Starting with why and getting back to why

Simon Sinek has a brilliant talk that reminds us that getting at the “Why” of things is incredibly powerful.

It goes well with this Hugh MacLeod’s illustration about the market for something to believe in.


I want to think of another aspect of it. It’s a place to come back to, a home base.

When I was in college I led a student trip to Mongolia. On the way we had a layover in Beijing and wanted to explore the city during our only evening there.

Since we didn’t speak the language and there weren’t many English speakers, the concierge had a great idea.

He gave us one of the hotel business cards and then wrote down a few names of places that we might want to visit on the back. When we left in our cab, all we had to do was point to the name of the place we wanted to go on the card. Our cab driver waited for us at each place – the duck restaurant, a couple markets, that famous square. When we wanted to get back to our hotel, we just showed the front of the card and he knew to get us back.

That card was our security that evening. I probably checked my pockets several times to make sure that I still had it. It was how we got home. If we had become lost or separated from our original driver, it would have been the quickest way to get back.

Our “why” can be like that card. When we’re working on a project or testing an idea in uncharted territory – it can be the thing that grounds us. Brings us back to a safe place where we can get perspective on everything else.

It might be worth it to check my pockets. Am I remembering my “why” for each thing I’m working on? It’s by remembering the underlying reason that I’ll be able to gain direction for the project as a whole in the first place.

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