Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why Do You Do?

When meeting someone for the first time most Americans will first learn a person's name. Then, once we have that memorized, or not, we ask the most common question "what do you do?" Receiving the answer, we can comfortably place that individual in our mental model of how the world works, how relevant their job is and decide if we really care for them or not. Sadly our question reinforces the backwards way of thinking that leads us away from personal greatness. What is most important to success is not what we do, but why we do it.

This past week I listened to two TED talks. One of them explored the inverted way that successful individuals and companies think. Most of us, when asked about what we do as an individual or a company respond by stating "what" we do, then "how" we do it and possibly we might get to "why" we do it at the very end. Essentially we are driven by what we do. But research indicates that very successful companies think the opposite way. They first focus on "why" they do what they do. That is what connects them to others, sells their products and differentiates them. Then they move on to "how" they do it and finally, they transform their "what" into products that are unique and life changing.

We tend to focus on what we do and for many of us, it's been a long time since we focused on why we do it. But focusing on why we do our profession provides motivation, zeal, energy and passion because we hopefully believe in what we do. This is one of the markers of the characteristic of grit. We will persevere because we believe in our reason for doing something.

So, take some time to sit and think about why you do what you do. If you can identify a reason which you really believe, you can unlock passion, energy and ultimately grit. This can propel you to success. And perhaps the next time you meet someone instead of asking "what do you do?" you will think of asking them "why do you do?"

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