I came across Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED Talk a couple of years ago, and it’s really impacted my thinking. I’ve always loved the question, ‘why?’, and I’ve been asking it all my life. Why does a piece of technology work the way that it does? Why did a person do something instead of something else? I ask it in both controversial and non-controversial situations. I like to know why. I think this is a powerful question. It helps clarify situations, and can reset outcomes to be more successful. I think it’s a question people should be asking more.
Unfortunately, I’ve learned over the years that this question often upsets people. It isn’t often a socially acceptable question. People can feel put on the spot when asked why. Why is that? Well, the question of ‘why?’ turns out to be very personal one, since it gets to the very motivation of one’s intention, or lack thereof. People can often feel a bit foolish if they don’t have a good reason why they did or said something. In other instances, people immediately assume it’s not a question at all, but a statement of assigning blame or fault. Since the question causes misunderstanding and conflict, I asked it less.
When I heard Simon Sinek’s (now viral) 2009 TEDx Pugent Sound talk, “How great leaders inspire action”, it gave me new perspective to ask ‘why?’. Sinek says that all of the great inspiring leaders and organizations in the world, whether it’s Apple, Martin Luther King, or the Wright brothers, they all think, act, and communicate the exact same way, and it’s the complete opposite to everyone else. Sinek codified it, and named it the Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle is three co-centric circles, with the inner circle being: Why?, the middle circle: How?, and the outer circle: What?. Listen to his TEDx talk to learn how he explains his idea of why some organizations and some leaders are able to inspire, where others aren’t.
I’ve been inspired by Simon Sinek’s talks, which you can find on YouTube. I subscribe to his belief that we must start with ‘why’. And, the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ should be an extension of the ‘why’. I’ve been applying his sage words to myself and my business, asking myself, ‘why do I exist?’ and ‘why does my company exist?’.
To develop a really clear and concise ‘why’ statement is harder than it seems.
Actually, my personal why statement was established many years ago, “To love God and others so that I’m able to make disciples”.
The business ‘why’ statement I’m finding to be a more iterative process of defining who our target market is. Currently, our ‘why’ statement is “To help entrepreneurs build great businesses so that their lives will be improved”. I like this ‘why’ statement because I see a connection between business owners whose businesses are struggling and their lives are too. I believe that I can help entrepreneurs build not just good businesses, but great businesses. I believe building a great business is much more than making a financially successful enterprise, it involves the personal growth and character development of the owner(s).
My personal why statement, and that of the business are consistent and compatible with one another…to care about and to help others. This is an important finding, because if they weren’t compatible, then there would be no harmony or lasting success. There’s a lot incompatibility between the ‘whys’ of businesses and their owners that account for troubling discord in their lives, within their families, and those that they employ.
The more clarity the ‘why’ statements contain, the easier it becomes to filter out the decisions of ‘how’ and ‘what’ that don’t fit with the ‘why’, whether in our personal lives, or that of our companies. A narrower focus produces a less complicated decision-making. I hope this inspires you to think more about your ‘why’. Watch Simon Sinek’s video below.