A reason for being... a reason to get up in the morning... your purpose, cause, or belief...

These phrases loosely translate what the Japanese call your "ikigai." It's the intersection of what you love, what you are great at, what the world needs, and what people pay you for:

IkigaiWhen you find it, you will not only attain happiness and meaning in life; you'll also increase your chances of living to be a hundred.

And marketing consultant, bestselling author, and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, says, thinking, acting, and communicating from your why is what makes leaders and companies great. It's what separates Apple from Dell, and it's how Martin Luther King drew an audience of over 200,000 people decades before social media existed.

That's all well and good, of course. But the problem begins when aspiring entrepreneurs misunderstand both the goal and process of this ideology.

They seek to figure out their deep purpose and mission before putting anything out into the world.

I've observed this in many aspiring online course creators. They put off creating their courses until they've found exactly what their life purpose is--and preferably one that's aligned with their market opportunity.

When Finding Your "Why" Becomes A Stumbling Block

That's not how these things work in real life.

The reason is simple: these frameworks work best as a vehicle for reflecting on and evaluating experiences that you've already had, rather than imagining ones that you haven't. They're tools for focusing, but when taken out of context and applied to try and find the single best work to pursue without real-world experience, the search for this insight is more likely to become a vehicle for procrastination than anything else.

Very simply, as attractive as we might find the idea of arriving at the perfect answer through deep soul searching that requires no real-world risk or skinning of knees, the search for that deep meaning can only be successful when informed by real-world interactions and experiences.

Ikigai is a great ideal to aspire to, but the best path to reach it is to set it aside temporarily, and focus on the nearest and most accessible opportunity for you to put a product out into the world.

And so the advice I give course creators is not to look for something you will necessarily teach and evolve for years and decades to come. Instead, look for something that will let you get your feet wet with your first foray into meaningful work with students, who can provide you with real feedback as to whether what you're offering is valuable enough for them to want to pay for it.

Eventually, informed by real-life experience, you will find that life purpose, your ikigai.

Business Is Uncertain. Deal with It.

"Measure twice, cut once" is a great maxim for carpenters... but in business things are complicated. The biggest difference is, in carpentry, all the pertinent dimensions and materials lend themselves to easy measurement.

In business, much of what we'd most like to validate and quantify is hard to do without testing the market with a real offer. This is true of factors external to the entrepreneur and business, like market demand, and for things inside the heart and mind of the entrepreneur, like what they will find most rewarding.

Business is risky. This leads to a very understandable inclination to reduce the risk, further reinforced by business thought leaders who exhort us to make every effort to find our deep inner "why" to drive all else in our endeavors.

Finding one's Ikigai is counsel of unreasonable perfection, and finding your why is best accomplished by putting something out into the world without overthinking it, to see both how it is received and how you feel doing it.

So go, ship something today, and find out.