Regardless of who you are – a regular employee, a homemaker, an entrepreneur, a manager, a leader, or a freelancer – you’ll inspire, persevere, and succeed when you know your Why.
Why are some people and organizations more inventive, pioneering and successful than others? And why are they able to repeat their success again and again?
Because in business it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it. – Simon Sinek
Here are 5 key takeaways.
1. Know your Why
Real leaders who inspire, both at the individual and organizational level, are cited throughout the book. Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Bill Gates, Wright brothers, and more. What they all have in common is that they know their Whys.
WHAT you do is easy to identify. No matter the size of the organization or the kind of industry you’re in, you’ll be able to describe your role or the products and services of the company. You may also know HOW you do WHAT you do, the processes necessary for the outcomes of your role.
The key is to know your WHY. Few care to think about this. People who feel lost in their lives or careers don’t know their WHYs. WHY does not refer to earning a living or making money – those are material gains you want to obtain (and so does everyone else). WHYs vary from person to person.
WHY refers to your purpose, cause, or belief. In Simon’s words, WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?
Most people think and act from the outside in – WHAT they do and HOW. WHY is the fuzziest concept that few are aware of.
But knowing your inner core being and inspiring others require you to think and act from the inside out – know clearly WHY you do what you do. Communicate your WHY first, then HOW and WHAT you do comes naturally.
2. Once you know your Why, find people who know How and What
WHY is a vision statement. HOW is a mission statement.
At a personal level, WHY is essentially your ideal vision for yourself. HOW you’re going to attain that ideal vision and WHAT to do represent your mission – the actionable goals you set for yourself. Your WHY comes from your values, strengths, and passions. To find out your WHY, you may download this free tool based on the book Master the Art of Life for a simple exercise to decide on your vision and mission.
At an organizational level, the vision is the founder’s WHY and intended future for the company. The mission is HOW the company intends to create that future.
For passion to survive, it needs structure.
Both WHY (the visionary) and HOW (the builder) are needed to create a cause that will make a difference and inspire others. Every movement that inspired the masses had both.
Martin Luther King was the visionary and Ralph Abernathy was the builder. Steve Jobs was the visionary and Steve Wozniak was the builder. Walt Disney was the visionary and Roy Disney was the builder.
WHYs without HOWs are likely to fail – just look at the dot-com boom. But WHYs are necessary for a sense of meaning and pulling through difficult times.
Passion may need structure to survive, but for structure to grow, it needs passion.
3. Inspire others by telling them your Why.
At some point in time, no matter what you do, you will find yourself explaining to someone else about your decision. Maybe you have to rally others to join your team. Maybe you have to convince an investor about what you are doing. Maybe you are pitching to a potential client. Maybe a loved one is questioning your decision.
How did Martin Luther King inspire hundreds of thousands to join in the civil rights movement in 1963?
He communicated his WHY, crystal clear, to the masses.
He believed in human equality, a belief that was much more than just the civil rights movement alone, much more than just about himself or his children. It was a belief about humanity as a whole.
King wasn’t the only one with ideas about WHAT could be done to instil civil rights in America, but he was the only one who explained WHY. Racial segregation in America cannot be transformed just by the changes in law – it requires the behavioural changes of millions of people in the country on a daily basis.
And it was the 250,000 people who believed in King’s WHY who turned up that day for the speech, who helped to diffuse the changes throughout the nation after. They believed in King’s vision because it paralleled their own. They were driven by their own vision of a changed America and not just King’s.
His indelible speech “I Have a Dream” expressed his firm conviction in the equality of humankind, in a shared America. In Simon’s words, he gave the “I Have a Dream” speech, not the “I Have a Plan” speech. He spoke about his vision for the country, not about the details of his civil rights plan.
Inspiring others is about lighting that spark within them to believe or act. It is not about manipulating others for short-term gains. As long as people believe what you believe, it forms a solid basis for trust and cooperation.
4. Knowledge and resources don’t guarantee satisfaction and success – but knowing your Why does.
Ever heard wealthy people gripe about their work and lousy co-workers or subordinates? Ever read about underprivileged people who gain huge satisfaction from the simple work they do?
Samuel Pierpont Langley was a renowned inventor in the nineteenth century whose goal was to build the world’s first functioning airplane. He was highly acclaimed and well-connected in his field, with financial backing from the government. The problem was, he only knew WHAT he wanted to gain with the discovery – fame and wealth – and not WHY.
The Wright brothers, on the other hand, had no funding and no high-level connections. They funded their project to build an airplane with earnings from their bicycle shop. But they knew WHY they wanted to build a functioning airplane – to benefit millions of people and change the world.
The difference between them lies in what drives them to do what they do. Langley was driven by achievement and fame, but the Wright brothers had passion for flight. Decades of research has shown that being driven by external motivators such as material rewards compromise creativity and enjoyment.
Achievement comes when you pursue and attain WHAT you want. Success comes when you are clear in pursuit of WHY you want it.
5. Jaded? You’ve left your Why behind.
Maybe you already figured out your WHY long ago. You’re a successful entrepreneur, with a thriving business that occasionally goes through rough patches. But lately you’ve been feeling like something is missing in your life.
That’s because you lost your WHY. You’ve been so focused on the HOWs and WHATs of your business that you forgot WHY you started the business in the first place.
Or maybe you’re a regular employee going to work everyday, competent in what you do but you don’t feel happy for some reason. That’s because for the longest time you know WHAT you do and maybe HOW to do it – and you do it very well – but you never knew WHY you were doing what you were doing.
There has to be more to life than this. And you’re right. It’s time to figure out your WHY.