Why Our Favorite Questions Keep Us On The Treadmill

The Four Short-term Q’s

There are six basic questions we ask in business, but we only love the first four. We ask those four all the time. We’re consumed with them:

What – What do we sell?
Who – Who do we sell it to? (or for English majors – to whom do we sell it?)
How – How do we market it?
Where – Where do we sell it?
…or other versions of the four.

We use those four questions to create, innovate, clarify, repeat the same activity every day, stall and do nothing, pay the mortgage, and in general, to run our business.

The Four Treadmill Questions
But there is something inherently wrong with these four questions – they will never get us off the treadmill. Why? Because they are most often used to help us make money right now, and anything that focuses us on making money NOW is likely to keep us on the treadmill and make it harder to build a business down the road that makes money when we’re not around. These four questions help us a lot in the short-term, but very little or not at all in the long-term.

Why, “Why”? And When, “When”?
There are two other questions that we don’t like so much, but are a lot more helpful to growing a business in the long term:

When – The Second Least Asked, Second Most Important Question in Business
When should be asked every time you asked the first four – “When” will you… →figure out “what” to sell, “who” you sell it to, “how” you will market it, “where” you will sell it?, etc. We don’t like “when” because it holds us accountable, creates metrics that demonstrate clearly how we’re doing, and makes us work when we feel like goofing off (“sorry, got a deadline, need to keep going”).

Why – The Least Asked, Most Important Question in Business
We don’t like why at all. We don’t know how to ask it, it’s too fuzzy, it takes a lot of energy to answer, but most importantly, it doesn’t seem to make us much money right NOW. But “why” is the question that is most likely to build a business LATER that makes money when we’re not around. And the best way to build a business LATER is to ask “Why” NOW with every one of the other five questions, including “When”. (When will I do it? Why then?)

Three Whys to Every Other Question
Want to get off the treadmill? Any time you ask what, who, how, where and even when, ask why. The best habit would be to ask at least two to three “whys” to every other question. (What do I sell? Why do I sell it? Why not sell x instead?)

If you only ask the first four questions, you are likely to only make enough money to pay your mortgage. If you ask the last two, “when” and “why”, every time you ask the others, you are likely to build a business a real that makes money when you’re not around.

Get off the treadmill. Ask when and why all the time.

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