How To Find Your WHY
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:
- The results were poor.
- 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.
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.
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!”
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?”
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