HOW does it apply to WHAT I do?
Simon Sinek presents his hugely impactful title message in Start With Why. If you are working in the corporate realm, this book is easy for you to relate to because one or two of the example companies is either structured like yours or is structured like your competitor. This book can initially seem unsuited to those of us living in the smaller business world or in the non-business world. I hope that by sharing my story of how I stumbled upon Sinek's message, those of you in the latter two groups in the audience will see that this book, and his message, really can be applied to your life and leadership style. It is not the easiest of stories to tell because frankly it is a little embarrassing but anything for you dear readers! Enjoy and let me know what you think below, via email, or connect with me on social media.
I had the opportunity to have lunch with Simon Sinek at a brown bag lecture event several years ago. It was a hugely impactful and pivotal moment in my life as I was making the decision to leave active duty service in pursuit of...…… I had no idea. Until that day, all I knew of Sinek was that he was pretty famous for this "Start with Why" lecture that I had watched that morning on YouTube to ensure I did not have a completely clueless expression on my face during his talk. It struck a passion cord with me from the moment he began to speak. I stayed quietly in absorb mode trying to learn, and semi hide, in the room of only seven other people. You can guess how well that worked out.
Eventually he made his way around the table asking questions and somehow knew exactly the best, and worst, question to ask me: "So Sarah, how do you communicate your why in what you do?" I wish I had been speechless because it would have been better then what happened. I became star-struck, blank-minded, and completely introspective all at once as it dawned on me that I really had no idea. I mumbled an answer that barely made any sense as was confirmed by the confused look on my boss's face. Simon took my answer and, rather than trying to unravel it, he met it with an observation "Well you know why; the hows and whats will come."
I have had clarity of my WHY now for a while, even before the awkward lunch. My WHY is to encourage others to be their best, most successful, joyous self in all of their endeavors. "A WHY is just a belief...HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions" pg. 67 and this was where I was struggling. I took inventory, after lunch that day, of all of the HOWs and WHATs I had tried up to that point. They probably sound like several you have tried knowingly or not. Hobbies. Sports. Subjects in school. Majors in undergrad. Jobs. Religious groups. Volunteer opportunities. Social groups. All of these are HOWs and WHATs with associated WHYs that either align with your WHY or do not. The lunch with Simon took place a few months after I had realized that the WHAT I had chosen no longer felt like it was aligning with my WHY or HOWs sand I was embarking on the journey to regain that alignment.
This is hopefully a story that many of you can relate to. You have probably heard this moment called "a cross roads." The actions I had taken up until that moment were well worn trenches tamped down by all those who had gone before me. These paths were known and comfortable but I was starting to realize that I did not share the same values as those I was sharing the path with. "HOWs are your values or principles that guide HOW to bring your cause to life" pg. 66. Some we certainly shared, because our organization gave them to us, but others were so different that the only logical course for me was to try something new. The action I chose to take to start my search for realignment was going back to school. I had learned many skills up to this point but this time I was searching for a more soul based experience so I could focus on the unique HOWs to my WHY. I came away from my graduate school experience knowing that I value: active listening, time spent with others, transparent communication, non-judgmental environments, having courage to strive, resiliency after failure, commitment to self-improvement, and several other items integral to my WHY.
Sinek mentions in his book that the most effective HOWs are verbs not nouns. By thinking of my values in an actionable form, the options for my WHAT began to fall into place. The parts of my job with the Navy that I got the most joy from where the times when I was able to help my sailors achieve their goals by helping them complete Officer Candidate School applications, college admissions paperwork, letters of recommendation, or any number of requirements. I talked through my realignment search with just about anyone who would listen for even two minutes and someone mentioned to me that it sounded a lot like coaching. **Ding Ding Ding** The seed was planted. I started combing my network for coaches or coaching opportunities and with every step pieces of the puzzle started to come together.
I walked through the process I describe above over the course of several months. I realized that I was out of alignment. I searched for ways to bring myself back on track with my WHY then I worked to gain knowledge via school. I talked out every thought with anyone who would listen and what all of this did was to bring my Golden Circle (my WHY, HOW, and WHAT) into balance so I could pursue my WHAT as authentically as possible. "What authenticity means is that your Golden Circle is in balance. It means that everything you say and everything you do you actually believe" pg. 68. This was by no means an easy decision to jump off the platform of job security and into the unknown but I clung to the belief that "regardless of WHAT we do in our lives, our WHY - our driving purpose, cause or belief - never changes" pg. 136. Keeping my eyes on my WHY has kept me courageously forging my own path every day and now I cannot imagine doing it any other way.
What courageous leap do you need to make to be true to your WHY?