The Answer to Why is ‘WHY not?’

“The Answer to How is YES”

Peter Block


This post is inspired by Dan Dominguez of WHY.OS Institute.  Recently I was certified in the WHY.os process and have started using it with educators and business leaders that I coach.  Dan hosts a podcast called “WHY Not Wednesdays.”  So, a possible answer to the question ‘why’ might be ‘why not?’

Peter Block (2002) wrote the book referenced above. I have learned a great deal over the years from Peter.  His reframing of the question from ‘how’ to what do you say ‘yes’ to?, has been helpful in my coaching.

The last two podcasts by Dan have caused me to do a great deal of reflection. Michelle McGlade promoted the idea of uncovering your own magic.  When we are committed to an idea or project occasionally, we second guess ourselves, is this the right thing to do?  If the results are not what we want, WHY NOT try something else? Creative solutions can remain unused if we ignore possibilities.  Michelle posited the ‘intuitive hit’ we experience when a new approach feels right.  Yes, the “AHA” moment. Don’t ignore the internal creation of solutions.  Not everything comes from external sources. Angeles Arrien said, “Show Up and Be Fully Present.”  And “Be Open to Outcome, not Attached to How to Get There.”  There are normally unintended consequences and, as my friend Michael Grinder says, “Recovery is more important than Perfection.”

Last week’s podcast hosted Steph McFee. Steph emphasized WHY not try something.  An alternative or a counterintuitive idea might be the answer to a problem.  Life is a puzzle. Learn to solve puzzles fast.  See the problem and bring a solution to solve it.  The more repertoire a coach has to help create solutions, the more possibilities there are to solve problems.  With repertoire, if a solution doesn’t work, we can try something else. McFee focused on using the WHY Institute process to provide clarity about who you are and being aligned to ourselves and our organizations.

Continuing with the theme of WHY NOT, the research I read of people at the end of their lives is as follows.  What do people regret most?  Three things:

  1. I did not live my life of dreams.
  2. I did not share my love.
  3. I did not forgive.

WHY NOT? Here are some thoughts to apply to those regrets.

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”   Albert Einstein

  1. What is your WHY? What excites you?  What energizes you? What do you like to do?  Why are you delaying having fun? What would you do if there were no constraints?
  2. Angeles Arrien said, ‘the greatest remorse is love unexpressed.’ Who or what are you grateful for?  Have you told the person? Have you counted your blessing?
  3. What grudges are you still carrying around? That is a heavy burden. As Marshall Goldsmith says, ‘let it go.’ How much mental energy are you wasting letting grudges living free in your head?  Peter Block once said, and I paraphrase, ‘after you have told your story three times, let it go. It no longer will serve you.’

Two books I have pre-ordered to learn more are:

  1. The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward by Daniel Pink
  2. Earned Life: Lose Regrets, Choose Fulfillment by Marshall Goldsmith

What are you waiting for?  WHY NOT?

A quote: “S.T.O.P. = Start To Open Possibilities” ― Richie Norton

Richard Sheridan, CEO, Menlo Innovations expressed a “HOW’ for your WHY.  Rich says, “Run the Experiment.”  When someone comes up with an idea that might be better than what the individual or company is currently doing, TRY IT.  Run the Experiment and see if the new way works.

I will add one more step – the ‘Reverse Las Vegas Effect.’  Las Vegas is popular for saying what goes on here, stays here.  My thought is the reverse.  If the new way works, tell everybody.  If the new way doesn’t work, tell everybody.  Why would we keep information from other people?  If it works, let’s do more of it.  If it doesn’t work, let’s not do that anymore.  As Sheridan says, ‘fear doesn’t make bad news go away, it makes it go into hiding.’  YIKES.

Peter Drucker suggested we have a ‘To Don’t’ List.  Our “To Do” list continues to grow.  What are you doing that can delegated, eliminated, or merged with other priorities?  Is what you are doing in alignment with your “WHY?”  WHY NOT?

“What Gets You Up?  It’s 8:00 am.  Do You Know Where Your Inspiration is?”  This post was written by Sally Helgesen, an expert on women’s leadership and leadership in general.  If you haven’t read her work, I strongly suggest ‘How Women Rise’ which she co-authored with Marshall Goldsmith.   I learned a great deal from her books and articles.  Her post reminded me of my WHY. I also suggest signing up on her website for great posts. What keeps me up at night is how can I contribute.

My WHY is be a contributor.  Knowing that has helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin.  If I am not contributing to my own learning and the learning of others, I am not at my best.  My HOW is challenge.  I challenge things that are not working or violate my values.  My WHAT is I want to find a better way to doing things.  OK, my fourth is TRUST.  I like to work with people I can trust, and they can trust me.

So, people will ask, ‘what do you want?’  Below is a possible answer.

The following quote seems appropriate here.  “Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”                  By Florence Ondré

I don’t buy green bananas.  Another important reminder for me is from Angeles Arrien is: “If your job is waking up the dead, GET UP, TODAY IS A WORKDAY.”

The works of Marshall Goldsmith have been very valuable to my learning.  His book ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’ initiated a spark and has been helpful in answering the question, ‘what next?’  This is where creativity and WHY NOT intersect.  How many times do we keep doing what we always do, expecting different results?  Yes, that is insanity.  The environment changes and some solutions must change.  There are always disruptors in life.

When the landscape changes, ask those who are closest to the issue for suggestions.  Frank Wagner (2015) in his book on The Power of Total Commitment quotes Mark Twain:” Anyone who has had a bull by the tail knows five or six things more than someone who hasn’t.”    WHY NOT ask those who are doing the work?  They probably have the best perspective of the problem.                            

FeedForward is a term coined by Marshall Goldsmith.  We can learn from the past but can’t change the past.  We do the work in the present.  We do have some control and can plan for a different future.  WHY NOT focus on FeedForward to get a different outcome?  Many times, in coaching, the client remember the past, is having feelings about what happened in the present, and projects the negative feelings to the future.  Research confirms bad is remembered stronger than good.  So, WHY NOT focus on the future, what we can control.  Many people have been quoted – ‘if you always do what you did, you always get what you got.’

The Heath Brothers, Chip and Daniel (2017) wrote The Power of Moments.  The book is full of examples of extraordinary service or products.  It occurs to me that we focus too much on ROI, return on investment.  I am an educator, not an accountant, and know ROI is important.  WHY NOT focus on ROX for a change.  ‘Return on Experience’ is what will get repeat customers, build brand loyalty, and increases trust.  WHY NOT begin creating the ROX for businesses, schools, and non-profits.  That is what the Heath Brothers book is about.  The examples are well worth the read.

I will close with a quote and short story.  The quote what I learned from Peter Block is: “What question, if I had the answer to would set me free?”  I use the stem to engage, enhance, and extend a person’s thinking.  ‘What question if you had the answer to…..’ (fill in the blank)

The Story is from the Trainer’s Companion (2004):


An Autobiography in Five Chapters by Portia Nelson

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in. I am lost …

I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there. I still fall in …

it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.


Why NOT Walk Down Another Street?


Block, P. (2002). The answer to how is yes.  San Francisco:  Berrett-Koehler.

Goldsmith, M. (2007). What got you here won’t get you there.  New York: Hyperion

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2017). The Power of Moments.  New York:  Simon & Schuster

Olsen, Walter & Sommers, William. (2004).  Trainer’s Companion. Baytown, TX:  AHAProcess, Inc.

Sheridan, Richard. (2018). Chief Joy Officer.  New York: Portfolio/Penguin

Sinek, Simon. (2009). Start with Why.  New York:  Penguin.

Wagner, Frank. (2015). The Power of Total Commitment.  SCC Marshall Goldsmith.



Shift Happens. If you don't adopt New Rules, drop the "f" in Shift!