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How To Start With WHY

 In Books, Mindset

The phenomenon of Simon Sinek’s book (and related TED Talk) “Start With WHY” has spread far and wide. His approach of connecting to a deeper WHY resonates with millions of people, but many still struggle to implement it in their own lives and businesses.

This book has had a tremendous impact on my own business and experience. Whether you’ve read the book or not, I wanted to share it with you and provide some ways to discover and nurture your own big WHY.

Not Manipulation

There are ways to be “successful” without a WHY. Manipulations work. You can get people to do things and buy things. If the end goal is simply to make money, that can be done.

But, in the long run, manipulations build a shaky structure based on short-term gains, chasing the next thing, and constantly high levels of stress. It’s destructive. It doesn’t build loyalty among followers or employees, which means always having to find new people to manipulate.

“When manipulations are the norm, no one wins.” Sinek says.

Don’t Bank On Rationality

We are rational beings. But, first and foremost we are emotional beings. Many of our decisions don’t make rational sense.

Our WHY is not rooted in our rational mind. It is rooted in our “heart,” our emotional center, or our limbic brain. It is there that we tap into the part of life that goes beyond just surviving. Sometimes being irrational is a GOOD thing. I love this passage from the book:

“The power of the limbic brain is astounding. It not only controls out gut decisions, but it can influence us to do things that seem illogical or irrational. Leaving the safety of home to explore faraway places. Crossing oceans to see what’s on the other side. Leaving a stable job to start a business out of your basement with no money in the bank. Many of us look at these decisions and say ‘That’s stupid, you’re crazy. You could lose everything. You could get yourself killed. What are you thinking?’ It is not logic or facts but our hopes and dreams, our hearts and our guts, that drive us to try new things.

“If we were all rational, there would be no small businesses, there would be no exploration, there would be very little innovation, there would be no great leaders to inspire all those things. It is the undying belief in something bigger and better that drives that kind of behavior.”

Be Your WHY

Being rooted in your own WHY gives you a level of motivation, excitement and engagement that cannot be forced or manipulated. It creates a kind of magnetism that makes others who share your WHY want to follow you.

Sinek describes it in terms of charisma vs. energy. “Charisma has nothing to do with energy; it comes from a clarity of WHY. It comes from absolute conviction in an ideal bigger than oneself. Energy, in contrast, comes from a good night’s sleep or lots of caffeine. Energy can excite. But only charisma can inspire. Charisma commands loyalty. Energy does not.”

Find Your WHY

This all sounds great. But in my work, I’ve found that not everyone is immediately connected to their WHY. In fact, most people don’t really know what their WHY is.

The book seems to assume that we all know our WHY, or can easily tap into it. The reality is that if you’ve been living a life or building a business for a while without any thought as to the bigger WHY, you may be pretty disconnected from it and have little idea whether it even exists.

Some people even become frustrated, feeling like their rational approach has worked just fine and they don’t like being told that it’s not “enough.”

And maybe for a lot of people, it is enough. However, we, as entrepreneurs, are leaders by definition. We are creating things, building businesses, attracting clients. It is critically important that we know our WHY so that we can build real trust, loyalty, and a solid foundation.

This is one of the things I love doing with my clients. Here are a few tools I have used to bring out a big WHY:

Belief statement: When distilling your WHY, write it out as a statement that begins with “I believe in/that…” This is different than a mission statement. It’s different than what you love doing. It helps you to think about the underlying belief that drives your actions.

Diagram Your Why: Sometimes people have several areas they are passionate about. They have difficulty picking just one. What I find is that, often this means they are still focusing on the WHAT. There might be several, very different ways that you act upon your WHY. Create a Venn Diagram with intersecting circles, each one being something you are passionate about. At the intersection of them all is where you will find your big WHY.

Mind Movie: A WHY is often too intangible to feel really rooted in. Using a visual tool like a mind movie can help to make it more “real.” Put visual representations of your WHY in a slideshow: ways it shows up tangibly in the world, goals you have for carrying it forward, words and phrases that embody it.

How about you? Have your read the book or seen the talk? What do you think? Are you connected to your WHY, or do you struggle with it? Let me know in the comments.

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