What's Your Story?

Kate Byars | September 11, 2016

In 2010, Simon Sinek published his first book, Start With Why. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so. What you’ll read can change your life and dramatically impact your business.

Start With Why seeks to understand how great leaders inspire others into action. In his research, Sinek discovers what he calls The Golden Circle. The Golden Circle visually demonstrates what great leaders intuitively understand.

Simon Sinek The Golden Circle

People buy who you are, not what you do. – Simon Sinek

Sinek uses Apple as a prime example. Apple is an iconic brand with strong customer loyalty. Apple doesn’t chase its customers. Instead, customers chase Apple. This is because Apple understands its “Why.” Although Apple has an amazing product, they could literally sell anything and people would buy it. Here is Apple’s “Why”:

“In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

If you’re like me, you are not trying to become the next Martin Luther King Jr. or Winston Churchill. However, when we understand our own personal “Why” we start to live more authentically and can deliberately craft a life based upon our passions. Rather than ping pong-ing from one moment to the next, we can make purposeful choices that lead us to the outcomes with the highest potential for well-being and personal satisfaction.

We start living according to our story.

Companies that understand their “Why” become brands with wildly loyal fans. Like Apple, their customers identify with the brand story because they share the same values. Rather than chase sales, these brands support their community.

That’s fun.

Companies that understand their “Why” also have incredibly loyal employees. Everyone operates harmoniously with one, unified voice. While objectives must be established and goals must be met, these Why-centric companies are fun to lead because everyone who works there believes in a common goal. That’s super fun.

So how do you define your story and discover your “Why”?

You start with the beginning: your childhood. At Blazers, we take every one of our client leadership teams down memory lane. It’s a bit awkward at first, but it works. The C-suite finds a renewed vigor and sharper company vision and once we instill the “Why” into company culture and brand messaging, this story becomes a magnet for like-minded employees and customers.

Here is an example of how to discover your “Why” so you can do this yourself:

Start by writing down childhood memories that are prominent for you. Here are a few of mine:

Age 3. My preschool teacher asks me to sit down to color. That doesn’t make sense to me. I am coloring successfully standing up. I continue to stand. Furious at my inability to fall in line, the teacher becomes angry and forces me into a chair.

Age 6. My entire family is sleeping in the basement during a violent storm. I am tucked inside my 1970’s pink and orange sleeping bag. The sleeping bag is covered with famous quotes. There is one quote that stands out poignantly and I have never forgotten it.

“I would rather die on my feet, than live on my knees.” – Emiliano Zapato

Age 11. Americans are held hostage in Iran. I feel terrible for the Americans. Yet I also wonder why the Iranians would do this. I figure that you don’t get out of bed one morning and decide to capture people. Something pretty awful must have happened to make someone resort to such desperate means. I voice my thoughts, but the rest of America isn’t listening. They say the Iranians are bad and I should learn to be quiet.

Age 15. I am supposed to become a member of my church. I refuse. For two years I attend confirmation classes, church camp, and Sunday School. I ask my pastors why the people of my faith are the only ones God lets into heaven. The pastors said we would find out soon, but shushed me every time I brought it up. Despite my family’s objections, I decide I need an answer before joining a church that cannot articulate a solid response.

In each of these memories there is a common thread. A girl who thinks differently. A girl who is willing to see things that others cannot see. A girl who is confident enough to make choices that go against the grain.

“In everything I do, I believe in trailblazing. I believe that boundaries do not apply and anything is possible.The way I make things possible is by taking risks, empowering others to do the same, and by helping others enjoy amazing human experience. I happen to be a marketing expert. Want to hire me?”

Is it any wonder that I thrived as a marketing executive freely traveling the world, yet wilted when I was tasked with reporting directly to the corporate office? It’s understandable that I took a huge leap of faith and quit that skyrocketing career to go live on an island. And it makes perfect sense that I am building a fresh breed of marketing consultancy to serve trailblazing companies and transform them into iconic brands.

Looking at all of these pieces in black and white, we can easily pull together my story. Yet, it’s never that easy. It’s taken me forty years to understand my “Why” with such clarity. And there are a whole lot of external pressures and other challenges that can easily pull us away from living authentic lives.

Yet it is possible.

Let’s look at one more example.

I recently helped a client figure out her “Why” and develop her company mission statement. Although she is a trailblazer and we share many of the same values, she has her own unique story.

My client is the oldest child in her family. She spent much of her childhood helping raise her siblings. In high school, she drove her brother and sister to their activities and volunteered every day after school at a therapeutic equine nonprofit. She emphasized to me that some of her greatest joys in life have come from volunteering to help others. Helping others is absolutely intrinsic to who she is.

Once I understood her “Why,” I was able to craft her cause into an authentic mission statement that now serves as a sounding board for every business decision and a beacon for like-minded customers and employees. The work we put into understand her “Why” resulted in a new company mission statement: “To provide care and delight to one of the most significant moments in a person’s life.”

Do you see the connection? When we dig deep and find our authentic story it resonates in everything we do.

So what’s your “Why”? If you don’t mind sharing, I would love to know in the comments below. Maybe we can all learn from each other.

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? I welcome you to subscribe to my Sunday morning email. Each week I share personal stories of blazing trails in business and in life.

It’s my passion to create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

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