How I’ve STARTED WITH WHY and the times I LOST MY WHY

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Simon Sinek was able to take things we all think or have thought in the business world and world of creative leadership and make sense of it. He rationalized it all in a way that makes sense to us. I found myself nodding and giving him silent “Amens” as I read along, chapter by chapter, immersed in the question he started asking himself about successful leaders and organizations: How do they achieve the level of success? How do they begin?

They start with WHY.

As I read, I became more inspired with each story, example, and principle underscored and highlighted by Sinek. I haven’t read a book since Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR that has sparked my creative spirit, my entrepreneurial curiosity, and my desire to inspire others as much as START WITH WHY: HOW GREAT LEADERS INSPIRE EVERYONE TO TAKE ACTION.

Sinek took this notion of starting with WHY and theorized it to help him better understand leaders. He made a Golden Circle. He examined the Law of Diffusion of Innovators and the tipping point in companies—when an idea becomes a movement— such as what happened with the iPhone. He puts WHY in plain language for all to understand; he tells stories worth listening to; and, he inserts himself into the bigger picture thinking toward the end.

So powerful is his writing that I couldn’t put the book down, and I was wondering if my students in a new creative course I am teaching felt the same way. After our class discussion only minutes ago, I can tell you that I think they took away the key points beautifullly—those most worth noting—and some were wholeheartedly inspired to always start with WHY.

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The students brainstorming in our new collaborative course on campus.

As for me, I was intrigued and enamored by his connections from the second I started reading his book. During my own careers (and I do mean that, as I’ve had several), I always started with WHY. During my time at the Baltimore Orioles, believe me when I say I wasn’t getting rich there. I had a fantastic job—one that constantly inspired me—and I can tell you that what Sinek says is so true: if you are inspired by THE WORK, the money is secondary to what you are doing and the bigger picture of WHY you are doing it. When I left the Orioles and went to my next job, the WHY was much fuzzier; I went for the wrong reason–to make more money than I previously made. And while I did that, the WHY and inspiration was missing from the work. When I broached the subject of leaving that job while on vacation in London with my husband, I asked him this question: “Why can’t I do the two things I love: teach and have a writing/design business?” His answer was the best anyone could give: You can.

And so I did.

When I made the foray into full-time teaching, I knew my WHY. I had discovered it when I began as an adjunct teacher at a local community college back in 1993. I wanted to be a teacher because I was a born cheerleader—I wanted to inspire, coach, and help others with their education and prepare them for careers. I think I knew this my whole life—that this would be my chosen profession eventually—but it took me working in another profession to find out that the WHY for teaching was not to be ignored and it warranted serious consideration.

When I decided to become an author and write fictional books, I knew my WHY: I wanted to entertain and inspire others through storytelling. I chose to become a self-published author and wrote and produced three novels. I lost my WHY a little this summer when book promotion took hold and made me leery of WHY I was a writer in the first place. But then, upon being asked to give a talk about self-publishing at Stevenson University to faculty and staff, I remembered and was reconnected with my WHY. I write books because it is my PASSION, and I just LOVE the process. How many books I sell should be secondary to the task I adore so much—storytelling. And so, newly refocused, I will continue along my writing and publishing journey.

In 2013, along with my colleagues, Chip and Leeanne, we decided to write a textbook on event planning. After scouring the library and bookstores for a good text to share with our students that attached communication theory to event planning and coming up empty-handed, we decided to write our own textbook. So, what did we do?

We started with WHY and asked this question: What is the WHY behind what we do in event planning? And out of this question was born our book, EVENT PLANNING: COMMUNICATING THEORY AND PRACTICE, published by Kendall-Hunt Publishers.

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If you adopt Simon Sinek’s approach—that anything you do that is meaningful must start with WHY—you are more likely to find some meaning in it and grow from it. In turn, you will learn from it and maybe even have great success from it. And without even realizing it, you begin to inspire others.

START WITH WHY is a book you will not soon forget, and I will recommend it to anyone who wants to be an inspirational leader, as well as to anyone who has lost his or her way and needs to be reminded of their WHY.

 

 

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