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  December 30, 2011
Understanding the "Why"...


People don’t buy what you do...they buy why you do it...
             ~ Simon Sinek

I was recently talking with a good friend of mine who works for a large corporation that builds phone chips.  She explained to me that the company only allows so much vacation time to be accrued and that she needed to use at least five days of vacation in the next few weeks as not to lose soon-to-be newly earned vacation time.

So I asked her where she planned to go on vacation and she replied, "I’m going to Northern California".

Noting that I was originally from Northern California, I asked her why she chose that particular destination and what was she planning on doing once she got there. 

She responded to my question by telling me that she didn’t have any set plans but that it was one of her life-long goals to go there.

So I asked her whether or not she was planning on flying or driving there.  She said that she hadn’t really made up her mind yet.

I thought to myself, here’s a person who has "life-long" ambition to do something but has no idea why she set the goal in the first place, how she wanted to do to achieve her somewhat goal, and what her plans were to achieve it.  She just knew that she was going to do something that was goal-worthy.

Compare this to a person who may have a similar goal.  Larry is a good friend of mine who also happens to be a wine aficionado.  He has never actually been to Napa Valley but has been collecting wine from the region for many years.  His goal is to visit several of his favorite wineries in order to learn more about their wines and possibly discover some smaller wineries in Napa that do not have a large distribution network.  He has contacted several of the establishments and arranged private tours and tastings with the owners and wine makers.  He will fly into San Francisco International, hire a car and driver, and stay at a local inn affording him the opportunity to spend as much time in the area as possible. 

Larry’s goal is formulated around his "why".  He knows exactly "why" he is going, he has determined "how" he will achieve his goal, and has formulated a plan of action as to "what" he needs to do to make it actually happen.

January 1st is fast approaching and with it, a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions we make each year.  We want to lose weight, learn a new skill, go to the gym, read more, spend more quality time with our families, make more sales calls, break 90 on the golf course, save more money, go back to school, and/or an endless variety of other worthwhile goals.

We create a plan of what our end results might be and how we’re planning on achieving these goals.  Some of us even take the time to write down our goals (we know that we’re 4 times more likely to achieve our goals when they are written down and measured). 

We have the "what" and "how" parts down pat...

The point that we ultimately miss is the "why"...

Why do we want to lose weight?...make more sales calls?...save more money?

Do we want to lose weight to look more attractive and perhaps younger?...to prove to other people that we have some self-control and will-power?...to put less strain on our muscles and joints leading to less body aches and pains?...because our spouse and/or kids asked us to?...because we are looking for more self-esteem?

I met a man named Simon Sinek several years ago when I was attending classes at MIT in Boston.  It was the first time I had heard his concept of the Golden Circle of motivation - Why, How and What. 

As he explains the concept, most individuals and organizations spend a great deal of time developing ideas, products, and services from the outside of the circle and move inwards.  They will tell you in great detail what it is that they do (the What).  Some of these individuals and/or companies will tell you what their formula for success (the How) but rarely will they explain to us why they do it.  Maybe perhaps it’s because they really don’t know themselves why they do what they do (making a profit is not a "Why" but rather a result of the "What").

Take, for an example, a typical car manufacturer.  They make a vehicle that gets good gas mileage (the What).  They will tell you that they achieve this using a hybrid gas/electric engine (the How).  However most car companies fail to tell us a compelling reason why buying hybrid vehicle might be a good choice when we go car shopping. 

They start with the what...and tell us the how...and never quite get to the why.

Contrast this approach with a different message...one that starts inward and works out...

"We (the car company) are committed to a clean planet and to the elimination of fossil fuels.  Therefore today we only build cars using electric hybrid engines that uses less gas and creates less carbon emissions..."

It’s a completely different approach...we know Why the car company makes low emission vehicles...

(Click HERE to watch Simon’s short but incredible TED presentation about the concept of "Why")

As we begin this New Year...instead of doing the same old thing of making typical New Year’s resolutions perhaps we should take a few additional minutes to consider a different approach and focus a bit on our "Why".

Why am I trying to lose weight?

Why do I want to spend more time with my family?

Why do I want to go back to school and learn some new things?

Why does it matter that I spend more time volunteering next year?

Why should I make more sales calls?

If we can understand the underlying "Why" for our goals and resolutions, then perhaps we can establish some real action plans that might actually work for us this next year...and many more still yet to come... 

Achieving your resolutions is hard...but maybe this year they might seem just a bit easier with the proper motivation.

Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where we sincerely hope that the new year brings you health, happiness, laughter, prosperity and knowledge.

Jim Kalb

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