Starting With ‘Why’

Starting With Why

Image credit: Fickr creative commons user ‘mediaboytodd’

It’s been a couple of weeks since I resigned from the company I co-founded. Prior to this change, I had never resigned a position before having something else lined up. This time I have the luxury of time to contemplate. This time the future is a blank canvas with all options on the table. But before I jump into my next role I thought I should reflect on my last one. Figure out what I did right, what I did wrong. Close the chapter by outlining the lessons I learned from the experience. I made a list of the things that went right and the things that didn’t. Then I started writing a series of blog posts to publish so others can learn from my mistakes.

But instead of talking about my specific experiences I went into problem solving mode. I started writing prescriptions to business problems like I thought I was an expert with decades of experience. Fortunately, a good friend and advisor punched me in the face. He set me straight. I need to start ‘doing’ again. I haven’t taken a startup to a million billion dollar exit yet, so writing “how-to” blog posts does not make sense yet.

What does make sense though is to talk about what’s going through my mind as I reflect and look forward.

The future is a blank canvas

As an entrepreneurial minded person I have a ton of ideas. I could launch another startup or start another small business. Or I could pursue opportunities in the corporate sector where I could add value, like I’ve done before. I could even go back to school.

I’ve always believed I could do anything that I set my mind to do. My dad used to tell me, “if you can conceive it, and believe it, you can achieve it.” But before jumping down one path, I decided to step back.

Starting with why

I remembered Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action. He explains how leading companies attract great employees and loyal customers by communicating their mission, their why. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” Simon says. I believe Simon’s talk can relate to individuals as well.

So I decided to define my personal mission, the ‘why’ I will get up every day with passion, my purpose for being. It’s gotta be more than about money. And I need to determine the culture I want to associate with, the values I will not compromise.

In high school, I used to think my purpose was to win at football. I got up every day with a passion for the game. I hit the gym with my mission in mind. I practiced and played with passion. I lived a culture of hard work, persistence and endurance. But our team didn’t win the state championship. We didn’t even have a winning record during my tenure. It’s ok though, because football’s purpose in my life was to teach me discipline, humility and how to overcome pain and get back on my feet. Those skills have helped me tremendously in business and in life.

Over the last couple of years I thought my purpose was to win at entrepreneurship. I got up every day with a passion for business. I obsessed, talked and dreamt about it.

The ‘why’ is the destination

While I still have a passion for football and entrepreneurship, I realize they are just vehicles. They are what I did. But it doesn’t matter what I do, it matters why I do it. What matters is the destination, the cause. The why will drive me, determine what I do, and who I work with.

Whether I end up building my own company, working in a corporate role, joining a non-profit, entering politics or anything else, I have to start with why.

So that’s what I’m doing.

In my next post I share my personal mission – my ‘why’ – and the thinking that helped me define it.