The Power of WHY

Growing up, my younger brother, Nick would ask hundreds of questions a day. He was naturally curious and not shy at all, which turned out to be a lethal combination.

“What’s that?”

“What are you doing?”

“Where are you putting your cup?”

“How did you get this box in the car?”

“What does that button do?”

“Why does Uncle Bob have hair in his ear and nose?”

Occasionally annoying, consistently adorable, and sometimes a bit embarrassing for my parents, my brother never shied away from trying to solve the world around him. And no matter what answer he was given, Nick would always ask the same question directly after…”WHY?”

It didn’t matter what the topic was; Nick wanted to know the reason. Occasionally he would change the layout up a bit and ask instead, “Because why?”

Nick’s, “Why?” would end up triggering another “Why?” and after another answer, again he would tilt his little head and ask, “Why?”. 

It was a seemingly endless cycle of “whys” until the person he was questioning lost hope and threw up their hands with an exasperated, “I DON’T KNOW!!!”

Looking back I smile at the gentle way my parents would answer all of his questions over and over again, and the not-so-patient way my sister and I would explain some of those inquisitions. But the truth was, Nick was on to something.

Now an adult, he’s one of the smartest guys I know, and I can guarantee you that it’s because he’s still not afraid to ask questions.

It’s a skill set I wish I spent more time developing as a leader. Asking questions and digging deeper is something we all could benefit from practicing. In fact, there’s one question every leader should spend time asking on a regular basis, and one Nick mastered as a little kid. Asking ourselvesWHY.

WHY is our purpose, our cause, our belief. WHY is the reason our company exists. WHY is the motivation behind getting out of bed every morning.

In his book, Start with Why Simon Sinek talks about the Golden Circle. What is the Golden Circle? It’s a series of three circles with WHY in the center, HOW in the middle, and WHAT as the outer ring.

Page 37 / Start with Why

Most organizations and leaders work from the outside in (starting with WHAT and making their way in to WHY). But those inspired companies and leaders who end up turning industries and nations inside-out have a different method. They start with WHY.

Charismatic leaders. Industry dominating organizations. Brands with cult-like followings. They all have one thing in common. They know their WHY.

Below are mission statements of iconic organizations and personal mission statements of famous world-changers.

“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Richard Branson, Founder of The Virgin Group
“Have fun in your journey through life and learn from your mistakes.”

The Coca-Cola Company
“To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions. To create value and make a difference.”

Joel Manby, CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment
“To love God and love others.”

The Walt Disney Company
“The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.”

Not only do the organizations and leaders listed above know what their WHY is, but they also spend their time and efforts focusing on achieving that WHY.

What is your WHY?

If you’re looking for ideas on how to craft your personal mission statement, Career Coach, Dan Miller suggests these three steps to defining your personal mission statement:

1. Your skills and abilities

2. Your personality traits

3. Your values, dreams, and passions

Your mission statement doesn’t need to be wordy or have deep meaning that impresses everyone. Sometimes the most straightforward vision statements have the most significant impact. The key is to find your WHY and stay focused.

When you know your WHY it becomes easier to say no to things that don’t fall into your mission statement. You give yourself permission to be selfish in your pursuits. You spend more time working on things that matter to you. Spend less time distracted and worried about things that don’t matter to you. When you know your WHY it frees you up to do those crazy, big, scary things that you’ve always dreamed of doing but never dared to do before. Your WHY gives you the determination to chase after the things that are important to you with a singular focus.

So I have a couple of questions for you.

Do you know your WHY?

And, if you do, are you living each day in a way that tells people your WHY without you having to say anything?

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