Project242: Defining Your “WHY”

Project242 (P242) is my journey to bike 242 miles in 24 hours, across the state of Minnesota on gravel roads, in August, 2021 (the Day Across MN, or the DAMN). I’ve found many lessons experienced riding a bike can be applied to our careers. In these posts, I will share the correlations.

As someone who has done ultra distance events prior to signing up for a 242 mile bike ride, there’s one question I get over and over again.

WHY?

Why are you doing this? Why put yourself through the misery? Why take the time away from other things to train? Why? Why??? WHY!?!?!!

As defined in Webster, Why is “for what cause, reason, or purpose.” In talking with other crazy people who do ultra events, there’s really no two why answers that are the same. However, there are common themes:

  • Intrinsic Motivation: No one has ever wanted to spend multiple hours pushing themselves for a medal, half a banana and chocolate milk. There’s something deeper, and personal, that drives them.
  • Love a Challenge: I’m talking about REALLY loving a challenge. They hear about some challenging race and within 20 minutes, they’re on Google looking it up thinking, “I could do that!”
  • Proving Oneself: Think you can do something? Then do it! They want to see how far they can push themselves.
  • “Hold My Beer” Mentality: When they talk about a challenge they’re about to undertake and someone else says “No, you’ll never do that!”, they quietly say “Hold my beer and watch this!”

As for myself, I’m intrinsically motivated, love a good challenge, and want to prove what I put my mind to can be accomplished. People that understand this, understand me. Those that don’t, well, nothing I can say will help them understand.

Miles Davis Quote: “If you have to ask, you'll never know.”

So, why bike 242 miles in 24 hours? My WHY in this instance is pretty simple (to me anyway); to push myself both mentally and physically to complete a challenge very few have ever even considered. To be part of a community of other DAMN riders who each will have their own challenges and suffering. For those I’ll ride with, we’re all in this alone and together, and we’ll need each other’s encouragement to finish.

Here’s the thing; everyone can ask WHY, but only you can define it!

Think about your career. Why did you pick it? Why are you sticking with it? Why do you love the challenges you inevitably face, sometimes daily? Why?

For those project management professionals reading this, I’m guessing most of you accidently fell into this career path. One day you’re doing an operational job, the next you’re leading a team. Planning, executing, building teams, solving problems, delivering value, managing conflict, all of it seems to just work for you. Why do you keep doing it? You love it!! Project leadership, as with many positions, is challenging, provides personal satisfaction, and shows your coworkers and peers you can be a leader and deliver!

Think of your “At-Work Why” as a professional mission statement (I won’t talk Purpose; that requires a very lengthy conversation and usually a couple beers). Don’t overthink it; make it simple. But also, understand it should be challenging. Are you doing what you do to solve problems, understand data, build relationships, sell impactful products, drive social impact, or something similar? Try it! Write it down. I’ll wait.

Taking notes by hand (w/ pen & paper): A must for lawyers - LexTalk

Business owners understand why they started their companies. I started Bridge the Gap Consulting to help business executives Bridge the Gap between vision and reality, with help being the key word. Another peer of mine’s why relates to solving complicated algorithms by chomping through complex data. You can call it a mission statement, but defines why we do what we do.

WHY? A one word question with a potentially complex answer. But, we all have a WHY statement, whether we know it or not. Think of your job today and write down why you do what you do. Or, next time you want to try something, write down why you want to do it. Understanding your why helps you be successful.

Why Not to Use the Word Why | Never Ask Why | Why did you do that?

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