My husband recently started a podcast named “Why You: Short Stories”, a play on words of his company name, Y-U Financial. The focus of this podcast is to interview people weekly who are passionate about what they do. Although his passion lies in insurance, he hosts people in various industries to help him and his listeners better understand what passion looks like to them and the advantages and disadvantages they have faced along the way. I was completely blown away when he pitched the idea to me because I was impressed by how he was able to combine both of his passions: sound & insurance to start a podcast with purpose. As I listened to his first episode and began to reflect on his thoughts on the insurance industry, (click here to learn more about how they are using insurance beyond its ‘typical’ scope) I began to ask myself “Why you?” It is a question that every person asks before they try a new product or service: Why you? Why should I pick you over the next person? This brilliant query had my head spinning, but I finally have some thoughts to share.
There are two words we must first examine to really dive into the question “Why you?” First, the word passion. Passion is simply defined as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept. Second, we have the word competition. To compete is to strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others who are trying to do the same. I like to have a clear, general understanding of words before I use them, and these two words are used profusely in the personal and business space.
People will tell you to focus your energy and “free time” on the things you are passionate about which makes perfect sense. If I have a strong liking for something or am extremely devoted to it, why wouldn’t I put my all into it? However, many people believe that passion just falls into your lap. Unfortunately, life rarely works that way. Here’s an analogy: food is something that is best experienced by taste. For example, you did not know you hated or could not eat peanuts until you tasted it or had an allergic reaction. Or let’s say your dad always made you caesar salads growing up, so now you always ask for caesar dressing at every restaurant and are hesitant to try the local thousand island. With food, we had to try it before we could determine whether we liked it. It works the same with passion: you will not know what you are passionate about until you try several things out. I applaud parents who allow their children to try multiple sports or hobbies. I believe childhood is the best time to explore as many things as you can so that you can begin sharpening your skillsets at an early age. Some children are introduced to multiple instruments before they realize that they love the violin and instead of continuing to work with the piano or the drums, they start focusing their practice sessions on the instrument they are clearly more passionate about. Regardless of whether you had that childhood experience or not, it is never too late to try new things in order to identify your passions.
As the dictionary eloquently stated, competition happens when people strive to gain or win something where others are doing the same. Once you have identified your passion(s), you will face the reality that other people are into similar things. There are billions of people in the world; I am sure you did not expect to be the only one who enjoyed something. It is the same reason why there are several cereal brands; a lot of people love or at least like eating or making cereal. Competition is inevitable and often encouraged because it gives people options. It also allows people or companies to create unique value propositions so that when consumers ask, “Why you?”, there is an answer.
When it comes to passion and competition, the two are intertwined. Once you identify your passion, you will face competition. Therefore, it is advisable to only focus on creating or working towards something you are passionate about so that when you face competition, you fight a good fight. You know why your friend stopped that business after only a few weeks? Lack of passion. Passion is what helps you continue to work on something even when it is not immediately profitable. It keeps you dedicated to the process irrespective of your competition who may have been doing the same thing for years. Without passion, your competition will intimidate you and force you out of your space. So, how do you answer the question “Why you?” Consider the following:
- What are you passionate about?
- I hear this question all the time, and it used to frustrate me. I defined the word passion in the beginning of this post, so that you see how simple the question truly is. Ask yourself instead, what do I like to do? If you are not sure, you need to immerse yourself in more activities. Most of the time, we enjoy doing things that we are naturally good at. Are you extremely agile and physical? Try a few intramural sports in your community. Are you good with your hands? Practice sewing, doing hair, or other activities that require their use. Are you a technology nerd? Apply for a position or internship in the tech industry or take some online courses. The bottom line is that you need to invest your time in identifying what you like and start narrowing down that list.
- What question am I trying to answer; what problem am I trying to solve?
- Once you have determined your passion (or what you like to do), you need to figure out what question you are trying to answer. This can be a bit more difficult, but as you meditate on it daily, the solution will come to you. God created a complex world, but the great thing is that every single human being is an answer to a question. Your answer will help you determine how different you are from your competition or anyone around you. Can you imagine there was a time where we used candles to light a room and now there are LED lights? The person who created the lightbulb answered the problem of convenient lighting. The person who created the LED light answered the problem of creative lighting. Remember when people had to travel from city to city on horseback? The person who created the car answered the problem of faster travel while the person who created the ship or airplane answered the problem of traveling across oceans. Every day of your life, think about how your passion can be translated into an answer to the world’s problems. This is how you leave your footprints in the sands of time.
- Why you? What makes you different?
- As we have discussed, competition is looming at the door of greatness. Please swallow that pill before it swallows you. Now, in my second point, I mentioned the problem of traveling across oceans, and I labeled ships and planes as a solution. Understand that within a question, there may be several answers. What if the person who invented the airplane decided not to bother with it since we already had ships and cars for faster travel? There was a value that airplanes brought into the transportation conversation that ships and cars could not bring. Think back to the first computer. What if technology companies decided to stop there since they had answered the problem to information processing? We would not have powerful machines, touch screens, or HD monitors that took computers to the next level. The greatest people and organizations were the ones that asked, “Why me?” What makes me better and what can I be doing to become the best? Once you have identified your passion and determined the question you want to answer, contemplate ways you can stand apart and create something different. Innovation and creativity are at the heart of passion.
My challenge for you is to try at least one new activity or hobby that you have been interested in, but never devoted any time to pursuing. The best way to know what you like is to try it, and test the waters. Remember that business development begins with personal growth. Before you can successfully monetize for the long-term, consider the question, “Why you?”