This question has plagued existentialists since the 19th century: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Speculate all you want, but how would you know? Are you a chicken?
Maybe you live like one and don't realize it ... You wake up, go to work, go home, watch TV, go to bed. You wake up, go to work, go to the gym, watch Netflix, go to bed. You wake up, go to work—ooh, here comes the weekend! Repeat.
Yes, life runs us around like chickens with our heads off, sometimes. But heads up, you are not a chicken. For the most part, people live intentionally, not aimlessly; there's motive behind everything we do. Even for the mundane activities in our lives. You just have to ask "why" enough to find out. Try it:
Why do you exercise? So I can be healthy.
Why do you want to be healthy? So I can look attractive and feel good about myself.
Why do you want to look good? So I can be accepted and find a partner.
Why do you want a life partner? Because I don’t want to be alone ...
Why? Why do you do what you do?
Who wants to know?
Entrepreneurs, CEOs, marketers, strategists, ideators and leaders, you know this without even knowing it—it's your responsibility to understand peoples' "why." More importantly, though, you should know your own.
Why? Influence and purpose. If you want support for your end game, show customers and team members you value them as people, not as means to an end game. Even better, recognize and support their end games. Align your mission with their values and you will inspire a community of purpose-driven individuals ready to go all-in with you. (You have to mean it, though!)
Example: "To get to the other side” doesn’t actually answer why the chicken crossed the road. It simply states what the chicken accomplishes by crossing the road.
In business, a sales goal is a “what.” Companies driven by sales will always compete in markets through manipulation—whatever it takes to get to that number—be it sales, rebates, layaways, BOGOs, etc. Every year the number goes up. And every year they scramble to the finish line.
The most successful influencers and entrepreneurs in history, however, start with “why.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “why” was his dream of equality. Steve Jobs’ “why” was “to challenge the status quo” and inspire others to think differently. The Wright brothers’ “why” for inventing the airplane wasn’t to be first in flight. They simply had an itch to make the impossible possible.
The accomplishments of these leaders were merely byproducts of the causes they stood for and convictions they stood on.
If your brand can envision a why beyond a quarterly or yearly goal, you’ll be able to genuinely connect with people. And if you clearly state your why through a unifying vision statement, you’ll motivate your employees to reach said goals. With a truly inspiring why, you’ll receive the golden ticket from customers: loyalty.
A formula for inspiration:
Start with WHY - The vision or inspiration.
Answer HOW - The mission or strategy.
Determine WHAT - The product or call to action.
Dell—a brand without a why—will always compete in the marketplace with other computer manufacturers. Never lead. Their communication looks something like this:
We make great computers. (WHAT)
They’re beautifully designed and user-friendly. (HOW)
Want to buy one?
Apple, however, will always be a leader in the market because their vision statement is at the core of everything they do. They inspire people to identify with their brand by starting with why they exist:
We challenge the status quo and invite you to think differently, too. (WHY)
We do this by creating beautifully designed products that are user-friendly. (HOW)
And we happen to make great computers. (WHAT) Would you like one?
It’s not a pitch. It’s a counterculture rally cry.
If you’re a business owner, a leader or just a curious thinker, you might want to study this concept more by reading the book Start With Why, by Simon Sinek.
It could change your perspective on what’s important in your mission, your bottom line and even your life.
Thank you for thinking!