“What is that little spark that keeps someone steadfastly focused and highly passionate and even energized while others may be drained?” asked Alan Wallner. “And that spark is your why; the foundational element to the life-force behind your business. I know it sounds like I’m grandiose about it, but it’s a pretty big component of what gets you going with your business. Simon Sinek has a wonderful TED Talk and a book that speaks to starting with why; he uses the simple but powerful Golden Circle to explain how great companies lead their communications from why, and from why they do what they do as opposed to what they do or how they do it.”
Find Your “Why”
“I started asking myself really powerful questions: who am I at the core?” said Stephanie Courtillier. “And where do I belong? What is the legacy I want to leave in the world? What causes do I love? And I ended up putting it together. And once again, perfectionist, I wanted to create this just intense, amazing sentence. So my sentence ended up being, I use my passion and love to inspire and empower heart-centered leaders to take action towards their dreams. And I literally forced myself to memorize this. Now this is not the way you should go out and find your why, because it’s constantly emerging.”
“I realized that I want to help people with great ideas, become great communicators because then they can change the world,” said Lisa Poulson. “So I’m not going to change the world. I’m going to help other people change the world. And so it’s an indirect relationship. My why is that I help innovators become great communicators because it’s great communicators who can create the change they want to see in the world. You can’t build a movement if you don’t know how to connect with and talk to people. So that’s how I got there. And it was just literally a process of writing down the attributes of every single client that I’d worked with and identifying the commonalities of the clients that I loved.”
“My why is really connecting, guiding, and inspiring those people that God places in my path,” said Robb Breding, “to understand and develop and fully engage the talents that they have. The final piece is so that they can accomplish what matters to them so helping them to understand who they are, what they have to offer and then developing those skills around that and engaging themselves in such a way that they can accomplish the things that matter most to them. That’s my why.”
“It’s more of a looking at yourself internally because of something tragic that’s happened or a really low point in your life, for some big challenge that’s really difficult to overcome, that tends to be what starts that process of evaluating your why,” said Alan. “I had a similar thing when our middle child, Alix, told me she was transgender and I had to deal with a lot of my own personal emotions around that and to figure out what that meant for myself and my family. The journey through all of that helped me understand the different way of looking at the world and a different way of seeing people for who they truly are and accepting them.”
Apply Your “Why” to Your Business
“For me, a huge part of this was understanding what I don’t want to do,” said Lisa, “…I care about whether a CEO can communicate or she can communicate to her team. And so the why really gave me focus…. I can understand exactly who my clients are, who my perspective clients are and what their attributes are and what their problems are. And then what specific exact services do they need?”
Robb said, “It’s this exponential impact, rather than just my sphere of influence that now I’m helping other people that all have spheres of their own. That’s how it’s evolved for me. And I wanted to go through my iterations, because it doesn’t have to always be clear and there’s different parts of our why that are influencing us at different times. And that’s okay, as long as we’re in it in some way, if we have energy, it gives us energy.”
“The way I built Integrous Women,” said Stephanie, “was when I was going through this process of finding my why, really finding myself, I identified my strengths. So it was more personal. . . . So starting with strengths and then thinking about the impact you want to make in this world, maybe it’s not a cause, maybe it is, but how do you build a model that allows you to live both of those? So personal, professional and philanthropy. Those are my three Ps. And that’s how I’ve been able to bring it all home for me.”
“Person, professional and philanthropy, that’s a great guide for someone; those are three very important components to your life and how you can help other people,” said Alan. “If you can blend that into your why that would be fantastic. When I was figuring out with my why, I didn’t quite know how to leverage it into the business. I know I want to help people. I know there’s something about what’s on the inside, not on the outside. It’s how you see people and it’s the energy around the individual.
“Once you start dissecting everything and really looking at your inside and seeing other people in a new way, you start thinking about brand experiences and your business and what you’re doing, the services you offer, all of that, you start just turning it all upside down from the typical way of going about building and thinking of a business and your brand. And that’s how my why data totally shifted, how I look at a business and how we work with our clients.”
Not Having a “Why” Can Impact Your Work and Personal Lives
“When I look back at what I’ve done, it’s not always been for the best of reasons,” said Robb. “I’m a pretty good guy, but sometimes our motives where there’s a shadow side to some of these drivers we have inside of us. . . . So some pitfalls for me have been my need to win. I can’t tell you how many times that’s got me in trouble. I’ve got to win this thing. I got away from my value system or from my why; I need to be right. . . . Another one I wrote down was clinging to the past; sometimes we’re too much holding on that.”
“A couple of things come to mind for me, a big one was this awareness,” said Stephanie. “And I love some of the elements Robb mentioned, even just to those pitfalls. Because I’ve definitely fallen through, I think many of us have, I mean, we’re humans after all. We’re not perfect. It’s these two pathways. And growing up, I was always taught to succeed what I was striving for. I was on this journey to strive for success in any way, shape or form. What I quickly learned in my early mid-twenties when I was starting to hit that burnout from having succeeded to everyone else’s perspectives was I made the shift to striving for significance instead. We have to be careful because I still want to be successful, but it’s almost this transition from getting out of our heads and working more from our hearts.”
“I don’t think that your why is opposed to being successful,” said Lisa. “So in 2000, if you compare where I was in 2013, when I had no idea what my why was going to be and where I was in 2019 before COVID my business was 20 times more profitable or 20 times top line revenue. Having a why helped me have a business that works. . . . So I’m in favor of making a lovely living from a place of a wonderful why and I just don’t want us to feel like we’re diverging from commerce toward a why and that we can’t make a living at doing it.”
How to Discover or Rediscover Your “Why”
“I think for anyone, it’s, are you stuck, do you have the ability even for five minutes to step back, reconnect with your purpose?” said Stephanie. “Be intentional, bringing elements of what you love into the day to day, but be intentional, take action towards that, I think is really important.”
“It is partly taking a step back and taking a 30,000-foot view,” added Lisa. “I was so devastated by Chadwick Boseman’s death and I’ve been reading a lot about him and how he was suffering from colon cancer for four years while he was making these magnificent movies. I was reading Ryan Coogler’s tribute to him, who directed him in “Black Panther,” and he was talking about how Chadwick was so focused on just this long-term why of wanting to represent this beautiful hopeful model for generations of kids. . . . And part of it is when I am really lost, I have to step back and really ask for help.”
“When you get away from your why, take that time and have a regular practice of self-reflection and self-work will help you to stay there,” said Robb. “Take the time and get to know yourself, and that includes your why. . . . be yourself as often as you possibly can. And surround yourself with good people that have your best interest at heart that love you unconditionally, and that can help to lift you up and give you perspective when you need it. If you put those three things in place in your life, it’s becomes a lot easier to stay on the rails.”
It’s a Bold New World!
All Thrive!cast episodes focus on leading business owners to discover ways to create success for them and their businesses in this bold new world.
To hear more from the panelists on this and other Thrive!cast episodes, click below.