5 Life Lessons – L1 Know Why You’re Doing It

In my First Book Think Right from the 100 Small Steps series (2014, Morgan James), readers are introduced to a remarkable story of change, struggle, and victory. The catalyst for which was a picture of a man showing up in my facebook timeline that I barely recognized as myself. After confronting the horror that was a 386 pound me coupled with the knowledge that I was a type 2 diabetic, I decided to do something about it. Sustainable, transformative change is a difficult and costly journey. It demands something of us. My gift to help you along the way is a blueprint for how to get started that I call The Five Life Lessons.


 Lesson 1: Know Why You’re Doing It

 There Is Power In Why

In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek introduces us to the concept of The Golden Circle by asking the question “Why is it that there are exceptional individuals/organizations that are able to inspire and motivate us into action while others, though they may be stronger, smarter, more capable and better funded do not?” His Golden Circle consists of a three ringed bulls-eye represented by 3 very simple words. Starting with the outermost ring, everyone can tell you What they do. Most people can tell you How they do it. But, once you get to the center of the bulls-eye, the Why of the Golden Circle, well very few people can convincingly express Why they do what they do.

If you have ever managed a project you know that the What, How and Why are critical components of a master project plan. You have to know What the project is, How much time you have, and How you intend to implement it. Here’s an odd observation. In my experience usually by the time a project manager has been assigned to a project, the Why has already been figured out. It just shows up as a statement somewhere either on the project plan, or in a project charter somewhere. The Why in these cases usually start off like this, “As part of our corporate strategy to do “x” we have engaged this project team to accomplish the Why.  In my case the What was simple. I needed to lose weight and control my newly diagnosed diabetes. There was no way I was going to spend the rest of my life on that god awful Metformin or worse yet, insulin injections. The How was just as easy. For the better part of my life I had been an athlete so I knew how to hit the gym and since my forte was wrestling I knew the tricks to cutting weight fast. So there you have it, the What and the How and I was off to the races with what I thought was the Why which was being healthy and controlling my diabetes. I took the outside in approach that so many individuals and organizations use in order to set strategy. By starting with What they do, articulating How they do it, which hopefully in the eyes of the consumer is the differentiated value proposition, they end up with an outcome. This outcome is  based on the What and the How which is then incorporated into a mission statement and referred to once a year at the all management meeting. Seasoned project managers will tell you that when pulling together a project team made up of representatives of the multiple facets of an organization, you’ve got to get to the why fast. Why now? Why me? Why should you lead, and why should any of us care? Most people on the team won’t really care about the Why because they understand that if it doesn’t get done, there will be consequences. No one has to believe that it will work or add value. The team’s overarching objective is to  avoid the judgment, shame and possible termination that comes from failure. The problem with that approach is now you have to keep ratcheting up the consequences which only serve to check enthusiasm and destroy morale.

More Important Than What and How

So there I was out of the gate like a prized stallion and in about 6 weeks I was ready to quit. I was asking “why am I putting myself through so much pain and deprivation?” I hated being so out of shape, but what I hated even more was the fact that my legs and lungs felt like they were on fire every time I moved. I also quickly discovered that every time I came up with a reason Why to do it, the negative talk in my head could reason that Why away. My Why wasn’t strong or compelling enough to inspire me to see it through. I had not bought in to the project and did not believe in the potential benefits and outcomes. Since the process had started from outside of myself by the time I got to the center of the bulls-eye, to the Why, I was off to the races. The Why, the glue, the covenant and buy in that I needed to make it stick was lost before I had even gotten started. Mr. Sinek posits that “People don’t buy What you do, they buy Why you do it.” The truth of the matter was that I had mistaken the desired results or outcome for the Why. “Because I want to lose weight,” is an outcome of the What and How. Why goes much deeper than that. Why is your purpose & power. The Why is what you believe. I had pitched myself using the outside in approach. “You want to lose weight (What) by changing the way you eat and how active you are (How) so that you can be a good example to your children, be less depressed, and get off the medication.” (Why) Sounds good right? Well guess what, I had built decades worth of unhealthy relationships with food. (Which I had grown to love.) There was always a valid reason why I couldn’t make it to the gym or be more active, and once I got used to the side effects of the Metformin, it hurt less. So in 6 weeks I was ready to quit and in frustration wrote in large letters in my journal “WHY AM I DOING THIS CRAP!” It was then that I decided it was time to rewrite the pitch, my personal elevator speech or charter statement if you will.

It Has to Come From Within You

I’m not going to lie to you. It took weeks to get the first draft of Why done. When I finally did get to the Why, I had sold myself and was ready to sell it to anyone who would listen. By starting with the Why I had transformed my power and purpose from passive statements, easy to reason away and ignore into a statement of belief. A powerful belief backed by How I was going to go about living it out and What it meant for my daily life. So without further ado, here is my Why.

 “Because I believe that I am stronger than my past, smarter and more capable than my obstacles, and because the world expects that I be a father, companion, friend and rock who leads by example, I am determined to break every covenant of bondage that I have made wittingly and unwittingly in my life so that I can become the man that I was created to be and not some cheap knock-off.” – Keith “Temple” Trotter

This is my power statement. This is my answer to Mr. Sinek’s question. Who or what are you more likely to follow? Do you follow a formula based on consequences of a failure to act, or are you inspired by a Why that allows you to lean into your power, your purpose, what you believe? Find your Why and I promise that you will discover your true intentions.

Hudson_PressKeith “Temple Trotter is an author, speaker and founder of A. Keith Consulting, LLC. His book 100 Small Steps: The First 100 Pounds (2015, Morgan James) is available now at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, Target.com, Books-a-Million.comwww.100smallsteps.com and in major book stores internationally.