When You Lead With Your Why, You Inspire

When I wrote my most recent book, Change Your Story, Change Your Life, I explored the concept of understanding: why you want what you want.  I came into this “aha” in my work with fiction writers. I began to recognize that there was a direct link between the personal dilemma of the central character and their professional pursuit. The personal dilemma sets up their why. If the story starts with the why then, when the trigger and dilemma happen that lead to the pursuit, it is clear why the central character wants what they want. When my writers learn how to apply this tool, the emotion in their story is elevated. Understanding the why establishes the internal motivation for the external reward that is at the end of the character’s pursuit. By understanding the why behind the what, the audience knows what to emotionally root for in the pursuit. They understand why it matters.

When I saw how well this worked with story, I began to think about it in my own life. When I think about my two pivotal life moments, a long relationship that ended in a short marriage and the end of a job after 15 years with two sister companies, I recognized that I never developed my why behind my what. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be married, and I wanted to be a successful TV executive. Since I didn’t explore my why, when I accomplished my what in both situations, I found that I didn’t feel the depth of fulfillment in the way that I thought I would. I appreciated my pursuit to both destinations and all the obstacles that I had to face along the way. However, since I wasn’t conscious of my internal motivation for wanting what I wanted, I found that my feelings around my arrival to both destinations fell short of my expectations. This may have contributed to the end of both these story arcs in my life.

When I started my company, Jen Grisanti Consultancy Inc. In 2008, I developed my why. I created my company to stop isolation and build community through the telling of story on a global level. I wanted to take what I learned from some of the top storytellers in the business and pass it forward in a way that would bring other people success internally as well as externally. I wanted storytellers to learn that the key to their success is developing from within. By understanding the why behind my what, I was able to build how I was going to do this.

I am currently reading a book called Start With Why by Simon Sinek. I heard about it at a business event that I attended given by John Assaraf called “Cloning of Business Success.” Attending this event was another action that I took in further developing the why behind my what in an ongoing way. In Sinek’s book, he applies the concept of WHY to business. He writes about a concept called the “Golden Circle.” Sinek writes, “The Golden Circle finds order and predictability in human behavior. Put simply, it helps us understand why we do what we do. The Golden Circle provides compelling evidence of how much more we can achieve if we remind ourselves to start everything we do by first asking why.” He goes on to write, “The Golden Circle shows how these leaders were able to inspire action instead of manipulating people to act.” He talks about how most companies understand their what and their how but they don’t clearly articulate the why. He writes, “WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?” In a later chapter, he cites business examples like Apple versus Dell. Since Apple has understood their why from the start and since they lead with their why, it has led them to tremendous success.

While studying the TV pilots for the upcoming Fall season, I noticed that many of them start with a set up of the personal dilemma for the central character. This gives the audience a point of connection in the story. In fiction and in life, there is tremendous value in starting with why.

Everything I am reading in Sinek’s book, Start With Why, and my experiences of waking up to my own why inspired me to write this blog. I want to spread the message that when you start with your why, you can connect and inspire. Sinek writes, “This book is not designed to tell you what to do or how to do it. Its goal is not to give you a course of action. Its goal is to offer you the cause of action.”