Doing What You Believe In

on May 4, 2010

What do you do? What do you believe in? Do you do what you believe in? Are you doing something you care for? Is it something that matters? We spend most of our waking hours working – work is part of who we are. Is this who you wish to be? These questions are neglected by many folks. They feel that a job is just a job. In some cases, their argument is valid, like if they don’t have other options and they need to support their families. But the many other people that do have a choice refuse to acknowledge it. They want to stay “safe” and have a job instead of pursuing a calling. Work is just work, yet work is life.

This shouldn’t just matter to individuals, but also to organizations (especially companies). Is your organization all about what it does or what it believes? Do its employees put in work in exchange for a paycheck? Or do they put in sweat and blood to support a cause you jointly believe it? Is your organization persuading potential consumers with what its product does? Or is it building a following around a genuine philosophy?

In a recent TED talk (embedded above), Simon Sinek discusses what inspires people (to work, to buy, and to support). He proposes a golden circle which consists of three concentric rings with a term within each: what, how, and why, from the outside to the inside respectively. He explains how so many companies, such as Gateway, start from the outside and go in, while others, like Apple, start from the inside instead, with why. So while Gateway, and most other computer companies, talk about what their products to, Apple makes products that exemplify why the company does what it does. (Sinek also tells similarly admirable stories behind The Wright Brothers and Martin Luther King, Jr. so check out the whole talk.)

Sinek offers scientific support for the golden circle in the form of biology; he shows how our brains are structured in the same manner. The most recently evolved part, which is more rational, controls the what while a more ancient part, involved with decision making but not tied to communication, is more about the why. As much as you can try to persuade someone on strict rational grounds, the more emotional feeling part of the brain will have a strong say in decisions.

So look at yourself and your organization. Does your work matter? Does your product just do something or does it prove that you and your company believe in something your consumers believe in?