in Business, Creativity, Marketing, Motivation, Music, Philosophy, Psychology

Sine Qua Non – The “But-For” Test, Does Intent Trump Results?

“Taking charge of your own learning is a part of taking charge of your life, which is the sine qua non in becoming an integrated person.”

– Warren Bennis

Do you often find yourself saying things like “If it weren’t for this then I’d…”?


You know the feeling that is “sine qua non” or as it’s know in legalese “but-for causation”.

The but-for test looks something like this:

  1. What was the action?
  2. What were the circumstances?
  3. What was the consequence?

It’s mainly used as a filter to ensure that someones actions have played some part in the outcome.

For example, but for Jimmy shoving Billy, would Billy have broken his arm?

Probably not.

Ah, but we forgot to look at the circumstances! What was Jimmy’s intent?

Perhaps Billy had cracked wise about Jimmy’s momma being “so fat” and Jimmy shoved him, resulting in the broken arm?

Or maybe Billy was about to get hit by a car?

While intent does factor in, we can’t ignore the results.

Usain Bolt - WRCaution! Staring directly at the results may burn your retinas.

So, we’ve got this tool and it’s great for analyzing the past. How do we use it looking forward?

Let’s say you’ve got 12 items on your agenda.

By the way, these are important and urgent items that need to get done, pronto. So I trust you’ve already used “Covey’s Quadrants” peeps!

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the action?
  2. Why am I doing it?
  3. What are the results?

Can you find an essential action you can perform that’ll make the other items on the agenda easier or perhaps even redundant?

Bingo! You’ve just found your but-for!

BF - Mornin' MiamiI just call it my “BF”. Best Friend? Bawbels Feltcher? What could it be?

Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!

Write a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.