By Mathew Kennedy
Apple. Nike. Martin Luther King Jr. McDonalds. Google. The Wright Brothers. Yelp. TiVo.
These companies, people, and ideas all have something in common. They absolutely dominate their market and their competition. In fact, they have such competition, we often don’t even take the time to think about their competitors. In some instances, we don’t even know their competitors. These brands have taken such control over their service that they have become synonymous with the service themselves (We “Google” something, not search it. We “TiVo” something, not record it.).
But, how have these companies done it? What are they doing that is so essentially different than the thousands of other companies out there that are trying desperately to do the same exact thing that they are doing? What they are doing isn’t so fundamentally impossible to do, so why is their success so impossible to reach? Well, the answer to that question is simple, but at the same time quite complex. The best way to answer it is to re-word those questions. Instead of asking what they’re doing, try asking why they’re doing it.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This sentence is repeated constantly throughout that TED talk, and for good reason: it’s the overlying aspect to what makes businesses, people, and ideas great, compared to the countless that are good. The “great” deal with the why, the “good” deal with the what. All the examples given earlier are examples of businesses or people that dealt with the “why” first. This is something everyone should do. Reach down to your core and figure out what the “why” is before focusing on the what. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What is your purpose? That is when you will succeed, because when you do that, your intentions will always be honest with your own purpose.
There is a great amount of benefit to having honest intentions. When your intentions are honest and true to your “why”, you are making business and life a lot more efficient for yourself. If your intentions of who you are and why you do what you do are out there on the table, you are going to immediately attract people who are into what you are doing. Alternatively, you are also going to cast away people who don’t get it and simply never will. This saves time and resources that would be spent trying to get people to come around and buy into you, even though fact of the matter is that you or your idea simply isn’t one that they are into. Although this might feel like you’d be losing potential customers or partners, in the long run, it’s for the best, because if they can’t buy what you’re about and why you do what you do, it wouldn’t be a happy and successful relationship. And, the best way to ensure true success is to make sure that the relationship is a good and honest one.
So why is it that we are so dependent on the “why”? Well, it boils down to the fact that despite what we may try to convince ourselves sometimes, at the end of the day, we are still just hairless monkeys. As animals, we still rely heavily on the limbic parts of our brains. Our “newest” brain, our outermost part of the brain, is what makes us the most intelligent creatures on the planet. This part of the brain does the analyzing and expression at levels that no other creatures are quite able to do. But, it is not the part of the brain that truly controls us. Despite being highly intelligent creatures, we still answer mostly to the limbic parts of our brains. This is the part of our brains that, along with handling things such as hunger, thirst and threat, also handle emotions like trust and loyalty. Have you ever been nearing purchase of something where all the facts make sense and all the numbers line up, but you backed out because “it just doesn’t feel right”? That’s your limbic brain telling you that despite what your new, smart brain is telling you, this purchase just isn’t right for you for whatever reason. And, unfortunately to the salesman, no amount of facts and figures can change this. The “why” simply did not align with your morals and beliefs.
This also shows why some companies seemingly have better employees than others. They don’t have better pay packages or better benefits. Those things are all nice, but the average grind of a work day will wear on any employee and cause them to eventually turn to auto-pilot mode. The best employee-employer fits happen when the employee believes in what the company is doing and wants to be a part of it. This is when the employee gives their blood, sweat and tears to make the company better, because it is something that they want to do to make the world better as well. When beliefs align, that is when the magic happens. People will only ever really work hard consistently if it’s for a cause that they truly believe in. Passion is everything.
So, how does this apply to you right now? Well, whether it be in life or business, the first thing you should do is take a good, long look at your passions and your beliefs. What do you want to do with your time on Earth, and what do you want your legacy to be? Once you can truly figure that out, the rest should come surprisingly easily. Many people wade throughout their entire lives trying to find their “why”. Mindfulness is the most valuable trait a person can have, because they are the ones who know what there “why” is instantly. So, at this point, the challenge is up to you. How do you want to be remembered?