How do you make sure that your voice, your brand, and your business decisions stay consistent and lead you to the envisioned success and recognition? What do the big brands, like Apple and Tesla have that guide them through tough decisions while also staying true to their mission? How does Mary Forleo or Amy Porterfield know when to say yes or no to opportunities without hesitation?
Up until this September 8th, I thought I can answer these questions easily with “define your vision, mission, and corporate values”. What happened on that early-September Saturday that completely changed my way of thinking? I went to the Archangel Summit.
I could go on and on about Archangel Summit but in a nutshell, it’s similar to a day-long TEDx conference with amazing motivational speakers. This year, one of these speakers was Simon Sinek. I’ve wanted to see him live since I watched this video about the importance of empathy and perspective in leadership. His books, Start With Why, Find Your Why and Leaders Eat Last are must-haves in every entrepreneurs’ library. And he seemed always so passionate on videos, I really wanted to see how his character shines on stage. Well, I wasn’t disappointed at all.
You know that amazing feeling when you meet someone with such integrity that he just draws you in and you immediately trust him? I felt this when I met my husband, and I feel this when I meet people who are true to their purpose in life. Simon Sinek is this type of person. As soon as he was on stage, and during the Q & A – and some of the questions were quite weird – you could feel his passion for the topic and that he’s not doing this for money. He’s doing his work to shape the world for the better. Being paid for it is just a nice extra.
Simon Sinek’s work is all about finding our purpose. Our WHY. And then describe our business with this WHY, not the WHAT and HOW (hint: majority of businesses only define WHAT and HOW they do and not communicate the WHY).
Huhh, long intro I know… but keep up with me.
Start With Why
Last week I wanted this post to be a deep dive into all about values. How to find them, why to define them, how to use them. But I realized in that crowded theatre hall that you won’t be able to do that in an authentic way if you’re not clear on your purpose first.
You see, I thought that our mission-vision-values statements are the answer to all the above questions. But no. Our why, our core belief, our purpose is the answer and everything else comes afterward – and becomes so much easier to define!
Let me make it easier with my own example. For a long time I described myself this way: It’s kind of meh, yes? It only tells you what I do, not even how I do it, so why would it feel special? Why would anyone jump out of her skin to work with me? So I tried to “dress it up” a little bit. I thought if I define better how I do my job, it will work better.But it didn’t work. I got empty, uninspired stares after every elevator pitch. But still, for a long time, I stuck with this sentence. I even added some of my values, like transparency, empathy, and hoped for the best.
I knew WHAT I’m doing, I knew HOW I can do it better than others. But this isn’t enough. I bet, there are hundreds of designers out there who can state the same. The answer is not in “Who can do it better?” and authenticity can’t come from the WHAT and the HOW…
After this Saturday I had to sit down and rethink WHY I’m doing what I’m doing. While it’s still not perfect, I came up with this:
And suddenly everything became much clearer. In addition, with this purpose in mind, I feel more proud of what I do. I’m not just a designer, I’m a storyteller with a mission. I want to bring those stories alive, I want to educate with stories and I want to share others’ stories to inspire you. Everything that takes me away from this is a big NO, everything that supports this purpose is an opportunity I must take.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
You might say – “Andi, I don’t need this spiritual nonsense. Why is it so important to know my “WHY”, when I have sales copy to write, new followers to attract, products to sell?” Well, my friend, those might be totally reasonable excuses, but they are not important. They are urgent. And you’ll never be able to do them right unless you sit down and figure out your WHY. That’s the hard truth.
Still, on the fence? Here are 5 reasons to define your WHY today:
1. It’s our biology
Believe it or not, but the need to know the purpose of actions and plans a company has come from our biology. Have you ever heard a totally reasonable deal, but still felt that it’s not right for you? A deal, where everything was logical, you knew all the features, even get a comparison with other similar but more expensive or less worthy services, but felt in your heart that it’s not for you?
Or the opposite: a service or a product that was more expensive, less advance but it simply touched something in you and you clicked the purchase button. Don’t feel ashamed for that! It all has to do something with your inner purpose and who you want to become.
I’m not dreaming about owning a Tesla, because it’s so much better than other electric cars or sportier looking, faster, more intelligent. Many of my friends think that Tesla Model X is ugly. Do I care? NO!
I want to have a Tesla because I love the philosophy and the purpose that Elon Musk infuses into every company he starts – to build a better future for our kids and not wait until it’s too late.
Back to biology: Features, benefits, price, all the little details about a service or product affects our neocortex, the outer, more advanced part of our brain. This part of the brain is responsible for language. That’s why it’s easy to talk and write about logical facts, like WHAT you do.
But there’s a more ancient part of the human brain, the limbic brain which is the center of our emotions and memories. That’s why it’s hard to share our emotions. That’s why it’s so difficult to describe the love we feel for our partner, kids, and friends. There’s no logic behind those things.
When you define the purpose of your business and then build up the HOW and the WHAT on that foundation, you’ll be able to affect the limbic brain. You’ll have an effect on emotion, not the logic. And almost all mentionable purchase – which doesn’t involve commodities, like buying bread or toothpaste – happens for emotional reasons, not because of logic.
2. To become authentic
Former clients asked me to make a logo that looks authentic… What does that mean?!
You can’t just decide to become authentic. It’s not something you can just check on your list.
To become authentic, you have to know your WHY first. Then you have to define your values (the HOW) and then deliver the product or service (the WHAT).
That’s why Simon Sinek, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs are authentic. They all know/knew their purpose.
3. To attract the right customers
As I mentioned in #1, when you feel that a product is for you, you’ll buy it no matter if there’s something better or cheaper out there.
When I was in New York with my best friend, Anita, we didn’t decide to go to the Hard Rock Cafe because it had better food than the restaurants nearby. I’m sure there are many better places around Times Square where we could go. Going to the Hard Rock Cafe was an experience that was created for us – rock music lovers. We posed happily in front of the guitar wall, danced along with the waiters to the U2 song and when we went home, we displayed proudly our Hard Rock cocktail glasses so everyone could see: we love rock & roll.
This would never work for my sister’s hardstyle DJ fiance who grew up with the German Kraftwerk’s electronic music beating in the background.
But one thing is true in both cases – when you find the company (or artist, organization, etc) with the right core belief, you’ll become its loyal customer.
4. To sell the right products and services
Apple started out as a computer company, just as Dell, Asus, HP and many others. Apple could still conquer territories – like the mp3, cell phone, and smartwatch market – that the others couldn’t, and even reinvent them. How is it possible that we are completely comfortable to buy a phone, a thermostat or even a blender that Apple makes (no, they don’t have a blender yet, but I wonder what would that look like).
It’s simple, they don’t define themselves by WHAT they do, rather than WHY they do it: to challenge the status quo and think different and allow their customers to also do so). No matter what the product is, if it fits this core belief, it can land on Apple’s product palette and their loyal customers will stand in line to buy it first.
So rather than stating WHAT you produce, offer, create, tell your audience WHY you do your business in the first place. Then, you’ll be able to sell any product that fits this purpose.
5. To feel fulfilled
Last but not least, when you know your WHY, it keeps you on track and you can make a difference in the field that really matters for you. Getting paid can make you richer, but not fulfilled. For continuous engagement in your business, you’ll need a higher motivation and that’s what your purpose can give you.
I strongly recommend you to read Start With Why from Simon Sinek to get an even wider perspective on this topic. And if you are a bit confused about what is your WHY, he has a very practical guidebook, Find Your Why also worthy of reading. It has chapters for individuals and groups so no matter you’re a solopreneur or small business owner with a team, you’ll find guidance to define your purpose.
I grabbed some of my favorite quotes from Simon and turned them into free printable artwork for you. These prints will keep you focused on your purpose and they are also great postcards to send to fellow creative entrepreneurs.