Start with “Why”

When someone asks you about your business, what’s your response? Often, we get tangled up in what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it, but we neglect the why. In this article, we focus on the importance of first orienting yourself to the why. This will help you win customers, win star employees and even to win yourself when times are tough.

The “why” hits the heart

Humans are meaning making machines. We want to know why things happen to us and why things are the way they are. The why is so significant that it’s often the very reason people choose one company over another.

Why are there Tesla fans? Apple fans? Kobe fans? Raptors fans? Because there is a meaning, a reason, a why attached to the person / product / business that resonates so strongly with each individual in that fan group, that they will choose (often irrationally) to support that one group over all others.

If you want others to pay attention to you, start with why.

The “why” opens the road for you

Simon Sinek talks about the golden circle. In this concept, the meaning, the reason, the why is at the center of the circle. Coming out from that is the how and the what.

The reason why you do anything is the heart of the whole matter.

The whole video is worth watching, but for this article, note the following:

If you only tell others about the what, everyone will see your company for what it produces. If you produce anything else, it’ll come across as inauthentic and no one will be interested in it. As such, companies like Dell are only stuck selling computers.

However, if you tell others about the why, everyone will see your company for why it does what it does. If you produce anything else that is congruent with your why, it’ll come across as authentic and (if people resonate with your why) they will be interested in it. As such, companies like Tesla can branch out and sell everything energy related because they’re not about cars, they’re about beautifying green energy technology.

Let’s look at it another way. In the image below, everything stems from the why. If you start with the why, you can land on many what’s. However, if you start with the what, well, you can only go into more variations of that what.

If you don’t want others to constrain you, start with why.

Figuring out your why

I’ve tried to pitch many business ideas to people. However, I always started with what and often lost their support early on. They just couldn’t resonate with my idea because I was never giving them anything to resonate with. However, if you asked me why I was doing what I was doing, I don’t think I could have given an answer.

Sometimes, you too might get stuck on your why. Maybe you’ve been so deep in your what, when someone asks you why, the answer isn’t apparent.

If that’s the case, the solution is simple. Take a step back and ask yourself, “Why did I start this venture?” or “Why am I continuing this venture?”

Was it to help someone? Make money? Find freedom? Travel the world? Support your kids? Escape the 9-5? Start a business? Be your own boss?

Whatever the answer, that honest answer is your why. And that’s the why you have to share with others.

But what if you can’t? What if your why doesn’t seem so honorable? Unfortunately, if you can’t stand behind your real why in public, then no one else can either. Why should they? Even you are embarrassed with your why. And I think that’s the reason I always started with what, because my my why was always self serving.

But all is not lost. Go to a really quiet place, perhaps a trail in the early morning, and come to terms with your current why. Be real with yourself. If it isn’t good enough, find a deeper meaning to pursue, something so powerful it brings you to tears. Something so meaningful, you can shout it on the rooftops.

When you ultimately find something that moves even you, then, start with why. That’s we’ve done with Goldwyn & Sons, and that’s what you can do to.