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Start With Why

The books I typically like best are narrative fiction. Give me character development, symbolism, metaphor. Give me Narnia and Harry Potter. But, oddly, it’s a leadership/business book that’s currently making my heart race.

My husband Chris recently introduced me to Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. I haven’t finished the book yet, but already, my mind is reeling with revelations.

Sinek examines how many companies and people will tell you What they do, How they do it, and then ask you to get behind what they’re doing based on those two things. If asked Why they do what they do, their answers might be tied to results as an afterthought (…to make money, to make quality computers, to write books). Sinek offers up the Golden Circle, a play off of the Golden Ratio, as an inside-out alternative to how the story can work:

He examines how truly influential leaders and companies—Apple, Martin Luther King, Jr., Southwest Airlines, JFK—started with Why they were doing what they were doing. How these leaders approached their missions trickled out to their personal, political, or business practices, and it resulted in What they were doing. Every decision they made had to align with a bigger dream of Why they were in business or leadership in the first place. Sinek’s argument is that people can achieve more by first asking, communicating, and remembering Why they are doing it.

The immediate applications of this easily translate to business, marketing, sales, formal leadership positions, etc. But, through just the first few chapters of this book, I am discovering how much of my personal and spiritual life has been affected by not starting out with that crucial question.

When Chris and I sat down with a strategic planning-minded friend about a year ago to talk about our band, he said, “What’s your Why?” I didn’t know how to answer him. He shared some similar concepts to those outlined in the book and said that he probably wouldn’t be much help to us in pragmatic details (our What) until we had an answer to that question.

We left and went on a Why date a few nights later. What came out of that night was not a band solution or a business mission statement, but an attempt at sorting out a Why for our marriage and our time on this earth. We talked and prayed about why we do anything at all with our time, why God had put us together in the bigger picture, and how we might measure the decisions we make in our life together by why we think we are here.

This was coming after years of standstill at decision-making crossroads. I had been so blinded by what we could do (buy a house, have a child, move away, change our jobs…) and how we could make any of it happen that I hadn’t paused to start with Why. And go figure, I was getting nowhere. Sinek’s book even looks at the biology of this—the neocortex (outer brain) deals with details and analytical thought, while the limbic brain (inner brain) controls decision-making, trust, and feelings. Choices made solely using the neocortex take longer and are less certain, while choices made in the limbic brain are quicker and more lasting. In other words, constantly sorting through whats is not helpful—we need the Why.

I am astounded at the light this sheds on my faith. I have never naturally been a creature of self-discipline, and it often results in periods of spiritual dryness for me. I slowly fizzle on reading the Word, my prayers become sporadic, my worship gets relegated to Sunday morning. I have guilted myself and beat my chest and tried harder and asked God to change me with no lasting difference. Do you see it? I have focused on what I am (or am not) doing, and how I should be doing it.

What is so clearly lacking in those desert places is the Why. God is worthy and sovereign and loving and kind and so many other beautiful things. When I start with what I should be doing, I come up empty and discouraged time and time again. When I stop to consider why, though, it suddenly doesn’t seem difficult to desire or make time for these spiritual disciplines. There is a deeper reason for them, a love to drive them, rather than a behavior chart to keep up with.

Finally finding the bravery to declare Why we were working in this band and making this album not only gave me courage to make life-changing decisions, but to invite others into them. Crowdfunding is a necessary aspect of most independent artists’ new albums these days, and it is a tricky road to walk. Asking others to financially support you can bring up a host of insecurities—what right do I have to ask other people for their hard-earned money? Is what I’m offering them worth it?

This time, we aren’t as nervous to ask, because we have a clear Why. We want to spend the time we have left on this earth fostering connection among people and helping them to be brave. We have seen too many people secretly stow away their gifts and passions because they seem impractical or trivial or not enough by the world’s standards. We want them to feel encouraged to live into the stories God has dreamed up for them. Music is how we have seen that happen—a song can speak words where there were none, give voice to deeply buried hope, connect people who seem so different on the surface.

So, we are finally becoming brave enough to spend more of our time writing and playing music, and we are asking others to invest in the album we’ve made. Because what we’ve done is an outpouring of our Why, and knowing our Why shows us that it’s important enough to justify starting this adventure and taking risks.

Our Kickstarter ends tomorrow, Tuesday, at 9 pm EST/8 pm CST. Visit the page to learn more, pledge, and share it with others. The process of bringing these songs to new listeners cannot be completed without a tribe of people behind it who resonate with Why it was created in the first place. Thank you so much for doing so!


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