of the impressive things about Wayne is his incredibly open mind. Not the “open mind’ political pundits love to romance about, but the actual open mind where solutions to problems are more important than the problem itself. Wayne has the track record to prove his chops and has made the money, gotten the results and changed the world.
I have always been a fervent student of the most important question you can ask:
No other question matters anywhere near as much. Many questions, but certainly not all, have value. No other foundational question has the equity and kinetic power of asking why. You can definitively answer the questions of how, what, where and when and still fail completely. (you also might succeed based on pure, blind luck.
If you successfully answer the question of WHY you are doing something then the rest of the answers fall much more easily into place. Wayne is a master of asking why. He is also a master of nailing the other four core questions. But at the very core of Wayne’s power is the question why. He asks it until the real answer comes. Then he asks it over and over to confirm that the reason we are doing all that we are doing is the right reason.
You can execute your plan to tactical perfection and hit every KPI in your book. And still fail utterly to accomplish your objective. Why gives you the objective for the effort. If you don’t know why you are doing things you will pretty likely not accomplish the goal you seek. (Since you don’t know why you are executing and therefore don’t know what you are trying to accomplish)
I am obsessed with asking why. Some times people see it as a rebel move and get pissed. The smart ones see it as the only question worth waiting for the answer to and dig in to find the answer.
Why do you do what you do? Answer that and you are most of the way there.