The Five Whys That Could Change Everything

Stewart Bewley

Yoda, Gandalf, Morpheus, Red (wise mentors you may or may not have seen in the movies) all have one thing in common: they know who they are and they never change.

In the course of the movie their hero goes through a phenomenal change, from ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I am the only one!’ The hero changes but the wise mentor never does. They remain constant – their story remains the same. In a business meeting, presenting as hero is a common problem. It sounds a bit like this: ‘Please believe I am really good at this and can slay the dragon, honest! Here are ten bullet points why – you must believe me!’

The problem with that approach is that you start on the back foot, the defensive, you sound salesy and ultimately people are suspicious of you. The person you need to ask for a promotion for – they need to slay a dragon. Maybe their team isn’t strong enough to be able to deliver the work – maybe you are the answer to them being successful. You are going to help then achieve this. You may not feel you are the wise mentor in a presentation – especially when you are talking to senior people. But I guarantee if you adopt the wise mentor approach it will change everything.

But how do you do that? It all starts with the five whys.

01. Line One

Think of the next presentation you are doing – take 30 seconds to write down and speak out loud your first sentence. Let’s imagine you have already thanked the person for asking you to speak, now it is time to speak. What is your first sentence? Say it out loud (or whisper it if you are on the train right now).

02. Why?


I’m going to ask you, ‘Why’? And I want you to answer out loud. I am not in the room to see if you are doing this, but be bold, be courageous and as you read the next sentence, speak your answer. Here goes... Why?

Now you have answered that question, let’s go again. Whatever you answered, I want to know and I want you to speak out the answer to...


Okay. Now we are getting somewhere. But I need to understand more. Tell me...

Why? Why do you care?

Whatever you have just said – there’s more. And I need you to keep speaking it out loud...


One last time. Tell me...


Now write down the answer you gave – write down what you said in your last ‘Why’.

03. Speak it

Take a look at the first line you said and the last line you just said. You have hopefully written them both down. Now it’s time to bring them together. So I would like you to speak them out loud, one after the other. Make sure they are two separate sentences.

04. Switch it

Now switch it around. Say the final why – the fifth why – as your first sentence. Keep them as separate sentences – do not make them into one long sentence. If you need to link them together, find a linking phrase. Here are some helpful ones:

So, we are going to…

To make this happen…

To get there…

How did it feel? Did it make sense? I have been doing this all month and when you switch the sentences around it has the most amazing effect on the story. 100% the feedback has been, ‘That flows better. It is so much clearer. I know what you are saying and where you are taking us.’ That is incredible feedback for just two lines of text!

If you can get this into your blood, then you can feel what happens when you actually say what you want to say up front. This will kick start any meeting and give you a fighting chance to truly frame the space. And it will give your audience a fighting chance to connect with you.

The smallest change can make the biggest difference so I would love to hear from you. Send me your first lines and your fifth whys and then go for it, live in meetings. I dare you – do it, try it, watch it change the room!

Stewart Bewley

Stewart founded Amplify back in 2011 from an acting background, believing that if you unlocked people’s voices you would unlock their story and their businesses would thrive.

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