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Discover your WHY statement

Posted by Ryan Lynch, AIF®, Product Manager, fi360, Inc. on September 30, 2015

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Simon Sinek’s 2009 TEDx Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is the third most viewed in the conference’s history.  After watching the eighteen minute clip, it was easy for me to see why.  Like many TED presenter’s, Mr. Sinek is engaging, poised, and inspirational.  However, it was not until a friend recommended his book, “Start With Why”, that I really took the message to heart.  My friend, an aspiring actress, had described it as a “business book for everybody”.  Sinek’s simple message can change your organization, and more importantly, your life.

“What do you do?”  We hear it at networking events, dinner parties, on airplanes and in taxi cabs.  It is a ubiquitous line of the pre-scripted dialogue between strangers.  In the business world, we call our prepared response the elevator pitch.  In this minute-or-less, painstakingly crafted, stripped-down-to-the-core statement, you inspire the listener with your purpose.  Or do you?

Have you ever noticed that all you really get from an elevator pitch is someone’s industry or occupation?  According to Sinek, it’s not WHAT a person does that inspires.  It’s not even HOW.  It’s WHY.  It’s that higher purpose – greater than oneself – that breeds loyalty, trust, and a sense of connection. Coincidentally – or perhaps not – the same part of the brain responsible for those feelings also guides decision-making.  If you want to win over a prospect, why wouldn’t you want to appeal to their decision-making faculties?

Here’s the bad news.  A ‘why’ statement can’t be created.  It is not contrived, nor is it a sales pitch.  It requires a level of soul-searching that may feel uncomfortable at times.  The good news is that you already have one.  It is inherently authentic and waiting for you to acknowledge it.  As Sinek put it, “A why is a belief.  Hows are the actions you take to realize that belief.  Whats are the results of those actions.” Once you can articulate why, the hows and the whats will follow. 

A great way to begin the journey of finding your why statement is to turn to that stranger next to you.  After he tells you what he does, break from the script and ask why.  For example, “So after ten years in pharmaceutical sales, you must find the work fulfilling.  Why is that?”  Following an uncomfortable silence, you may find the ensuing response inspiring. 

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