When I was growing up, my mom and dad told me what every parent in America tells their children: “you can become whatever you want.”
I might have taken that a little too seriously.
In the kitchen with my mother, I would sit up on the counter and tell her my grand plan: I’d be a doctor on Monday, an FBI agent on Tuesday, the President of the United States Wednesday through Thursday (because it’s a harder job), and a businessman on Friday. Naturally, with such a busy weekday schedule, I’d take the weekends off.
I was an ambitious 5-year-old who loved to dream. Mostly, I remember dreaming about what my future would be like. But because I was 5, my imagination was somewhat limited. After all, I didn’t even know what bills were!
“I became obsessed with nailing down exactly what is was I wanted to do in my life.”
Throughout my junior high and high school years, I continued this fascination with what my future would hold, and what I would end up doing with my life. Like most kids my age, I bounced back and forth between all sorts of possible professions. After watching a lot of Boston Legal, I wanted to be a lawyer. In 2008, after being exposed to an exciting election, I wanted to become a politician. After I was introduced to blogging, I wanted to do something in digital media. In high school, that passion for media and marketing became even stronger when I joined a business organization called DECA my sophomore year and took a journalism class my junior and senior year.
I started off college as a Broadcasting major with a minor in Political Science. I ended up changing my mind, and next year I will be graduating with a Political Science degree and a minor in Public Relations.
I give you all of this background information to say, over the course of my short life, I have had many dreams. To a certain extent, even as recently as earlier this year, I became obsessed with nailing down exactly what is was I wanted to do in my life.
Then, this past summer, I finally had enough. I started to grow tired of going through the motions. Things at school were going fine, and things at work were well also. But there was a void. And this void was eating at me.
In August, I started reading a book called Start With Why by a man named Simon Sinek. I first learned about Sinek during my freshman year of college, when someone sent me his 2009 TED talk. In this talk, he summarizes the concept of the Golden Circle, which would become the central idea behind his book.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” Sinek says. “Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead, inspire us.“
As I read chapter after chapter, I was fascinated by how things in my own life started to gain clarity. What I learned from this book was, WHAT you do or HOW you do it does not matter as much as WHY you do WHAT you do. The takeaway for me was, I shouldn’t worry about figuring out what I want to do in life, I should figure out my purpose for doing those things. My Why dictates my What, not the other way around.
Sinek further argues that, once you know your Why, decision-making in everything from one’s life to one’s business becomes easier because the Why can be used as a guide. I can say, after completing this book and forming a more clear grasp on my Why, this has become true in my life and business.
Obviously, the book goes into much more depth on the subject and I recommend you read it ASAP, but the idea is one I feel compelled to share, along with my own personal Why Statement:
I believe a better world requires better leaders. I envision a world where individuals are empowered to fulfill their God-given potential, where people collaborate with others, and where citizens take ownership in the well-being and success of their communities.
My mission is to help emerging leaders with world-changing ideas inspire others and influence change.
What does this all mean?
What I discovered is that, most of what I do today already aligns with my Why. For example, I have been given the awesome opportunity to work as a leadership development coach for high school leaders. Additionally, I work with the incredibly talented young leaders at OUTSET, where I serve as the Editor-in-Chief. Luckily, this means no big changes are necessary. But it also means that any future projects I take on should, in some way, help me progress towards my aforementioned objective.
So, what is your Why? What inspires you to get up in the morning? And does What you do help advance your Why?