Why Should You Focus On Your Why?

I would like to tell you a tale. A tale based on a true story of personal development, epiphany and the discovery of a raison d’être. It all started in 2017…

The Catalyst

In April of 2017, something important was happening to me. My team and I were in a difficult situation. The morale wasn’t very high, we were in the middle of a death march. Extreme overtime had become a routine, the level of job satisfaction was really taking a hit. The 4 first months at this workplace were the best of my career, and suddenly I was going to work reluctantly.

What happened?

At that moment, I figured my influence as a Scrum Master was limited to my team and its immediate environment. I had a hard time improving the global culture in which my team lived. To the point where, as turbulent as I can be, I was bombarding myself with questions such as “I am a good Scrum Master? Is it what I really want to do? Should I be doing something else, and if so, what?”

The Why

At about the same time, I was developing an interest in Simon Sinek’s work. His conference and book “Start With Why” were fascinating me. Without going into too many details, it is the theory according to which people will follow you not because of what you do, but because of why you do it. Given the situation I was in, I started to wonder “Why” rather than “What”. At that time, I had no idea how powerful the answer to this question would be, but I had the feeling that I had to find the answer at all cost.

The Common Denominator

After a few weeks, the puzzle was starting to give me some kind of answer.

Why do I get up in the morning? Why do I go to work every day? It took me months of introspection to get to the bottom of it. I started collecting data. From time to time, I would come back home from work and say “Well, that was an AWESOME day, today!”. I tried to find a pattern, the common denominator. What makes a day awesome, for me? After a few weeks, the puzzle was starting to give me some kind of answer. A good day was when I had the opportunity to help someone improve their work environment or work conditions. When I helped someone take charge of their own future. Not only someone in my team, but anyone within my organization, or within my external network.

The Why, On Every Level

I was on the right track, but I still wanted to figure out where my “Why” stood globally. For what noble cause do I want to help people improve their work environment? On what sort of scale can I make a difference?

I decided to apply my reasoning to many levels :

  • Globally, I want to change the world. Like everyone.
  • I want to put an end to this “debate” about whether or not it is worth investing in employees’ happiness and organizational culture.
  • Locally, I wish to contribute to making Montreal the city where most people are happy at work.
  • And in my immediate environment, I want to bring more humanity at work. A necessity that I find is becoming increasingly rare.

It Can Change a Career

After such a revelation, questions like “What do I want to do?” and “Am I doing what I should be doing?” became irrelevant. Now that I knew my Why, I would try to spend as much time as I could applying it.

I took the risk of investing a percentage of my work time helping my teammates take charge of their work environment, individually or as a team. I also spent time doing the same thing with people outside my team, and outside my organization. My team went off on a very positive tangent, gradually improving their level of autonomy. Individually, my colleagues started owning their own destiny.

I realized that 100% of the human-centric value generated was made possible by this small percentage of my time during which I helped my peers grow.

At this moment, I stopped being a Scrum Master and simply started being “someone who helps others grow”. My title had lost all its importance because the totality of my raison d’être now resided in my Why. I completely rewrote my LinkedIn profile, removing all the technical buzzwords as well as the elements that made it look overly professional, asepticized and cold. Rather than tell about where I am from, I started to tell about why I do what I do. In a human way that’s imbued with everything, I’m passionate about.

Sometime later, I get a call. This person tells me “I’d like to talk about what you believe in. We believe the same thing, and we need someone like you”. I’m offered the opportunity to invest 100% of my time helping people grow. Where do I sign? I now am a Software Development Manager at Marine Press. My title could have been anything, what’s important is that my role is to apply the reason I get up in the morning, every moment of the day.

Let me conclude with this quote from Gandhi, which easily summarizes what I learned in this journey;

Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.

Olivier Fortier
Olivier Fortierhttp://www.primospopuli.com/en/
OLIVIER Fortier is first and foremost a believer in human beings. Owner of the blog Primos Populi -- which is Latin for People First -- his focus is to find innovative ways to bring back (and keep) people at the core of businesses, and ensure they can thrive. A manager, agilist, servant leader, facilitator, and former Scrum Master, all of these interesting titles and roles represent only the means to achieve what he truly believes in: cultivating people's awesomeness. His favorite things to reflect on are leader-leader relationships, psychological safety and the right to fail, career and personal development, humanity in recruitment, and how to lower the center of gravity of decision-making processes. Considering that businesses wouldn't exist without people, can one imagine how powerful it would be if all employees wholeheartedly wanted to be in their organizations, and wanted to do what they do? This is the work world Olivier wants to live in, and the goal he set for himself.


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Kathleen Hendrickson
Kathleen Hendrickson

Love what you are saying Olivier. Successful leaders have an integrated sense of direction. Our brains truly function well as we attune to our inner knowing of who we are. When mind, heart and physical body breathe and act in harmony, we achieve a hum that resonates with the greater whole. I support the premise that we are wired by our DNA and astrological events at the time of our birth. My work includes a look at an individual’s unique profile – called the Gene Keys. Wonderful that you remembered your true self.

Susan Rooks
Susan Rooks

And thanks to Simon Sinek, many of us are also asking that simple yet profound question, Olivier! Without knowing our “why,” we can wander for a long time, working hard but not productively. Not happily.

I like how you reframed yourself, going from a Scrum Master to someone who helps others grow. That pretty sums up my why, although my ways of helping are different. But in the end, we’re much alike.

Thanks for this excellent post!

Olivier Fortier
Olivier Fortier

Thanks a lot for the comments! I’m glad to see others did find their “why” as well!

Melissa Hughes
Melissa Hughes

Great post, Olivier! I wrote a piece a while ago about discovering one’s ikigai which is a Japanese concept that literally means a reason for being. Loosely: the reason you wake up in the morning and do what you do. You might be interested in poking around about ikigai. Thanks for sharing this piece with us!

Olivier Fortier
Olivier Fortier

I love Ikigai! It was a revelation to me.



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