I’ve followed Simon Sinek for a couple of years now. Not because his philosophy is all about courage–like most folks, he doesn’t really talk about it. He teaches that leaders, effective organizations, winners all start with a simple question: Why?
For Sinek, the critical question isn’t what we’re going to produce, or what service we’re going to provide, or how we’re going to meet the need we’ve identified. Instead, he wants us to understand and communicate why we exist, why we feel driven to produce this or do that or answer such-and-such question. We don’t create an iPad because we want to sell an iPad–we create it because we don’t like being tied to our desks, because we want a computer that’s small enough to carry around like a book, and nobody else is making one. Considerations like sales channels and price points and distribution and logistics are less important than the overriding why. It’s about building whatever we build, whether it’s a corporation or a book or a career or a life, on a firm foundation rather than chasing trends.
Sinek sends out a daily email message he calls “Notes to Inspire”. Today’s message resonates with me, as his notes often do:
The goal is not to be perfect by the end. The goal is to be better today.
It’s not about being first, or making millions, or winning an award. It’s about being better today than we were yesterday, better tomorrow than we are today. It sounds simple–but far from easy.
What does all this have to do with courage? Very little, explicitly–except that in a world where so much of what we’re told to admire turns around money and power, it’s easy to think money and power are the only whys that are important. It takes discipline to concentrate on the real why, which for most of us probably turns around family or country or inspiring others or teaching our children. And discipline always requires courage.
My own why continues to evolve as I get better, but I do what I do to inspire people to live with courage. I love history and writing, so blogging and writing historical novels are natural paths for me. I keep working on the personal example part. And I try to get better every day; I don’t succeed every day, but I like to think my long-term trend is upward.
We’ll see where we go from here.
You can learn more about Simon Sinek and Start With Why at his web site, http://www.startwithwhy.com/. I highly recommend watching his TED talk, linked from his site.