How To Find Your WHY

SimonSinek_read

Discover Your Life’s Purpose in Three Simple Steps!

I recently finished reading Simon Sinek’s marketing masterpiece – “Start With Why (How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action)” and it blew my mind.

There are few books that have ever achieved what this book does. It cuts through the mental noise around marketing, business, and leadership, and shines a bright light on a simple truth…

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

I won’t try to explain the truth of Sinek’s argument here. I’ll just urge you to read the book for yourself.

Knowing your WHY is vital, for several reasons:

  • Your WHY reminds you why you get out of bed every day to do whatever it is you do.
  • Your WHY helps you easily make the decisions that are right for you.
  • Your WHY shows you exactly who your right market is, who you should be speaking to, and who you should forget about trying to serve.
  • Your WHY makes your marketing make sense.
  • Perhaps most important of all, when your WHY connects with other people’s WHY – you can get extreme, irrational, tribal loyalty.

Most of us obsess with WHAT we do and HOW we go about it. Those things can help make us successful, but not truly successful. Because, as the book will show you, they only make a massive difference when your WHAT and your HOW are perfect expressions of your WHY – that’s what i call integrity!

There is one problem with the book, though, which is that it leaves you in suspense. You’ll be convinced about why knowing your WHY is so critical, but it doesn’t give you a method for discovering it.

Simon Sinek does offer a video course called “Learn Your Why” for $129. I haven’t taken this course, but I’m sure it’s excellent.

I didn’t want to spend $129, and frankly I didn’t want to wait. So last weekend I sat down with paper and pen and set out to figure out my WHY.

I think the process was extremely helpful, so I’m going to share it with you.

How I Found My Why

I started with the idea that life is a journey, and my WHY must have been there all along the way, even if I wasn’t conscious of it.

Like all journeys, my life has had its ups and downs, successes, struggles, and failures. My WHY must have been there throughout. In fact, I believe my WHY was the reason why my greatest successes succeeded, and my failures failed.

There have been significant points in my life where I made choices that (I now know) were not in accordance with my WHY. I know that because of two key signs:

  1. The results were poor.
  2. I wasn’t happy.

I have been in bad relationships; I have obsessed over how to make money – and failed; I have built teams and seen them fall apart; and I have marketed without integrity (it stings to write that down).

If you find yourself chasing the dollar, resenting your work, feeling uninspired, or believing yourself  a failure – I bet that’s all because you’ve either forgotten your WHY, or you never knew it in the first place.

Butterfly Brain!

In the past, I have described my business style as being like, “a puppy in a field full of butterflies.”

It always seemed like I was chasing the next bright, shiny idea, but never able to complete the previous project.

I’ve been part of a cult; I’ve written books and courses; I’ve created software; and I’ve tried – on several occasions – to invent an efficient continuously variable transmission system for bicycles. Is this a deranged, unhinged mind? Can there be any rhyme or reason behind my life?

Yes. And here’s how I found it, by looking back at my life’s journey with a new perspective.

mountain-peaks-clouds

Step One: Record the Peaks on Your Life’s Journey

I looked back on my life and imagined it as a journey with highs and lows.

The high points were the times in my life where I felt as though I had clarity, purpose, a sense of perspective. They were the periods where my work didn’t feel like work, when I was inspired and playful. While they also happened to contain some of my biggest material successes, they were not all successful.

I believe that’s the key to finding your WHY. Ignore the times when you’ve clearly been off your path, when you’ve had no purpose, when everything was difficult. Just concentrate on the peaks, where the path appeared above the clouds!

Here are my peaks. I’ll set them all out for you, because it’s important to recognise every one!

  • I was part of a radical church that wanted to reinvent religion for the digital generation. The church was abusive and disbanded.
  • Then I turned an old van into a camper so I could live a New Age traveller lifestyle. That didn’t work out.
  • I made didgeridoos by hand in my mum’s basement. I sold two.
  • I tried to invent a CVT system to make bicycling more efficient. Every attempt failed.
  • In 2004, I started writing articles to share what I had discovered about effective web design. That was the start of my current business.
  • In 2007, I created a simple CMS system – CMS from Scratch. A lot of people loved it, but I didn’t continue to support it.
  • In 2008, I wrote an ebook about simple web design – Save the Pixel. It has sold thousands of copies.
  • In 2010, I created a course that shared everything I knew about making good websites. It has been very successful.
  • From that, I set up a my Pro Group – a close team of talented marketers, which meets every week to help each other achieve better results.
  • In 2011, my book “Convert!” was published. It took a radically different approach at publishing online, and is very highly rated.
  • In 2012, I wrote “How to be #1” – an ebook about how to identify, occupy and monetize a market niche. It was only moderately successful.
  • In 2014, I wrote “How to be Rich Today” – an ebook that argues the case for “downsizing” your life. I give this book out for free.
  • I have constantly tried to come up with ways to present my team’s marketing expertise to the world. So far, I have not managed to do this effectively (but now I understand why!)
  • Along the way, I have bravely explored my own personal development and questioned everything.

These are all things that I can be proud of. Some of them were successful, some were not, but they all show the fingerprints of clarity of purpose, and those are the pointers we need to follow in order to find our WHY.

I didn’t stop at any of these peaks. Whenever I complete a phase, there’s always something else to do. I have to come back down off the mountain and start the next ascent. That’s the only way to grow.

It shows that the purpose of life - a person’s WHY – is not a destination, it’s the journey! And it’s unique for each one of us.

The second simple step is to ask, what do these peaks reveal about this unique journey?

Step Two: What are the Common Themes?

This may seem like a random journey. But it isn’t. When I wrote them down, I realised that the peaks in my life are all pointers that help reveal my WHY.

They reveal a few themes. Those themes express my unique WHY.

  • I don’t accept the way things are is the way things have to be.
  • I don’t automatically respect authority.
  • I constantly question everything to see if there’s a better way (which often involves simplifying).
  • I value the immaterial more than the material.
  • I love the human spirit, I love equality, I champion the little guy, and I believe in sharing and collaborating.

I know these things are true for me. Why? Because when I read them over – they inspire me!

They even explain why my favourite movies and books are my favourites (like Fight Club, The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Dune, Robin Hood, and The Lord of the Rings).

Step Three: Condense

The final step is to try to boil those various elements down. Is there an archetype or a single rallying cry that can sum it all up succinctly?

For me, I think my personality is “rebel optimist”. And my rallying cry could be, “Let’s make things better!”

If I hold up “Let’s make things better!” against all the themes I identified above, and against the peaks on my journey, it all makes perfect sense, in my business, and in my whole life.

Now, I don’t need to worry about the HOW and the WHAT. I have my WHY. It’s like my own personal compass that will naturally, automatically help me to find my way.

Whenever I’m faced with a choice, I only have to ask myself if it fits “Let’s make things better!”

That is my personal calling. It’s the banner I can march beneath with pride. It shows who I am, what I believe in, as well as what I don’t.

Importantly, when I hold my banner up high, there will be some people that see it and who also believe. You may be one of them, or you may not, it doesn’t matter a bit, because this isn’t about absolute truth, it’s about mine and yours.

I have only been living with this for a few days, but already I am experiencing a deep sense of peace, power, and enthusiasm.

And I think I know what I have to do next.

My WHY is “Let’s make things better!”

What’s yours?

Additional Thoughts (18 July)

I’m continuing to think about this, and I’m sure the process will develop a lot.

Here are some other questions that I’ve jotted down when meditating on what really deeply and most powerfully motivates me.

They really focus on using creative thinking, not just retrospectively examining the past.

  • “If you had unlimited power, what would you do?”
  • “If you could change only one thing, what would it be?”
  • “If you could do any job in the world, what would that look like?”
  • “What songs or movies most inspire you? Why?” (Here’s my #1 most inspiring song!)
  • “What people most inspire you? Why?”
  • “If you could meet one person from history, who would it be? Why?”
  • “What kind of people have you attracted in your life? What do they have in common? And what do they say about you?”

21 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Chris says:

    Thanks Ben. You’re right, this is certainly your best post yet. I read Simon Sinek’s book a year ago but still found it difficult to discover my “why”. The 3 steps you’ve outlined are a practical way to implement Sinek’s theory and find your “why”.

  2. Kevin Webster says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey Ben, I’ve been through the book twice now (audiobook) and had lots of aha moments too. I also resonate with your brute honesty about how you have succeeded and failed yet stayed focused. It’s only when we can be open and honest with oneself that we can discover/uncover our purpose and passion.
    I recently took a new client through the ‘why’ process. This reminded of my counselling days with a hint of coaching. The client sent me an email the following day thanking me for the experience. Both he and his partner were fired up and went on to make me a generous business proposition. This is the power that purpose has on people’s lives. They saw my purpose (to bring value to those I come into contact with)
    Thank you again for sharing your journey, looking forward to seeing your purpose express itself more in your writing and business.

    Warm regards

    Kevin

    • Ben Hunt says:

      Thanks Kevin. I really believe this has transformed my entire perspective on life and business. And I don’t even think I’ve scratched the surface of how important will be. But I definitely feel an awful lot freer!

  3. Kevin Craighead says:

    Wow!

    I have been reading your stuff for a long time – since I bought a copy of Save The Pixel in 2008. I found it refreshing and it seemed to be the answer I was looking for when it came to web design. I then bought Convert and I still refer to it on a daily basis. It clarified so many disparate elements of web design and marketing and brought them together in a unique way that made perfect sense. I try to preach this ‘scientific we design’ methods to all my clients to this day.

    Both of these publications are proof that you live and breathe “let’s make things better”. You have certainly helped me – made me a better web designer with a good USP and I can’t thank you enough for that.

    My “journey” is similar to yours in some ways and your “why” really resonates with me . I setup my design agency (netchimp.co.uk) because I was fed up complaining about the place I was working and always thought I could do better myself. In the end I thought to myself put up or shut up.

    So I too had a healthy disrespect for authority and was always looking for ways to do stuff better. I don’t always manage it as I often get distracted by another problem before I solve the last one. Suddenly the previous problem seems boring and I lose interest and focus so I end up with loads of half done things. I also seem to have more ideas than time to do them!

    I’m not really sure why I felt the need to share that, but it feels good to think about my own “why” after reading your post.

    So thanks for the peaks – Save The Pixel, Convert, and this post – and enjoy the journey. I’ll certainly try to now!

    • Ben Hunt says:

      Brilliant, thanks Kevin. It sounds like we should be in the same tribe :-)

  4. Calin says:

    Dear Ben,

    Thank you for this post. It’s great. You helped me a lot just by reading it.

    One of the most important ways is to give people examples of the manner you did/handled different things/situations in your life.

    Some examples will fit with you (the reader) some not, but the most important is the personal touch, the emotional element, the feelings that arise from these moments of success and failure.

    I appreciate vey much your posts because they are full of very useful info, plenty of it, presented in a straight emotional personal manner. I think that’s another strong point of you (or that’s my perception of you so far).

    One of the main ideas that arise from here and which is common for you, me and maybe for other people I think is that: Just do it in your way!

    Now I must thank you for the 5 minutes spent today reading your post. Great!

  5. Eric Conover says:

    Ben, this is awesome, and something I personally need to find: My WHY.

    Thank you for sharing this, and I need to read the book, too.

    • Ben Hunt says:

      Great. And definitely read the book!

      • Eric Conover says:

        And the post keeps getting better!

        Funny thing, Ben- I was with a big group last Saturday night and it was a karaoke fundraiser. I couldn’t donate to sing, but someone donated $500 to hear me sing (!)and help the cause, so I did Impossible Dream and received a standing ovation.

        I had played the role in High School with the same result 38 years ago. That song is like math- if you can just sing it well, it does the job every time. There’s something in human nature that recognizes it. Certainly, inspiring others could be my WHY.

        [time passes] I am sitting here stunned. “Inspiring others” is exactly my why. People are hard sometimes, so I missed it. It flipped to its inflow form for me– trying to impress others to get their admiration, which is a perversion of inspiring others.

        And now I know how it flipped, too. A divorce on the heels of my most successful summer of being a professional magician in Lake George, NY, doing 5 shows a day, 7 days a week in a theme park, *and* doing a 1.5 hour dinner theater show, concurrently, 3 nights a week. (Busy.) She managed to make me consider that I was self-centered for working so hard, but she just couldn’t stand my success. She is suppressive. She said “get a real job” a lot that summer.

        I guess I never quite knew my WHY, but when I really lost it, I was repelled by my chosen career. I hate admiration seekers, but now I saw myself as that. I was really lost. It’s been a rather horrible 19 years since then, but you’ve really helped me find it again, Ben.

        Thank you, sir. Thank you. You’ve made me rich today.

      • Ben Hunt says:

        Thank YOU Eric. What an inspiration. I feel proud to have been able to help you uncover that truth.

        I have one question, though… Is there a “to…” that follows your “To inspire people…” ?

        Is there something that really matters to you, that you want to unleash in people’s hearts? Is there something you want to help people free themselves to do?

  6. NKECHI says:

    Thanks Ben, very useful article. Your candour is much to be admired and inspiring. Also I laughed out loud many times.

  7. Frank says:

    Great article. “WHY” is probably one of the most important aspects when it comes to setting up goals and trying to achieve them. Really looking forward to get my hands on that book, sounds like a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Alan says:

    Hi Ben.

    A few moments before reading your updated post I was reading another one which touched on the same questions and which beautifully connects with what you wrote.

    These made me think “Is it any wonder why children ask ‘why?’ so often?”. Either to understand the facts, how something works, either possibly and instinctively to understand something much more deeper than just these, something related to how we’re wired as humans.

    Here’s the article. Enjoy…

    There’s More to Life Than Being Happy
    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/theres-more-to-life-than-being-happy/266805/

    • Ben Hunt says:

      Hey Alan.. That’s very interesting, because I’ve never read “Man’s Search For Meaning”, but it’s on my current reading list (which numbers about 15 books!)

  9. Allan Booyjzsen says:

    Hi Ben,

    Besides reading and using ideas from your Save the Pixel, I have never really concentrated on all your other emails you have sent me.

    But I must say, the mere fact that you have always had the time to reply to the few emails I have sent you, makes me feel that I have a good friend and am satisfied to know that you are there.

    I am positive that no matter what you try, you will succeed; unlike myself – who never seems to finish any projects – because I always get distracted.

    I liked your analogy to the butterfly. I tend to flitter from one flower to another, never settling down to finish what I started.

    Besides all of this, the most important thing is that I have got to know you and really appreciate it.

    I thank you most sincerely,

    Allan.

    • Ben Hunt says:

      Hi Allan. Good to hear from you, as always :-)

      If you’re like me, always flitting, the first thing to acknowledge is that there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with that. It’s our personality type.

      We’re curious, we’re interested, we’re explorers. The world needs people like us… well, it needs people like everyone, that’s the rich tapestry of life!

      However, now I’ve got my WHY, there seems to be more of a purpose to my butterfly antics. I now realise that I’m exploring curiously BECAUSE I want to make things better.

      Now, I know WHY I go on Facebook. It isn’t all wasting time any more.

      Now, I know WHY my next product will be what it is.

      And I can instantly visualise HOW I’m going to launch it.

      Finally, I have developed a crystal-clear vision of WHAT business I want to build… And that will be the subject of another post.

  10. Pingback: 3 Unlikely Ways to Get Inspired About Your Business - Professional Website Design from Eugene Oregon | Chrysalis Web Development

  11. joe derer says:

    As always Ben a brilliant post and right from the heart… enjoyed your talk with Ken McCarthy for the System Club… cheers

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