At this point, you’re in one of two camps: you either know your ‘why’ and are able to articulate it easily, or you’re wondering if you even have a ‘why’, and if so, what it is. Where you find your ‘why’ will be something that only you can discover. But I can give you some thoughts on where to look and encourage you to be open to go on the journey of discovery.
People are moved and motivated to do many different things. I’ve talked about being motivated by the global poverty cause in my story. Your journey may be (is likely to be) about something completely different. But regardless of what you do, it’s impossible to consistently get up and keep going in the face of ongoing challenges, without knowing your deeper ‘why’.
As an example, the best teachers are not the ones who turn up to school for a pay cheque – in fact, those teachers are the ones that are often never remembered (neither is their content). My mum is a teacher and I wish I could have had her as my teacher at school! I hear her talk at home with eyes gleaming about what she’s hoping to impart into her primary school students, some as young as five and six. She works crazy hours, not the bare minimum.
Now, you might say she’s just a teacher, which is kind of just existing in a career – but I know it’s far from that. I don’t know about you, but I still remember the teachers who made the biggest impact on my life. I remember their names, their faces and what they said. I remember that they believed in me. I remember the lunchtimes they gave up, the after-school input they invested. I saw their passion come out because they were driven to inspire the next generation.
They didn’t just teach from a textbook – they had stories, analogies and crazy unconventional ways of teaching. They were willing to step outside of the way things were always done and it woke something up inside of their students.
You may have loved, hated or fallen asleep in the movie Dead Poets Society but I loved seeing Robin Williams’ character challenge the status quo and inspire his students to “carpe diem” – seize the day. He lost his job for it, but (spoiler alert!) the movie ends with a scene where students are standing on their desks in defiance to the school, saluting their teacher and saying, “Oh captain, my captain.”
Robin’s character made his students feel something. In a similar vein, game changers evoke feeling because they exist for a purpose. This isn’t just applicable to an individual. It is essential that every organisation, whether driven by a social cause or not, is connected to their purpose. Zappos, the online retail giant based in the United States, is a great example of this.
They are a very different business to us. They are disruptors in the online retail space. They grew from the seed of an idea to $1 billion revenue in their first 10 years, and in 2012, they were named number 11 in Fortune magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies To Work For. Zappos was actually on the brink of failure when they were forced to discover their ‘why’: to deliver happiness. From that point on, they made decisions based on their ‘why’, which sometimes made no apparent financial sense. Case in point: they run a 24-hour warehouse, not for efficiency, but for customer experience. Their KPI measurements across multiple departments are not just time or financially focused, but are based on delivering happiness to the customer. Zappos have been incredibly successful in the commercial sense of the word, and in large part it’s because they are committed to focusing on their ‘why’.
Whether your ‘why’ appears to be big or small, every ‘why’ is significant because it links you to your purpose and meaning in life.
We would like to thank Daniel Flynn and the team at Thankyou for allowing us to share this excerpt from Chapter 1.4, ‘The ‘Why’ Behind What You Do’ of Chapter One. This idea / book is available at the price of your choosing, here.