Over the past few months I’ve come across some very valuable thinking and ideas that have made me examine a great deal of how I approach my life and work, and I’ve been struggling a bit to pull the ideas together into a coherent and meaningful framework.  This is my attempt to summarize and bring clarity to those thoughts.

The first source of inspiration that triggered some of this thinking was a TED talk from Simon Sinek where he outlined the concept of the “Golden Circles”, an assertion that we naturally work first to define What we do, then examine How we do it, and finally (if we have time) we look at Why we are doing it. Simon’s assertion is that our natural tendencies, while rooted in the science of the brain, are fundamentally backwards. The first question we should be asking ourselves is Why?

Shortly after seeing Simon’s talk I was on a one week leadership training course and I had an opportunity to meet with some incredibly dynamic and inspiring people.  One of those people was the seminar leader for a segment on Personal Branding, Amy Dorn Kopelan.  Amy had spent most of her career as a producer for ABC including leading the team at Good Morning America, and now spends her time speaking about personal branding and leadership in a program entitled “Producing Your Career”.

The seminar focuses on developing your personal brand by answering an important question – Why are you here?  We examined personal values, stories of generosity, and purpose of action, and then identified our personal branding “word”, “statement of purpose”, and “brand slam”.

I knew there was power in the Why question before, but until this point I realized I had not effectively turned the focus of the question on myself to clearly articulate for myself “Why am I here?’.  Here’s what I discovered:

My Word:  I am the “Disrupter”.
My Statement of Purpose:  
I disrupt traditional thinking, expose hidden opportunities, and redefine markets.

My Brand Slam:  “Change Your Game”

So now I had the benefit of understanding the Why, but something was still bothering me about the process. Even though I felt like I had great clarity on Why I am here, I didn’t see any connection to action in the process.  Going back to Simon Sinek’s talk there had to be something that connected the Why that defined Martin Luther King to the action that culminated in his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

I went back to one of my favourite past-times to try to find the answer to my dilemma – reading.  I read “Good Idea. Now What” by Charles T Lee, “Your Best Just Got Better” by Jason Womack, and I’m part way through “The 4 Essentials of Entrepreneurial Thinking” by Cliff Michaels and I think I finaly have a handle on the gap.  Action is explicit, and while we need to define the Why before taking step out onto the road of life and career, once we do make that step there is nothing more critical than a dedication to action. I’m reminded of one of my favourite Shel Silverstein poems:

Alice

She drank from a bottle called DRINK ME
And she grew so tall
She ate from a plate called TASTE ME
And down she shrank so small
And so she changed, while other folks
Never tried nothin’ at all.

Cliff Michaels includes a great view of the purpose (Why) and connection near the end of the first section of The 4 Essentials by defining his Mission, Values, and Commitments.  When I read them I immediately was taken back to Sinek’s Golden Circles concept.  Fundamentally Michaels had defined for himself:

  1. Why am I here?  (Mission)
  2. How will I demonstrate that to those around me?  (Values)
  3. What am I going to DO about it?  (Commitments)

This drew the lines I needed for myself to put this whole thing into practice.  I have now taken the time to put to paper my own Why, How, and What, and I’ve posted them at my desk and review them daily to remind myself to focus my actions on what matters.

Mission:
I disrupt traditional thinking, expose hidden opportunities, and redefine markets.

Values:
Integrity, Excellence, Tolerance, Leadership, Action, Failure

Commitments:

  1. I promise to do what I say I will do and won’t commit to anything that I don’t intend to deliver.
  2. I will commit to fail early and often to succeed sooner.
  3. I commit to developing my team members in ways that are meaningful to them and in alignment with their personal goals and aspirations.
  4. I will act decisively with the knowledge that only decisions can bring results.
  5. I am responsible for my intentions, and the words and actions that result from them.
  6. I commit to the lifelong pursuit of learning.
  7. I will bring a pocketful of questions, not answers, to every situation, and will embrace the differing opinions ans ideas of those around me.
  8. I will demonstrate my passion for excellence and opportunity at all times.
  9. I will embrace the goals and dreams of the people around me and do everything possible to help them achieve those dreams.
  10. I will have fun.

Think about your own life and career.  Can you your Why, How, and What?  Answer the questions “Why are you here… and What are you going to DO about it?” and you will be amazed at the results you’ll experience.

One last quote to leave you with:

“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion; you must set yourself on fire.” – Reggie Leach

About Tim Empringham, MBA

Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.

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