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Finding Your Why

finding your why
Your Why

In Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and his very popular TED talk, he suggests that the current practice of focusing on…

  • WHAT (you’re making),
  • then HOW (you’re making/delivering it),
  • then WHY (you’re doing it)

…is actually backwards.

Rather your focus should be first on WHY, then on HOW, then on WHAT.

WHY you’re doing what you’re doing, then HOW you’re doing it, and finally WHAT you’re doing?

He calls this the Golden Circle.

Keys to Finding Your WHY?

There are several keys to finding your why.

Try this brainstorming exercise…

Write down:

  • 5 things you believe absolutely
  • 5 things you’re passionate about
  • 5 things that piss you off or frustrate you
  • 5 things you dreamed of doing when you grew up
  • 5 things you would do differently if you had a “do-over”
  • 5 things you would change (in you or the world) if you could

This will give you some insight into what actually motivates you, in other words, why you do what you do.

Simon Says

  • You know what you do
  • You know how you do it (your process)
  • You need to know why you do what you do

Your why is your purpose, your cause, your belief. It’s why you exist. Your raison d’être (reason for being). Your why is what gets you out of bed.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Simon sinek

Ideally, your goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe. This is what provides satisfaction in our work, and long term success.

Brain science

The brain is divided into 3 sections:

  • Neocortex – the newest portion. It’s responsible for rational, analytical thought and language. It corresponds with your WHAT.
  • Limbic brain – the 2 middle sections. They are responsible for feeling (trust, loyalty), human behaviour and decision making.They have no capacity for language. They connect with your WHY.

So if you focus your marketing on language (what you do) by engaging your audience’s neocortex, you won’t engage their feelings and affect their behaviour or decisions. But if you focus on the why and how you do what you do, you’re speaking directly to the part of brain that feels emotion and makes decisions.

People will use their gut (why & how) to choose, then rationalize their choice with language (what). So if you don’t know why you do what you do, you can’t enrol those who believe what you believe.

Why talk to those who believe what you believe?

You won’t succeed if you’re just in it for the what, without the why. But if you talk about what you believe (your why), you will attract those who believe what you believe.

Finding your WHY, and articulating it in your messaging, is key to persuading, inspiring and leading others.

Who should your message target?

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation measures market penetration. It breaks up the market into the following percentages:

  • 2.5% innovators
  • 13.5% early adopters
  • 34% early majority
  • 34% late majority
  • 16% laggards

To achieve mass market success or mass market acceptance of an idea, you need to reach a tipping point at 15-18% market penetration. But the early majority won’t try something until someone else tries it first. This is where many businesses go wrong. They try to win over the largest percentage of the market. But that isn’t easy or effective.

Innovators and early adopters are more comfortable with decision making. They follow their gut responses and make decisions based on what they believe about the world. Then they lead the rest of the pack.

These folks should be your target market. If you win them over, you will eventually attract the early & late majority. So you have to speak in their language – focussing on emotions (the why) rather than things (the what).

Inversely, WHAT you do should prove what you BELIEVE (e.g. I created this because I’m passionate about this.)

Success Fallacy

There is a fallacy about the recipe for success that states that if you have enough money and the right people and market conditions you’ll be a success. This isn’t always true. Here are two examples that prove that it just doesn’t work that way.


When TiVo launched its DVR business it had lots of money, people and the right market for their products. But they focused on selling the WHAT instead of the WHY and became a famous market failure.

Wright Brothers

On the other hand, the Wright brothers had no money, little support, and nobody believed that what they were attempting was possible. It was Orville and Wilbur’s WHY that helped them succeed over their competitors who were just in it for fame and fortune but had no motivating why.

Martin Luther King Jr. inspired people by telling them what he believed, and those who also believed created a movement that changed history. His followers showed up for themselves, for what they believed, not for him.

There is a difference between leaders and those who lead. There are those who lead by position and those who lead because they inspire. When you know your why, and share that with others who believe what you believe, you will inspire them to join your “cause” for themselves.

Finding your WHY and incorporating it into all your marketing messages will make all the difference in who you attract into your business.

Use Your Why to Create an Effective Pitch

Use this formula to create your 30 second “pitch” or “elevator speech.”

  • WHY – I help people to… (insert desired outcome) or I’m passionate about…
  • HOW – by doing/making/sharing… (fill in the blank)
  • WHAT – so they can…, or in order to… (get some benefit, alleviate a discomfort or solve a problem)

Once you’re clear on your Why, play with this formula until it feels aligned with who you are and who you want to serve.

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