Start With Why

Why do you do what you do?

There. Don’t read the rest of this blog post. Just chew on the above for a solid minute. Five minutes, if you’re generous with yourself. Ten minutes, if you’re on a roll. Twenty minutes, if you’ve lost track of time and the thought of a growing inbox squeezed itself to the forefront. An hour, if you’re on one of those monk-like retreats where you’re on a vow of silence, and yet you’re reading blogs, like mine. A day, if you’re a fasting, silenting, enlightenmenting, non-showering, monkish type.

I mean, if you do decide to read on, you’ll see my notes on Start With Why, the book by Simon Sinek, as well as the results of what the book inspired me to do: figure out why I do what I do.

Alright, you stuck around! Here’s what I’ve got for book notes, in bulleted, yet non-violent, form:

  • People do not buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
  • Why: what you believe. What: tangible proof of what you believe, i.e., the products that give life to the cause.
  • Why: your beliefs / cause / idea that’ll inspire. How: guiding values & principles, actions to prove your beliefs. What: tangible results.
  • Why: clarity of purpose: vision statement. How: route to get there: mission statement.
  • If our customers believe what we believe, then trust forms. Trust is built on relationships. Earn trust: say what you believe and prove it in what you do.
  • Authenticity is doing what I believe.
  • Great leaders have charisma from clarity of why. Charisma can inspire.

The book covers way more, like the biological significance of ‘the why’, and plenty of examples where setting & sharing ‘the why’ begot success, and where not doing so begot total planetary annihilation at least unsustainable success. That first bullet was repeated throughout the book… so catchy… note how, besides the first word, that phrase is monosyllabic.

Y’still here? You must be the non-showering, monkish type! (With an IP address of – how appropriately odd.) So let’s get into the meaty, I mean juicy, I mean meaningful stuff. (Sorry, I forgot you were fasting.)

We do what we do because we are driven by a set of beliefs. For myself, I see this in how I interact with people, how I father, how I ‘husband’, and how I Agile Coach, let alone how I was drawn to this field. So what lies at the core of all these? Why does Merrill B. Lamont III do what he does? Let us pull back the curtain, revealing the following, one building on top of the next:

  • I believe every person has a gift.
  • I believe every person has a natural tendency to share this gift by expressing themselves.
  • I believe the journey towards global happiness can most efficiently & effectively be enjoyed by every person allowing the full expression of themselves.

I justify the above to my left-brain by thinking back to Economics 101: if hunters are better at hunting than gatherers, and gatherers are better at gathering than hunters, then more will be hunted & gathered if we allow the hunters to hunt and the gatherers to gather. By generalizing the notion of hunters having the gift of hunting, and gatherers having the gift of gathering, I get that third belief.

Time to get specific. Launching from that first belief, I now share a fourth belief, which is what drives my style of Agile Coaching (with a fire in my belly):

  • I believe teams are purposeful communities of people with gifts, to be respected & celebrated.

That “to be respected & celebrated” appendage serves 2 purposes. It guides how I address teams now that I have them defined. It is also deliberately unclear, since it does not specify which pre-comma noun is to be respected & celebrated; this sparks the inner dialogue of figuring out how to respect & celebrate each pre-comma noun.

I aim to respect & celebrate the purposeful community by clarifying & making understood the purpose of the group, by incorporating the care-taking thinking behind fostering a neighbourhood community, and by discussing both intra-team & inter-team working modes.

I aim to respect & celebrate the people by acknowledging their individuality & how a person is not a ‘resource’, by working with how we all exhibit both rational & irrational behaviours, and by modeling an environment for vulnerability & psychological safety.

I aim to respect & celebrate the gifts by explicitly teasing out the hopes & desires & dreams of each person, by modeling an atmosphere where they can be shared either inside or outside the office, and by giving space for gift-related communities.

Time to get extra-curricular. Launching from that second belief, I now share a fifth belief, which is what drives the side projects I dream up (with a gleam in my eye):

  • I believe that lowering the barrier to creating & sharing catalyzes the fuller expression of every person.

Think about what blogging platforms have enabled. Now YouTube. Now Twitter. Now Vine (RIP). These technology platforms have made it easier to produce your content (“lowering the barrier to creating”) and have mass-consumption of your content (“lowering the barrier to sharing”).

Now, I’m not saying every person should blog to become a blogger… because doing so uncovers the gift of blogging every person holds. I submit that engaging in these easier modes of creating & sharing will exercise the creative force in all of us, where further engagement in one or many of these easier modes of expression will lead to that personal mode of fuller expression.

Hm. I put that last sentence in bold because I haven’t thought this thought before. Let’s see how it sits with me. Hmmm… Yeah. I do believe it, so I’ll keep it. Well then, stumbling upon epiphanies like this is a win in my book – time to walk away!

I can’t say I’ve “started with why”, but I’ve uncovered my ‘why’ upon digging into the things I have started, and with this clarity of belief, it’s been much easier to decide what to do, much easier to act in the now, and much easier to… be in my own skin.


I not only follow the instruction of this blog post’s title in the blog post’s content, but I now get to end with ‘why’.