August 21, 2023

Start With Why

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Posted by Sharmarke Hujale

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7 min read

Discovering the Golden Circle

I was interning at a design agency back in early 2019. During that period of time, I was into strategy. So naturally I was curious to know how the agency did strategy.

I looked into their files from previous work to get an idea of how they did it. I came across a specific case that caught my attention. In it, it had a ‘Golden Circle’ exercise with the Why, How, and What. At the time I didn't know what it was. I asked my mentor what it was about, and he told me some guy named Simon Sinek came up with this concept.

He advised me to look at his Ted Talk​—and I did—during my working hours lol. I was amazed by the concept, and how Simon delivered it. So simple, and easy to understand, and it resonated with me deeply. When something piques my interest, naturally I want to know more. But at the time, I didn’t dive deeper immediately.

Revisiting the Concept

During the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 when we were pretty much locked inside our homes—I was reminded of the concept of the Golden Circle, and the concept of the Why from back when I was first introduced to it. With a lot of time on my hands, I would use my spare time to get to know more about the concept. It was also during this time I read the book Start With Why, even though I bought it a while back.

I soon realized that many people had misconstrued the ‘Why’ concept, often basing their opinions solely on the Ted Talk. They were criticizing the concept for being too simple, too naive—also it didn’t make any sense in a business context. Sure, if they only took the ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’ part to make their conclusion.

To really understand a concept—watching one video is not enough. You’ve to dig deeper than anyone else. To read books, watch more videos, listen to the founders on podcasts, etc. And that’s what I did. I consume a lot, to the point that my wife got tired of me for always talking about it LOL. But that’s how I remember stuff that I’m learning—by saying it out loud to another person.

Here’s my understanding of the concept of the Why. It’s not a branding or marketing gimmick, though many agencies do that. A why is not aspirational nor created. It’s uncovered through our stories. To make it simple: it’s about who you are at your natural best. As humans, we all thrive—just in different contexts. So how do we know when we’re not thriving at a particular place or with particular people? It all stems from your past—that could be anywhere from yesterday to 10 years ago. That’s why in a Why discovering process you look backward, never forward. When we’re crystal clear on who we are as individuals can we make conscious decisions that put us in balance with who we are—both in a business and personal context. There’s no such thing as a personal and professional Why. There’s only one. It’s the value you give to the world, and also the reason why your family, friends, and colleagues love you.

If you ever got the saying, “It’s like I don’t know you anymore.” or “It’s like you’re not yourself.”—those are good indicators that tell you you’re not thriving and not in your best version.

The 'Why' Odyssey

Hopefully, by now, you’ve got a better picture of the concept. If not, it’s okay. It takes time, but it certainly did for me. To take the conversation back to me, I made a decision to uncover my Why. Why? Well, first of all, I like clarity in my life. I love to introspect and reflect a lot. So this was a natural process. And secondly, I wanted to know the reason for my drive. You can move in life at full speed, but would you do it blindly or with your eyes fully open? I chose the latter.

During a Why discovery, you gather specific, meaningful stories. Not some random, lame stories that you really don’t care about. These stories have to give you a visceral feeling, an emotional reaction. Those stories matter. After I’d gathered those types of stories, it was time for a partner to listen to them. Yes, you don’t do this process alone. We’re terrible judges of ourselves and lack objectivity. And you don’t do this process with family members either.

I did the process with two good friends of mine over the span of a year or two. The reason I did it this way was because I needed different perspectives. So first, a Why discovery with one friend—drafted a Why statement—and then some months after with another friend. And in between I was just living my normal day-to-day life with responsibilities like anyone else.

It was a frustrating process, not gonna lie. The hardest part of it was wording my Why statement. The focus of the statement is that it feels right to you, not that it is supposed to sound cool. I went through many iterations before I was finally happy. And what I’m about to share took me a long time to articulate so that other people would be able to understand.

Unveiling My Why

My why is:

To inspire people in meaningful ways so that, we can be open to a world of possibilities.

So what does that mean to me?

That means that I believe when we truly become inspired, we start to see possibilities that we didn’t see before. We have a shift in perspective. New doors start to open up, our attitude changes towards challenges. We have a desire to learn more. We persevere more, and we find joy in helping others.

And in my stories, there was a recurring pattern.

I fall into uncharted territories. It becomes overwhelming for me to overcome, and I start to lose courage. I find inspiration in people—they give me the tools—a helping hand, and a new way to approach the world. With that help, I find the courage to persevere despite the challenge. On the other end, the challenge would level me up as a person which made me thankful and inspired enough to share what I’ve learned, and what has been given to me.

That’s me at my core.

A good Why statement has two components to it—a contribution part and an impact part. It would look like this:

To______ so that__________

My intended impact is for each of us to be open to a world of possibilities. But that alone is too broad, what makes it much more concrete is the contribution part. Which in my case is ‘to inspire people in meaningful ways’. That’s my focus. That’s my intention. Both in my work and personal life—and I’ve been doing that for a long time before articulating my Why.

Actually, me starting this newsletter to inspire you, is one of the ways I get to live my Why. And it’s so much enjoyable. You can imagine your Why as a tool, as a hammer. You can use a hammer to hang a picture or build a whole house. The same goes for the Why. You can use it for a job interview, starting a business, transforming a culture, or inspiring a campaign. It’s really versatile—you can go as broad as you want or as narrow as you want. The sky is the limit.

The examples I just presented were borrowed from the book Find Your Why.


References

How great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team by Simon Sinek, David Mead, Peter Docker

Finding Your Why: Live Webinar (2017)

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