Finding Your “Why”. The Foundation of Your Brand

Blog Feature Images_01_why.jpg

This whole article is inspired entirely by Simon Sinek and his team, the experts in finding your “Why”. These concepts and activities have inspired my personal life and have provided me with a solid framework to help guide my clients in their own journey of discovery.

If you are new to this concept of “Why” then I highly recommend you watch Simon’s famous TED talk linked below:

I also highly recommend reading any of his books, but a good place to start is with these two:

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action

Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team

This won’t be a step-by-step guide on how to “Find your Why”. I’ll leave that up to Simon and his team. I simply want to highlight the value of this concept and how it can drastically improve your brand, whether it be personal or professional.

The Golden Circle

why.jpg

Let’s first understand the fundamental idea behind finding your “Why”.

Most, if not all of us are conditioned to start with “What” we do. When a prospect asks you what you do for a living, you typically respond with something like “We sell car insurance” or “We’re a design firm”. These are examples of “What” you do, and it is the outer band in our Golden Circle.

WHAT copy.jpg

When asked to dive deeper into what we do, we naturally gravitate towards explaining “How” we do what we do. This is how we define our value because this is how we think others define our value. We want people to know that we’re faster, cheaper and better. “Our turnaround time for design requests are quicker than anybody else” and “we offer the cheapest rates on car insurance” are examples of leveraging our “How” to define value. This makes up the middle band in our Golden Circle.

HOW copy.jpg

Lastly we have our inner band. Our “Why”. The core reason we do anything in our life. We all have a ”Why”, we just may not be aware of it. Your “Why” is more than money or even family, but your deep driving motivation that can trigger you to take action in day-to-day life. I’ll use myself as an example. I am passionate about leading and inspiring people to be their best. So if you were to ask me “Why do you coach your daughters soccer team?” or “Why do you do youth work every Friday night?” or “Why do you write blog posts like this every week?” the answer is always the same. Because I’m passionate about leading and inspiring people to be their best.

WHY. copy.jpg

Most companies operate from the outside of the Golden Circle inward. Appealing first to the logical part of their prospects brains, the neocortex. Even if they have a clearly defined reason “Why”, because it comes second, it’s lost behind a wall of discounted prices, features and benefits. Most prospects never get deep enough into your brand to see your true value.

The inner circles of “How” and “Why” represent an inner part of your brain called the limbic system. Responsible for behaviour and decision making. It’s also responsible for all of our feelings like trust and loyalty. But unlike the neocortex, the limbic system has no capacity for language. This is where “gut feelings” come from. It’s not our stomach. It’s a feeling we get about a decision we have to make that we struggle to explain.

This is the biological reason we sometimes find it difficult to put our feelings into words (“I love you more than words can say”), explain our actions (“The devil made me do it!”) or justify our decisions (“I don’t know ... it just felt right”).

We can learn, however, to put words to those feelings. And those who do are the ones who are better able to inspire action in themselves, among their colleagues and with their customers.

This is the concept of “Start with Why”. Working from the inside of the Golden Circle outward.

What does a “Why” statement look like?

Not too long ago I mentioned my passion for inspiring and leading people to become their best. This is what it looks like expressed as a “Why” statement:

“To inspire confidence, so that others may reach their full potential”.

11 simple words that sum up my reason for living. If I am not striving to achieve this, then I do not feel fulfilled. No amount of money or praise can fill that void. This statement is the lens that I view the world through. When a prospect wants to sit down to talk about their business and branding struggles, it’s important that I clear my desire for “making money” and “closing the sale” and instead focus on how I can “inspire confidence in them, so that they may reach their full potential”. That is how you give true value. People become drawn to you and want to stick around. This is the inexplicable feeling people should get when they encounter your business.

The “Why” statement template looks like this:

“To (your contribution), so that (the impact)”

So you need to clearly your contribution to the world and how it impacts others. The book “Find Your Why” shows you step-by-step how to do this. There’s methods for finding your personal “Why” and for also finding the “Why” of your company.

A quick guide on how to find your “Why”

I won’t go into detail because there’s a lot more care and love that this topic deserves than what I can provide in one blog post. That’s why Simon and his team wrote an entire book around the topic!

The core method for identifying your contribution and impact is through recalling stories and memories from your past. Moments in your life that defined who you are today. Doing this with someone you trust allows them to take notes and begin to identify repeating themes across all your stories. I’ll use myself and how I came to define my “Why” statement as an example.

Upon reflecting on my past and meditating on the memories that had a profound impact on me (both positive and negative) we noticed these repeating themes:

  • I feel the need to protect and lead others.

  • I see the best in people and want to see them at their best.

  • I want people to feel great about themselves.

  • I want everyone to get along and have fun.

  • I trust easily but then feel deeply betrayed if my trust is broken.

  • I’m logical, like to prepare and have a plan.

  • I don’t like things over complicated. Keep things simple.

  • I believe in staying faithful to your beliefs and doing as you say.

  • I believe that respect and being polite are of the utmost importance.

These were common themes that arose from the stories I told. Stories about my sisters and I growing up in New Zealand, my best friend being brutally beaten in the schoolyard and being sent to hospital, different encounters I’ve had as a youth worker and many more.

What makes these themes so powerful is that we don’t even realise we’re doing them. It’s who we are. Which is why they help define a very powerful “Why”.

Of these nine themes, I chose the ones that felt represented me well across the board. These were the ones that I went with:

  • I feel the need to protect and lead others.

  • I see the best in people and want to see them at their best.

  • I want people to feel great about themselves.

The trick now was to articulate these themes in a few words:

  • I feel the need to protect and lead others. (leading, mentoring)

  • I see the best in people and want to see them at their best. (development, potential)

  • I want people to feel great about themselves. (confidence, ambition)

Using these words, I began to construct my “Why” statement and ended up with this:

“To inspire confidence, so that others may reach their full potential”.

When I really meditated on this statement over the next few days, it became apparent that I couldn’t shake it. In every scenario, I could identify how it naturally exuded from my personality.

Now the words of the “Why” statement may change and evolve but that’s not what matters. What matters is the feeling and meaning behind the words. To me, these words hit home.

So what about those leftover themes?

I’m glad you asked.

The themes that remain aren’t any less important. On the contrary, they make up your “How”. The inner band of the Golden Circle.

Let’s take a look at what’s left and transform them into my “How’s”:

  • I want everyone to get along and have fun.

    • Look for opportunities to build community.

    • Create an environment of light-heartedness and joy.

  • I trust easily but then feel deeply betrayed if my trust is broken.

    • Always speak truthfully and be honest with my actions.

  • I’m logical, like to prepare and have a plan.

    • Be prepared by researching and planning ahead of time.

  • I don’t like things over complicated. Keep things simple.

    • Explain things in a simple and easy-to-understand manner.

  • I believe in staying faithful to your beliefs and doing as you say.

    • Stand by your core beliefs and never compromise them.

  • I believe that respect and being polite are of the utmost importance.

    • Treat everyone with respect and always be polite in your behaviour and speech.

When someone asks me what I do for a living, I tell them that I inspire confidence in entrepreneurs so that them and their brands may reach their full potential.

When they ask me how I do that, I tell them the things above.

Here’s the thing. Your “Why” may not be unique to you. There will no doubt be others who share a similar “Why” to you. Even your “How” is not unique to you. But the combination of the two, your “Why” + “How” is what defines you and makes you unique, and these speak to the limbic system in your prospects brains. This is what compels them to choose you over your competitors.