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  • Writer's pictureLinda Pizzitola, Kauai, Hawaii

Why Ask Why?

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Why ask why? by John Forde

Guest post by John Forde. Excerpted from Copywriter’s Roundtable  7.24.12

Why ask why? Because it could be the single best way to inspire anybody — prospects, co-workers, or otherwise — to do anything.

Let’s say you have a circle in front of you. In the center, you write that question…”Why?” Around that, draw another circle. It will look like the start of dartboard, only in this next circle you’ll write “How?” Around that, draw a third circle and in this one write “What?”

Working from the outside in, most people know “what” they do or want to do in a business life or other venture. Telling your customers the same is pretty basic stuff, and not all that exciting. Most people also have some idea of “how” they do what they do or how they intend to do it, technically speaking.

But that, too, isn’t the information that’s going to make either you or your prospects want to jump their metaphorical motorbikes over metaphorical swimming pools filled with flesh-eating goldfish.

When you ask “why,” however, you get to the root of your existence…as in why are you here in the first place? It’s a chance to expose the things you believe in and therein…to inspire others too.

The average organization presents themselves and communicates from the outside of these three circles inward, as in:

  • What we are…

  • How we do it…

  • Why we do it…

But inspired leaders, simply work from the outside in, like this:

  • Why we’re doing this…

  • How we do it…

  • What we do as a result…

Suddenly, it’s not just a thing in front of you. It’s a belief that gives you [and others] a vision of that belief in action.

People DON’T buy what you do. They buy WHY you do it.

TED speaker, Simon Sinek, calls this the “Golden Circle.” And, he says, it’s not just a nifty way to explain inspirational communication. It’s biology.

Your brain is actually built this way, so that on the outer level you’ve got the part of your brain that handles all the logical, rational stuff. Here, people can understand lots of facts and figures. They can evaluate your lists of features and benefits. They can “get” the mechanisms you use to do what you do.

But none of this is tied to action. For that you’ve got to move more toward the limbic center, where your brain is all about gut-reactions, feelings of trust, and…maybe most importantly…action.

The limbic center is, if you will, your “animal” brain. Words mean little here, except for the emotions to which they’re attached. This is where the “why” resides.

If you’ve ever looked over all the details of a decision, done all the cocktail-napkin math, come to a conclusion…and STILL decided to do the opposite because “it just didn’t ‘feel’ right”…and believe me, you HAVE done this over and over again…this is where in your brain that you made this decision.

It’s also why.

Short version: In any instance that you have to inspire anybody to do anything, you’ll go a long way toward success by simply asking yourself “why” you want the result you’re after…and then making sure it’s a “why” that’s going to feel good to your prospect too.

Editor’s note: I’ve been inspired and informed by John Forde’s  Copywriter’s Roundtable for years. Check out his archived articles and sign up for $78 worth of free gifts at

For more on the power of “Why?” see copywriter Gary Bencivenga’s Marketing Bullets #9 & 10 at

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