TALK ABOUT WHY
Talk About Why is my most recent project that was born out of a few very distinct moments in my life. A lifetime in the making if you will.
When I was right about the ripe age of 12 years old, my dad caught me staring out the kitchen window. The entire back of the house is made up of floor-to-ceiling glass windows, so I had a clear view of the barren winter trees behind our house in Kansas City.
"What're you thinking about?" he asked, unknowing to the question my teeny-tiny brain was dwelling on.
"Why're we here?" I asked without breaking my gaze with the trees.
My dad's attention piqued. He turned, walked closer, and tried to grasp what I was asking.
"Well, what do you mean?" he asked.
I swiveled my head, finally making eye contact with him.
"WHY are we HERE?" I retaliated, trying to emphasize the key words to make it as simple as it sounded in my head.
It didn't work. To be honest, I don't even remember his answer, nor does he really. In typical 12-year-old fashion, no matter what my dad said, no answer was going to be good enough for me. Still, I was so frustrated that someone could give birth to me without really knowing what the point of life is. Can someone say irrational? At the time, it wasn't, and for a hot minute (years) I kept that in the back of my mind. No one really knew a real why, not even my hero.
Many years later, one of my good friends, Paul, was struck by a driver late at night on (technically since it was after midnight) Easter of 2015. You can head over to the Three Little Words section to hear a more in-depth story of a man who was truly one of the greatest, taken from the Earth way too young. The gist of the impact on me, though, was that Paul's passing was my actual first close encounter with death, and I had no idea how to handle it.
The advice of a lot of really close friends was "try not to think about it too much." And to some degree, I agree that this is a fair way to cope. Focus on all the good Paul brought into the world, and try not to let any of the unknowns get to you. I was pretty dead opposite of that though. I did absolutely nothing but think.
It led to my questioning of everything.
“Am I really never going to hear that infectious laugh again? Ever?”
“Why did the guy who hit Paul not stop to potentially resuscitate him?”
Eventually other, more grave, questions spiraled from those root questions.
“Is there anything anyone could have done to prevent the matter?”
“Why do people have to suffer through the loss of a child?”
“Is anyone truly happy?”
These brought me back to the ultimate question of all:
“Why do we even exist?”
Talk about life coming full circle. Nothing quite like a tragic event bringing up a near decade-old memory that I didn't even know I had at the time.
Moving forward, though, that question would rarely leave my mind. It was a consistent rollercoaster of an all-consuming paralyzing thought, down to just a passing thought I would have when I get a smiiidge too under the influence of the devil's lettuce, and finally capping out at just becoming a constant question I am always thinking on.
The spark to turn the ever-thought into action happened in October of 2019. I took a weekend trip and met my family & friends (that might as well be family) over in Arizona. After some drinks, I got to talking with people who have known me my entire life. In other words, they have all the background of who I have been and continue to become.
When you are distant from friends and family, you slowly but surely start to get an outsider perspective. Even when staying in contact, the view of the relationships alter, not in a good or bad way - it just changes. I began to ask some deep questions that, as was the initial question at age 12, were unexpected. One of the family friends paused, turned to me, half chuckled, and said a phrase that would essentially form this concept.
"You know. You have always been the why guy."
That hit home. I think anyone who is close to me would agree that I have asked "why" one too many times, even to the point of their frustration. Hearing it from someone who has known me my whole life, though, hit different. It wasn't weird that I had a constant "why" question running around in my mind. Why was encoded in my DNA.
Why, why, why. I'm alll about it. It's something that I always am asking myself.
"Why am I doing this?"
"Why am I not doing that?"
I am pretty incredible at finding things that I know I do not want to spend my life doing. If it was something to brag about, it would be the highlight of my resume. Seven jobs in less than four years. To me, crossing something off your list that you do not want to do is just as important as finding something that you love.
That said, I set out on a goal to stop asking why to myself, and start asking why to others. I knew my why. I wanted others to see their own.
In 2020, I set out on a journey to ask 250+ people one simple question:
"Why're you here?"
That can lead to any type of conversation. It can be funny and shallow if it's with a stranger at a bar, or it can be profound and mesmerizing if it is with a close acquaintance late night. The sheer endless possibilities excites the shit out of me. It will spiral into many other questions, essentially getting down to what's their why - what fuels them. It's my why of making sure people are living their why. Doing what's true to them.
I set out on this goal in an incredibly interesting time in life. I think anyone reading this would agree that COVID-19 has impacted their life in some way. People have absolutely no desire to connect with a stranger. There is a sense of high public alertness. All restaurants, bars, etc. are shut down. Not a ton of desire to be stopped for conversation.
I am still figuring out what Talk About Why will end up living as. Could it be a podcast? A blog? A video series? A second book? Who knows - to stay on brand, not me. However, what I have grasped so far is that Finding My Why is a a state of being (and a great state of being at that). It's a reason to never let the anxiety of needing to find a purpose overtake the journey of it all. Ever. In your 20s, 30s, or even your 70s.
If you have a solid grasp of your own why, or are trying to find your own why, I would love to chat! Even if something above just piqued your interest, and you have no desire to discuss your why, I still would love to hear from you.
Reach out via email at or on Instagram @jonnywithno.h.
Excited for what's to come!