“When you start anything new, there are forces pulling you in a variety of directions. There’s stuff you could do, the stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do. The stuff you have to do is where you should begin. Start at the epicenter.”

Jason Fried

Ah, the intoxicating aroma of new beginnings. It’s like that first whiff of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, except instead of caffeine, you’re high on possibilities. You’re handed a blank canvas, a palette of colors, and a set of brushes that come with no instructions. Do you start with the sky, the landscape, or perhaps the enigmatic smile of a Mona Lisa 2.0?

Back in my Ascendio days, the canvas was a blank web page, and the brushes were a room full of brilliant minds. The palette? A chaotic blend of aesthetics, features, and competitive one-upmanship. Everyone wanted to dive into the “what” and the “how,” but we had a different approach. We started with the “why.”

You see, the “why” was our epicenter. It was the gravitational pull that kept our projects from spiraling into a black hole of indecision. Clients would come in—starry-eyed and full of ideas about what their website should look like, what it could do, and how it could outshine their competitors. But we’d gently steer the ship back to the core question: Why are we even having this conversation? What’s the problem we’re trying to solve? What does success look like?

Focusing on the “why” was like finding the North Star in a sky full of distractions. It guided us through the labyrinth of choices and helped us arrive at solutions that were not just pretty or cool, but meaningful. When there was clarity on the why, the website could practically design itself. By understanding the problem, we could envision a world where that problem was solved, and everything else fell into place.

So, whether you’re starting a new job, a new relationship, or even learning to play the guitar without making it sound like a feline symphony, remember to find your epicenter. It’s the “why” that will guide you through the chaos and lead you to a solution that’s not just good, but transformative.

I know that when I find myself lost in the maze of life’s possibilities, I just think back to those Ascendio days. A room full of brilliant minds, a chaotic palette, and a single, guiding question that turned it all into a masterpiece.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.