Ask “WHY” It can help you move forward

Have you ever taken a moment to ask yourself  why you do what you do?

This question could apply to any endeavour you are currently working on, but for the sake of this post, let’s think about that one activity that probably keeps you busy most of the day. You know, the one that breaks you off a check every two weeks.

So, now that we have this activity in mind, let me ask you this: why do you do it?
If you answer has anything to do with the money, I want to urge you to dig a little deeper.

Let me backtrack: Last year while I was unemployed, I attended a week’s worth of free workshops under the guise of New York Entrepreneur Week. You know how when you go to a conference or workshop, you learn so much and you get super hype, but then you basically do a brain dump and forget it all?  Well, that happened to me too with the exception of this one workshop.  I left with a souvenir from the speaker. A little coin that looks like this:

My rough sketch, but you get the idea!

The speaker was Simon Sinek. He is the author of a book called “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”. The premise is that in order to be great, and to lead effectively, you need to ask yourself: Why you do what you do?  His book focuses primarily on organizations, but the knowledge can be applied to individuals as well. After all, you are your own personal brand. And you need to know WHY you do what you do.

From the Amazon summary of the book:
” Any organization can explain what it does; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why. WHY is not money or profit– those are always results. WHY does your organization exist? WHY does it do the things it does? WHY do customers really buy from one company or another? WHY are people loyal to some leaders, but not others?

Starting with WHY works in big business and small business, in the nonprofit world and in politics. Those who start with WHY never manipulate, they inspire. And the people who follow them don’t do so because they have to; they follow because they want to.”

My WHY Moment:  So Simon talked to us about this idea of why it is important to ask yourself why you do what you do. He gave us examples (think Mac vs. PC) of how companies that are really in tune with WHY they do WHAT they do, are successful. It’s why once you go Mac, you never go back. Apple knows why it does what they do, therefore, they are able to do it well.

I was so intrigued by this idea, that I had to speak with Simon after the workshop. I approached him with my dilemma: “Simon,” I said. “I’m tired of people putting me in a box because I am a writer. Anytime someone hears that I write, they think that is all I can do.”

He looks at me for a second then said: “So stop telling people you are a writer.”
Hmmm…. “What?”
“Why do you like to write?” he asked me.
I go into a long spiel about how it’s not so much that I like writing, but I like to connect with people. I love to tell stories. I enjoy helping people get their stories out there. Writing, for me, is just the vehicle I am currently using to do what I really love to do which is: tell stories.

“So tell people you are a storyteller, “ Simon said.

Well, dang. It never occurred to me before that moment that this is true, I am, primarily, a storyteller.  That the thing that makes me most happy is telling stories. Snap! What a revelation.

I’ve been carrying around the coin Simon gave me for over a year now. And anytime I feel puzzled about a new project, or confused as to what direction I should move in, I remember the coin. I challenge myself to start with “Why”  I’ve found that when you start with the “why” you can move into the “how” and the “what” with some clarity.  And remember, money is just a result, it’s not a reason (I know, I know, easier said than done. Especially when you are thinking about paying back those college loans!)

Your WHY moment:So, why do you do what you do? And if you aren’t doing what you know you WANT to do, what’s you latest idea? Think about why you are drawn to it. The how and the what will appear in focus.

Amber’s note: If you think this post could help someone you know, please share! And if you need a little Monday morning motivation, please subscribe :)

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