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3 Reasons to Start with Why

As creative partners to our clients, we bring stories to life. We strive to elicit powerful emotion and motivate action. In the discovery and development phase, we work to understand the overarching message of a video (or other deliverable), as it’s never simply about the product or service. These conversations go beyond what our clients do and delve into why they do it.

Simon Sinek, bestselling author of Start with Why, is known for popularizing this concept in his first TED Talk in 2009. It went on to become the second most watched TED Talk of all time. He has since inspired a movement founded on the idea that finding purpose, especially at work, isn’t reserved for some lucky few, but can be accessible and beneficial to us all.

In fact, he argues that it may be key to revealing our fullest potential, individually and organizationally. Start with Why features examples (i.e. Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, the Wright Brothers) who connect what they do with a deeper sense of purpose, and as a result are more successful than those with even better funding, education, and connections.

These individuals know and live their why. As a result, they are more innovative, more influential, and more profitable. They enjoy greater loyalty and fulfillment in their endeavors. This is based on the premise that, in Sinek’s words, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.

If you’re familiar with why statements, then consider this a quick refresher. If this is new to you, then here’s a bite-sized version to ponder on your coffee break. Here are 3 reasons to start with why, in no particular order.

Number One: Make More Meaningful Connections

We all have a why – a deep seated purpose, cause, or belief that is the source of our inspiration. There is a chance you are already living your why. However, learning to identify and articulate it can be a powerful way to join forces with like-minded team members, investors, or clients.

Simon Sinek’s follow-up book, Find Your Why, includes the story of Steve, an engineer working for a steel company for over 23 years. Steve is passionate about the work that he does, so passionate, in fact, that he tells a perfect stranger on a plane all about the manufacturing of pure, light weight steel.

This stranger happens to be one of the book’s authors who responds with, “So what?”

Steve goes on to clarify that light steel makes lighter components – more energy efficient cars and machines that require less fuel, create less pollution, and are easier to recycle.

Still, the author persists by arguing that there must be something more to this business that has kept Steve passionate for over two decades. “There must be something more at stake, something you truly believe in?”.

And there is. Steve shares that he’s committed to keeping the planet healthy for his children and future generations. Steve’s pitch, when it starts with why sounds something like this:

I believe in using natural resources for the benefit of humankind. And I also believe that we should do so responsibly, leaving the planet safe and healthy for our children. This is what led me to become an engineer and join my current organization. My company, based in Sweden and committed to sustainability, has developed a way to help engineers create lighter, more efficient, greener products and our particular path to sustainability happens to be light weight steel.

By connecting his work to his sense of purpose, Steve discovered his why, and can readily use it to form mutually beneficial business connections with deep roots.

Number Two: Find Greater Fulfillment

Happiness, by definition, is short-lived as it’s often tied to a specific event – perhaps you reach a goal, or land a new client. The feeling is intense, yet fleeting. Fulfillment, on the other hand, is deeper. Fulfillment lasts. It comes when we feel directly connected to our why, and find pleasure in steady, daily efforts to be a force for good in our sphere of influence.

Our work lives and family routines may feel far removed from the larger problems and solutions of the world. But perhaps a shift in perspective, one that helps us connect these dots, can supercharge our lives. Meaning that when we identify the deeper purpose behind what we do, we can feel a renewed sense of energy and fulfillment.

We can find fulfillment in our work if it makes us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. That’s also the reason we can feel unfulfilled even if we’re successful by all other measures.

Number Three: It’s Relatively Easy

Discovering your why may feel like flexing a new muscle. It is! In fact, that’s the point. But it can be enjoyable and lead to many great things. So, here’s the basic process:

Start by mining your life for stories. These stories are times when you were at your natural best. If you’re doing this discovery as a team, then these stories are when you as a team were at your natural best.

Next, look at all these stories and try to identify themes. Were you actively creating something? Were you working in service to others? What was it about these times that made you feel so great? It can help to work with a partner on this.

Now, use this information to write your why statement. Try this basic formula-

To (your contribution), so that (impact).

For example, here is Simon Sinek’s why statement-

To inspire people to do the things that inspire them (contribution), so that together we can change the world (impact).

What is your WHY?

Starting with why can have so many benefits, so why not give it a try? And if, fundamentally, it means waking up inspired to go to work, and coming home at night inspired by the work we do, then that sounds pretty great to me.

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