Mapping What to Why

This is an adaptation of the ‘Ice Breaker’ speech that I’m giving in the Toastmasters group at work that I just joined. It’s kind of just me talking about me. The ‘Ice Breaker’ speech, and a personal blog are generally two places where that’s acceptable, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I like pictures. I like drawing pictures of people and creatures that I invent, but I also like using pictures understand abstract ideas, so today I’m going to explain what I do and why I do it with some pictures.


I’m a Software Developer…

…who works, primarily, on our front-end applications.

That means that I write and maintain the layer of code that customers interact with directly. I take the data from the depths of our servers and show it to users and I take the data from users and I send it to the next layer back. I also make things look nice. This role works out pretty well for me because it’s very much in line with what I do and what I like to do outside of work.

Out there, outside of Pinnacol, I am still a developer. I like to start, and sometimes finish, personal web projects… just for fun. I also design things, create traditional art, write and do pretty much anything that falls within the category of communication. I also like to play outside – bike, ski, walk, etc., and I like to read and learn as much as I can.

The Big What and Why

Lately, I’ve been trying distill the bigger ‘why’ and ‘what’ of my life into a simple picture. For a starting point, I’ve gravitated toward a simplistic, and probably outdated, model of human motivation – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

If you need a refresher from Psych 101, Maslow came up with this generalized model of what drives people. At the base level, there are basic physiological needs. If you’re hungry, there probably isn’t much else that you’re worried about. Above that, he had safety, then belonging, then esteem, and finally, self-actualization.

Going back to this diagram after many years, I liked the simplicity, but I had to modify it a bit.

I took Maslow’s three bottom layers – that’s physiological, safety, and belonging needs and condensed them into a foundation. That stuff is important – foundational even – but because it’s so universal, I didn’t want to focus on that in an introduction.

As for the top items in Maslow’s Hierarchy – esteem and self-actualization, I remapped them to ‘Day-to-Day’ motivations, deeper goals – which I’m calling ‘Projects’, and at the pinnacle, ‘Bigger Things’


In terms of the day-to-day level, you’ve probably already gotten the hint that I like making things. I get immersed in the moment of building something, whether it’s a web app or a graphic or a pointless piece of art that makes me happy and is good practice for making something more meaningful.


Projects are the creative expression that’s deeper than just the task at hand. In some ways, this is the culmination of that smaller tasks. It’s the ones I keep coming back to. It includes the desire to make a unique impact and the desire to do it well. My personal development is a project too.

Bigger Picture

At the top, is the bigger picture. The stuff that I care about that’s bigger than me.

This is where my amatuer view of my psychology diverges from Maslow a bit. Self actualization is definitely worked in there, but I don’t see this as model as isolated to the individual. This is where I think about how I interact with the world around me. It’s self actualization as part of a larger environment.

For me, specifically, this is working on improving the lives of animals – more generally, advocating for those who can’t speak for themselves. I’m still kind of figuring out how to do that, but it involves everything that motivates me in the lower levels of the hierarchy. I am always looking for fun opportunities, where I can I apply my skills, and learn something and while impacting the bigger picture.

But why am I at Toastmasters?

On every level, confidence and communication skills are vital. We all tend to be happiest when we understand each other and when we can effectively communicate our goals and be good listeners. And, as you all know, that takes practice.

  • Speaking is fun. Even though it may not seem like it as you walk to the front of the room.
  • Improving my speaking ability is a personal challenge. It helps me grow. It’s a project.
  • Finally, it empowers me to talk about tough and important subjects.

To summarize…

  • I love using pictures to tell stories.
  • I am always focusing on lining up my ‘what’ and ‘why’
  • I care a lot about animals.
  • Communication is the glue that keeps everything together.

I hope that sharing (and showing) my thought process helps you better understand who I am, and perhaps sparks you to investigate your own hierarchy of needs to see if your ‘what’ maps to your ‘ why’.

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