Powerful word, “Why?” It makes people uncomfortable. Merriman-Webster dictionary states that why is in the bottom 50% of popularity. A Navy officer I worked for in the early years of my Navy career told me one time that his college Psychology professor made it his final semester examination. Furthermore, he said the only acceptable answer for the professor was “because.” My response to him was, “Why?”
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, Why means “for what cause, reason or purpose.” When George Washington turned down a bid to make him King of America, he said, “The cause is too important.” The cause or the purpose to him was liberty from mother England.
Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek proclaims that, in any worthwhile endeavor, we must “Start With Why,” which is also the title of his best-selling book and the third most popular Ted Talk. He asks, “Why is it that some people, some organizations are more successful than others.” In his Ted Talk, he points to his discovery in answering the question and gives three strong examples of leaders who were successful in their fields when other of equal skill and intelligence were unsuccessful. His discovery is what he called “The Golden Circle” with which he provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.[i]
Premier leadership coach, trainer, speaker and author John C. Maxwell in his book on Intentional Living writes that in choosing a life that matters, one must search until they find their Why. In it he says that, “Once you find your why, you will be able to find your way.” Further he says that tapping into your why is necessary to make a difference and live a life of significance. You need to start thinking and discovering your purpose on this earth, and that when you know this why it becomes your life-blood of intentional living.[ii]
So what makes Why so important in your quest for success and living a fulfilled life of intention. Here is what Sinek and Maxwell say about it, and what I have found to be the truth in my own life.
In his presentation before a Puget Sound audience in 2009[iii] that became an extremely popular Ted Talk, Sinek describes his discovery he calls the Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle
He goes on to explain the differences between the three parts with examples of Steve Jobs and Apple, the Wright Brothers and the Airplane, and Martin Luther King and the Civil Right Movement, and more importantly the purpose or cause each was successful. The below breakdown explains. You can listen to the entire presentation by following the link in the Endnotes.
|Apple/Steve Jobs||Computers||Just like others||Make you feel good|
|Wright Brothers||Airplane||Bicycle shop parts to repair plane||Change the course of mankind|
|Martin Luther King||Civil Rights Movement||Peaceful Marches||I Have A Dream – People judged by Character, not skin color|
As Sinek points out, people don’t follow you because of what you do or how you do it, they follow you because of why you lead them better than others; because your leadership comes from within – the cause, the purpose, the belief and value of your practices, the Servant nature of your leadership; all of which is to make others better than they were before you began to lead, teach, mentor and/or coach them.
Why do people buy Apple over Android, when Android phones have been proven to be technically better? Apple markets to the “Why”, the emotions of people, the feeling that “it makes me feel good.”
Aviation expert and pioneer Samuel P. Langley had the recipe for success; 50K to figure out the flying machine; Harvard trained, hired the best people he could find; NY Times followed him around. The problem was he wanted to be rich, people worked for him because of the money. When Wright brothers discovered air flight, he quit instead of working with the Wright Brothers to make planes better.
Orville & Wilbur: no college education; used bicycle parts from their shop to repair their plane when it crashed. They were driven by a cause, purpose, belief that would change the course of the world. People worked for them because of their cause.
Dr. Martin Luther King got 250,000 people to show up in Washington DC without advertising to listen to his “I Believe” ideals, his “I have a Dream” speech. They carried the message to the streets of America because of the “Why” – the cause, the purpose of his ideal.[iv]
Following Brother General and President Washington, the cause is too important to just be a social organization. Following Dr. King, the freedom which comes from seeking more light is too great to just be a monthly meeting to discuss the poor economic state of the organization. Following Orville and Wilbur, if we want to veer away from the current course of morality in America, and quite possible the world, we have to understand and follow the purpose, the cause of building better men and women.
Then, after much reflection and considering the passion of your Why, you need to establish your vision of where you want your why to take you. Once established, write out a one sentence, or a few words, that states what will be your future for the next few years, which could be 5, 10 or even 20.
Next, you create your Mission statement, which is the work, or how, you will accomplish your vision. Again, your mission states in a simple sentence, what you are doing on a daily basis to complete your Mission, which in turn is what you are doing to turn that Vision into a reality. The day-to-say activity of accomplishing your Mission is done through the writing of SMART Goals that you will achieve to complete your mission.
For more information on writing Vision and Mission Statements, see my Blog on 3 Essentials Necessary for Sustainable Success.[v]
[i] Sinek, Simon, 2009. It Starts with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action (New York: Penguin Group, 2009) 37-51.
[ii] Maxwell, John C., Intentional Living- Choosing a Life that Matters (New York: Center Street, 2015) 77-80.
[iii] Sinek, Simon, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, TedxPuget Sound: https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action, 2009.