The very short answer:

Ask five why’s.

The longer (and more interesting) answer:

Most things and especially most people are not what they seem at first glance. It’s not so much that people are trying to hide who they are, it is more that they have developed a structure in which to be themselves. Mostly that structure got built without forethought, so individuals may not even know they have it or what makes it up. But you can peel it back if you can keep asking a simple question: Why?

You use to know this. Remember? You were three years old. It went something like this:

You: Mommy, why are you a girl?

Mom: Because I was born that way.

You: Why?

Mom: Because some people are boys and some people are girls.

You: Why?

Mom: Because those are the only choices.

You: Why?

Mom: Go play outside.

Aw. Ok, so you lost the battle with mom. But you’re all big now. You can take this thing to its completion. Let’s examine how.

Ask Others

You can’t expect people to know the source of their problems or even to be clear of their own motivations. You have to keep moving in closer to uncover the foundations. Some of these foundations have not seen the light of day in sometime, so be gentle. Let them take a breath between forays. But be persistent. Get to the core of it. Keep asking why.

How do you know when you have reached the last why? When the question no longer makes sense. If it still makes sense, you are not finished yet.

You may find yourself on the receiving end of a “go play outside” response. If at all possible, sidestep this reply and persist. If they just can’t take it right now, you may have to continue another time. But maintain your awareness that you have not gotten to the bottom just yet.

Always keep in mind that this inquiry is a gift to them. What a perfect present it is to come to know themselves!

Ask Yourself

If they are not reacting like this is such a wonderful gift, perhaps you didn’t start with yourself. Why are you making this inquiry? No really, why? And why is that? And why would you want that? And why do you suppose that is?

Have we reached the foundation of your own motivation? No? Then keep asking. It is amazing how many times we give ourselves a “go play outside” response and we actually put up with it. Who do we think we are kidding? You know exactly what you are doing to you. Tell yourself, “I’m just going to ask one more why.” If that doesn’t get you home, tell yourself again. You’ll forgive you. In fact, you will thank you in the end because nothing feelings so good as clarity.

Does It Have To Be Five?

To say five why‘s are needed isn’t precisely so. What does matter is that enough why‘s get asked. The clearer the examined person is, the less will be needed. Don’t judge about the number it ultimately takes. Celebrate the resulting clarity.

Dealing with challenges and intentions at arms length is ultimately harder and more painful than dealing with the pure source. It is worth the effort and worth the inquiry to uncover the truth behind things. So push on, ask with the best of intentions, and find the simple beginnings.

What success have you had with asking five why‘s? Be sure to leave a comment below.

Kenneth Vogt helps entrepreneurial men with a big purpose cut through the fog to change the world at Vera Claritas. (That’s “True Clarity” to you non-latin speakers out there.)

  1. S. Conde says:

    Yes, generally the structure was built with no forethought, and in response to immediate needs.  When we realize this and are ready for change, I believe the old version of self needs to be torn down before we may rebuild in the form of our authentic selves.  What I liked so much about your “why’s” is that you’ve given a simple method of getting at the core of the matter, whether we are examining ourselves or others.  Well done!

  2. Kenneth Vogt says:

    S. (can I call you S.?), you make a very valid point that the old self may have to be “torn down” first. Starting from a clean foundation actually makes it simpler. It takes the strength of humility to be authentic.

  3. S. Conde says:

    Yes, please do.  ;)  I like the concept “strength of humility”.  

  4. Alfredo J. Porto says:

    I’ve learned always  a lot about myself, life, human nature and children answering their Whys till  the very end.