Years ago I read that book, Start With Why, by Simon Sinek. It’s all about getting into the guts of what you are doing. Getting to the guts of WHY you are doing what you are doing. It talks a lot about business, but it applies to everything across the board from the personal to the professional.
I was hooked. For forever I had felt like I was one hack away from really tapping into my professional groove. It always felt like something was just a little bit off.
Was it the work? Maybe it was who I working for. Maybe it was the industry? Maybe I need to exercise more? Meditate? Volunteer?
But a why, yes, this made sense. This could be it. This could be what I was missing all this time.
Perhaps it wasn’t WHAT I was doing. It was WHY I was doing it in the first place.
In case you haven’t read it, here is part of the blurb for some context:
In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work… Since then, millions have been touched by the power of his ideas, including more than 28 million who’ve watched his TED Talk based on START WITH WHY — the third most popular TED video of all time.
Sinek starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common, but they all started with WHY. They realized that people won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it…Start with Why, Simon Sinek
It all comes down to 3 galvanizing and compelling questions, what Sinek calls the Golden Circle:
- the WHAT is an explanation of what you do
- the HOW is getting into the guts of it, it’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it
- the WHY is the heart of it all, it’s what you believe in
I read this sometime after my oldest was born and I thought, “Excellent! What more compelling reason to do anything could there possibly be but a child?!” And not just any child, but MY child. Becoming a mother made me realize I had the strength of a hurricane within me and when I heard those stories of mothers pulling trucks off children with only their bare hands and the ferocious power of a mother’s love I nodded in solemn understanding.
Yes, my Why would obviously be my children. Of course it WAS my children. I would dedicate my life’s work, from the minor and mundane to the monumentally momentous to the unending importance of their future and their happiness and their potential.
Except it didn’t work.
My kids ARE the single most important thing to me. They are my top, top priority. They are my single greatest happiness, I love and adore them… anything I write here will fail to capture the waves of care and awe and sweetness I have for them.
But putting my why on their shoulders was a cop out.
Telling myself, “do it for the kids, do it for the kids, DO IT FOR THE KIDS DAMNIT,” didn’t inspire me to move mountains.
Just telling myself that everything I did, I did it for them (while true in many ways) was letting me ignore what I was really doing.
What my real “why” was for too long.
When I was a kid into my early 20s my LIFE was dancing. Ballet, tap, jazz, musical theatre, I loved all of it. I loved my dance friends and my dance shoes and the costumes and the rehearsing and being “a dancer.” And I was pretty good. I spent almost every day at the studio including weekends from morning to night and my favourite time of year was competition season. We traveled from competition to competition and I came away with medals that would hang on my bedroom mirror and trophies that would be engraved with my name.
Sure, I was good. I could have even been described as an excellent dancer. I was proficient. I was a technician. I could pick up any choreography. I was a a pleasure to watch on stage.
But every now and then I would get an adjudicator that would call me on my safe pleasantness:
“I want to see you go for it, Shauna…”
“Push, just fall down if you need to…”
“Just go ahead and really feel what this means to you. Tell us a story…”
My all time favourite from a teacher I had in uni:
“You need to go out there and live. Fall in love or get your heartbroken or GET LAID or something, oh my GOD SHAUNA, you need to loosen up.”
When it came down to it, I know now what they were basically all saying.
Why is this important to you? Why must you be on this stage? Why do you care? Why should we care?
Why are you doing this? We want to know your story, your why. Tell us, please!
And now, in my 40s, I finally get why I heard this so often. I finally get what my why has really been all these years.
What I have really wanted more than anything… is to not do anything wrong.
I have wanted to avoid making mistakes. To avoid being disliked. I’ve wanted to be good and be appreciated and to be found faultless.
My why has simply been to stay safe, be liked, be small.
No wonder I found it impossible to get into a groove, professional or otherwise. It’s no wonder my teacher was telling me to go and LIVE. While I often succeeded at avoiding making mistakes and being appreciated for dotting my Is and crossing my Ts, that motivation is hardly spark worthy.
It’s hard to get swept up in a wave of passion and momentum when 80% of your energy is lasered in on not making waves.
Now that I’ve noticed it it’s impossible to go back. Now I get to retrain this well-worn path of conformity and smallness.
Because now that this is staring me in the face I am confronted with the very real and very loud awareness that I most certainly do NOT value being liked above all else.
I am a mother. I am good at my job (really good actually). I have things I want to do and I being a doormat, thankfully, is no longer one of them.
I am getting into the guts of this why stuff again and it feels bold and wild and personal. It feels good.
What is your why?
I am conducting an experiment: I have challenged myself to try something new each month in 2022. Here are my (self imposed) rules. March is Escape Rooms. Let me know if you have ideas on fun/ interesting/ novel things I could try in the comments. Or join me, that would be even more lovely actually…