I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that 90% of you are parents, so when I just said that “Why?” is the most important question you’ll answer in your life, you’re probably thinking – “Real funny there, DDW. I just answered that question from my four-year old 15 times prior to 9:00 AM, and all he wanted to know is why he can’t eat Jolly Ranchers for breakfast. You better come with something good in the next ten seconds or else I’m going to bring him over to your house to pee on your keyboard.”
Fair enough. Let me clarify.
In theory, “Why?” is not a very important question. It only becomes important when you start asking it of yourself.
I’m sure you’ve read my Achieving Happy post by now, so I won’t recap it here. However, I have ten steps to Achieving Happy and I only listed nine of them in that entry because the point about asking “Why?” has so many layers to it that it needed it’s own separate post.
To give you some background on how I learned about this question, I had the following conversation with my dad back in 2001 – a few months prior to the 9/11 flight.
Me: “I don’t get the meaning of life. Are we just supposed to find a way to survive until we die? That doesn’t sound like fun to me.”
Dad: “Well, have you figured out your Why yet?”
Dad: “Your Why, son. What’s your Why?”
Me: “Dad, repeating it isn’t going to make any more sense to me.”
Dad: “What I’m asking is what’s your reason for wanting to be successful in life? What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? What’s your Why?”
Me: “I have no idea.”
Dad: “Well, you should take the time to figure it out, because in order to experience meaningful success in anything – you need to know your Why. Most importantly, nobody can answer that question except for you.”
At the time, I rolled my eyes and walked away because I was a punk and I “knew” how the world worked (even though I had absolutely no clue). After my flirtation with death on 9/11, I remembered my dad’s question clearly and was determined to find
the my answer.
I knew that I wanted to Achieve Happy, but I needed to give thought as to why I wanted to Achieve Happy. You’d think it was a simple answer, but it wasn’t. Was my Why to be the richest guy in town? No. Don’t get it twisted, money is a very good thing – but it wasn’t my Why. As a matter of fact, I’ve learned that money is the absolutely worst Why a person can have (I could write a separate post on that point alone, but I’ll just leave it at that). Was it to be famous? Nope. Fame is fleeting…I wanted something that would last forever. After weeks of soul searching, I finally figured it out:
To add value and positively impact the lives of as many people as possible.
That doesn’t mean that I have to be Mother Theresa. I can achieve this by simply smiling and saying hello to strangers, by making people laugh, by inspiring people through my writing, and by treating others the way that I would want to be treated. In other words, I can achieve this by being a good guy who refuses to be an asshole.
I learned that what I do isn’t that important. I also learned that how I do it isn’t all that important, either.
Why I do things is the core of who I am as human being.
Determining my Why was the missing ingredient to Achieving Happy, because unless you clearly know why you’re doing something, you’ll never truly get the results you’re looking for. So on the mornings when I’m exhausted at 4:00 AM and the last thing I want to do is hop in the car and drive to the gym, I remember my Why – because I can’t add value and positively impact the lives of others if I’m not healthy. When I cook dinner for my exhausted wife, I remember my Why. She’s my life partner and she’s definitely included on the list of people who I want to add value to and positively impact. When Daughter Doin’ Work runs up to me and gives me a big hug when I return home after a long day at the office, I remember my Why. My little girl is my reason for living and her smiles are worth more than anything money can buy. When I receive emails from my beloved RDWs (Readers Doin’ Work) telling me how my writing makes them laugh or gives them hope, I know that I chose a great Why as well.
I love my Why.
My Why is absolutely perfect, it keeps me in check, and it’s an integral part of who I am today. The Daddy Doin’ Work blog would not exist without my Why.
Figuring out your Why for life is extremely important, but I realized that I also had to figure out my Why for other things, such as, “Why do I want to be a dad?” I knew that if I didn’t come up with a good answer, I wasn’t ready to be one. Speaking of which, let’s go into the Way-Back Machine for a minute. Do any of you remember the Jenny Jones daytime talk show? (Stop lying. I know you remember it.) I’ll never forget when Jenny asked a group of pregnant teenage girls, “Why do you want to be mom?” and their answers were, um…interesting:
“It’s just like having a dog, and I love my dog.”
“I’m lonely and my son will be a good friend.”
“I know it will be a lot of work, but that’s what my parents are for. I’ll get to play with my daughter when she’s cute and fun – not when she’s sick or needs a bath.”
Of course when Jenny followed up with these girls after they gave birth, all of them were one poopy diaper away from a nervous breakdown and they each complained about how hard it is to raise a child.
That’s because their Whys sucked.
My parenting Why was straightforward: I was ready to love a baby unconditionally. I was ready for the sleepless nights. I was ready for the challenges that accompany parenthood. I was ready to teach a young soul how to do right in this crazy world. Simply put, I was ready.
Think back to when you decided you were ready to have children. I’m sure you and your significant other discussed why you were ready, right? I mean, raising a kid tops the list of important duties you’ll have in your lifetime, so if you were going to have an in-depth conversation about any topic – it would be that. Also, if you’re a reasonable adult (and not a knucklehead teenage girl on a talk show), I’m sure your Why was a very good one. The problem is that many of us don’t ask “Why?” to some of life’s other issues. For example, here are a few questions that some of us need to ask ourselves but don’t.
Why am I still in this relationship if I’m so unhappy? Unfortunately I know a ton of people who are unhappy in their relationships, but they never ask themselves this question. If they do, it’s usually followed by some lame answer like, “I can’t afford to leave,” or “He/she isn’t so bad…maybe I’m the one at fault,” or “As long as he/she doesn’t do ‘insert borderline felonious act here’ everything is great.” Here’s a Why question: Why settle? All I know is that road of life is a long and bumpy one, and I would want no part of this trip if the person riding shotgun with me is a person I can’t stand.
A friend of mine dealt with this recently. He married a woman who said that she wanted to have kids (something that my friend desperately wanted), and six months after their wedding, she said that she would never have children due to the fact that she “doesn’t want to put anyone’s needs ahead of her own.” Because of that bait & switch, my friend had no answer to this Why question – and after a couple of months of counseling, he filed for divorce. Life is too precious to spend it with people/things you aren’t compatible with (spouses, friends, jobs, etc.) If you come up empty when you ask yourself this Why question, then it’s time to get serious and take some action. Don’t be afraid, either. The Universe always takes care of people who take care of themselves.
Why am I so miserable? Just because I Achieved Happy doesn’t mean that I don’t have my bad days, because I do (actually, I’ve had a few really bad days recently). When I get really sad, I realize that there are people who have rebounded from heartache and are really happy – and it prompts me to snap out of it quickly. It could be the double-amputee who competed in the Olympics, or a mother of an autistic child who becomes a vigilant fundraiser for autism research. They made a decision to take control of their lives by adding value and positively impacting the lives of as many people as possible, and that’s exactly what they’re doing right now. I’ve come across so many unhappy people who accept their misery and never ask themselves this very important question. Once you isolate the source of your unhappiness, it becomes a lot easier to eliminate it. As parents, we have to remember that kids are extremely perceptive and our moods can affect their well-being too. They deserve better and so do you.
Why do I let people treat me like shit? I don’t know. Why do you? You can only be a doormat if you let yourself lie on the floor. Get your ass up and quit being a punk. Being softer than a penis in a geriatric whore house isn’t going to get you anywhere in life. If you’re not going to stand up for yourself, who will?
Sorry for the venting here, but four separate people asked me this question in the past week and I might roundhouse kick the next person who does it. Someone please file this in the “Tough Love” category, and let’s move on, shall we?
Why do I keep thinking there’s more to life than what I’m currently experiencing? Probably because there is. One of my very good friends here in Los Angeles is a doctor and she truly enjoys her job – but she always had a nagging desire to experience something else as well. She was always excellent at photography, but she never really pursued it until relatively recently. Fast-forward to today and she’s photographed a ton of weddings and portraits, and is easily the best photographer I’ve ever come across. Once she knew her Why, her life changed for the better by merging her two passions (medicine and photography) in a way that enhances her existence.
Again, what you do isn’t nearly as important as why you do it. It’s essential to spend time doing the things that you love. Trust me, you’ll become much happier once you do. It seems like obvious advice, but you’d be surprised to know how many people don’t follow it.
Speaking of spending time doing things that I love – I’ve experienced some success with my Daddy Doin’ Work blog, and before I understood the concept of Why, I would’ve found it totally confusing. I mean, why are so many people interested in a black guy with a daughter? Now that I understand the concept of Why, I know that none of you are here for me. I repeat, none of you are here for me. You’re here because of my Why. The topics I write about add value and positively impact your life. Think about it – my RDWs represent all races and religions, you’re liberal and conservative, you’re male and female, and you’re from literally all over the globe – how the hell did I get such a diverse group of people to support me?
Probably because you don’t support me - you support my Why. I’m not saying that you don’t like me personally, because I’m sure you do – but my mission statement resonates with you and that’s the primary reason why you keep coming back here and to my Facebook page every day.
In other words this blog about you, and that’s exactly the way I like it.
In closing, if you do anything today, ask yourself, “What’s my Why?” I shared mine with you, and I hope that you discover yours as well.
Your Why is what will get you through the toughest of days as parent.
Your Why is a constant reminder to keep grinding and hustling, even when you want to quit.
Your Why is a constant reminder to never settle and to never half-ass anything.
Your Why is a constant reminder to make “Hope” and “Happy” your first selections when choosing teams in the playground game of Life.
Your Why is a constant reminder to always chase your dreams. Always.
Find your Why, celebrate your Why, and share your Why with anyone who will listen because that is what will drive you to be the best spouse, parent, and person you can possibly be.
Most importantly, it will make you Happy – and you don’t need me to tell you why that’s important.