When approaching any new topic, or even revisiting an old topic, there are two angles to take: the what and the why. I would argue that in most situations most people, myself included, default to the what and not the why. To avoid any potential confusion, allow me to share a famous saying: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” When the man first receives the fish that is the WHAT, and when he learns how to fish that is the WHY.

So my question to you is: are you learning the WHAT, or are you learning the WHY? Many times the difference between the WHAT and the WHY is minute, yet its impact is profound. Knowing the WHAT is a great way to lock oneself into a given task and to master that certain task. When you focus on the WHY, you learn the reason behind that task, and it allows you to orchestrate multiple tasks at the same time. The more WHY that is learned, the more WHAT is accomplished.

Looking back at the proverb about the man who learns how to fish, we can see how true this becomes. Once that knowledge is acquired, the man who knows how to fish can take that skill set and apply it across a variety of water forms. The man who received the fish without learning is always going to be restricted to dependence, while the one who learned how to fish, the one who learned the WHY, has untapped opportunities.

Let’s take this one step further. Allow us to imagine that the man who learned how to fish also learned that to feed himself he could do so on his own, or he could do it through a variety of means: farming, trading, fishing, and hunting. This is a perfect example of how the WHY can help a person grow faster and smarter than someone who concentrates on learning the WHAT. Moving forward, it is imperative for all of our growth opportunities to focus on WHY we are doing WHAT we are doing.