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Your what is not your why

Imagine you are the premier manufacturer of premium widgets. I’m not talking about those run-of-the-mill, wholesale club models. I’m talking about the Cadillac of widgets. Titanium plated with an x-347 polymer coating. You know, top-of-the-line. So is what you do (making really kick-ass widgets) your reason for existing?

Imagine saying that out loud. My reason for existing is to make top-of-the-line widgets.

Yikes.

Now before you shake your head and chuckle at the poor numbskull who believes this is his raison d’etre, consider that, for the majority of companies out there, this is how they operate.

What you do is what you create. It can be a product (like greeting cards) or a service (like investment advice). Think about that for a moment. Is that why you believe you’re here? Imagine, after living a long life, being on the verge of shuffling off this mortal coil. You’re looking back at your life. And you say, “I sure helped make some fine-quality, folded paper products.” Or maybe, “I shared some really dandy portfolio allocation charts.”

I doubt that’s what you’re thinking. And if it is, well, just stop reading now.

Still with me? Okay, good. Let’s talk about why you’re really here. Your purpose. Your ‘why’. Are you ready for it? Here it is.

You’re here to make a difference in a life.

That’s it. That’s your ‘why’.

Okay, you may find that you end up making a difference for an entire community. Or even the world. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s stick with the goal of just making a difference in a life.

So let’s say that you make greeting cards (that’s your ‘what’). I would contend that your ‘why’ has something to do with helping people connect more deeply. To build stronger bonds. Or maybe even to make the world a little better place by helping one person spread a little happiness in the world by touching the life of someone they care for. As you look back on your life, that would be a pretty wonderful thing to take credit for.

How about that investment advisor and those dandy portfolio allocation charts? It’s not just about the accounts. It’s about giving people a sense of hope. I would even say that you are giving people the courage to dream about tomorrow.

Could you believe that? Imagine how that would change your outlook. You’re no longer getting up in the morning to make darn good widgets. You’re getting up to make a difference.

Imagine that as your reason for being.

Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail — a brand innovation company, helping organizations find their unique, undeniable and unshakable sense of purpose and create innovative experiences that bring it to life.

Originally published at https://www.dansalva.com on May 21, 2020.

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Dan is an expert brand strategist and author of the book Big Audacious Meaning — Unleashing Your Purpose-Driven Story. He is a founder at Will & Grail.

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