“Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people – supporters, voters, customers, workers – who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to.” ~ Simon Sinek
Everything I write each week is original content. They are my thoughts, though often influenced by outside sources. This week I am going to make an exception and plagiarise the final couple of pages from a book I just finished titled START WITH WHY, by Simon Sinek. The book was a wonderful read that I learned a great deal from. If you would like to read my review of Sinek’s work you may do so at https://montyrainey.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/book-review-start-with-why/ .
Below are the final three pages, the final chapter actually, titled – If You Follow Your WHY, Then Others Will Follow You. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did.
“BANG!” The gun fires and the race is on The runners take off across the field. It rained the day before and the ground is still damp. The temperature is cool. It is a perfect day for running. The line of runners quickly forms a pack. Like a school of fish they come together as one. They move as one. The pack sets a pace to maximize their energy for the whole of the race. As with any race, in a short period of time the stronger ones will start to pull ahead and the weaker ones will start to fall behind. But not Ben Comen. Ben was left behind as soon as the starter gun sounded. Ben’s not the fastest runner of the team. In fact, he’s the slowest. He has never won a single race the entire time he’s been on the Hanna High School cross-country track team. Ben, you see, has cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy, a condition often caused by complications at birth, affects someone’s movement and balance. The physical problems endure for a lifetime. Misshapen spines create a twisted posture. Muscles are often withered and motor reflexes slow. Tightness in the muscles and joints also affect balance. Those with CP often have an unsteady gait, their knees knock and their feet drag. To an outsider, they may seem clumsy. Or even broken.
The pack pulls farther and farther ahead while Ben falls farther and farther behind. He slips on the wet grass and falls forward to the soft earth. He slowly picks himself up and keeps going. Down he goes again. This time he hurts himself. He gets back up and keeps running. Ben won’t quit. The pack is now out of sight and Ben is running alone. It is quiet. He can hear his own labored breathing. He feels lonely. He trips over his own feet again and down he goes. No matter his mental strength, there is no hiding the pain and frustration on his face. He grimaces as he uses all his energy to pull himself back to his feet to continue running. For Ben, this is part of the routine. Everyone else finishes the race in about twenty-five minutes. It usually takes Ben more than forty-five minutes.
When Ben crosses the finish line he is in pain and is exhausted. It took every ounce of strength he had to make it. His body is bruised and bloody. He is covered in mud. Ben inspires us, indeed. But this is not a story about “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” This is not a story of “when you fall down, pick yourself back up.” Those are great lessons to learn, without a doubt, but we don’t need Ben Comen to teach us those lessons. There are dozens of others we can look to for that, like Olympic athletes, who suffer injuries only months before the games only to come back to win a medal. Ben’s lesson is deeper.
Something amazing happens after about twenty-five minutes. When everybody else is done with their race, everyone comes back to run with Ben. Ben is the only runner who, when he falls, someone else will help pick him up. Ben is the only runner who, when he finishes, has a hundred people running behind him.
What Ben teaches us is special. When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you. Olympic athletes don’t help each other. They’re competitors. Ben starts every race with a very clear sense of WHY he’s running. He’s not there to beat anyone but himself. Ben never loses sight of that. His sense of WHY he’s running gives him the strength to keep going, to keep pushing, to keep getting up and to keep going and to do it again and again and again. And every day he runs, the only time Ben sets out to beat is his own.
Now think about how we do business. We’re always competing against someone else. We’re always trying to be better than someone else. Better quality. More features. Better service. We’re always comparing ourselves to others, and no one wants to help us. What if we showed up for work every day simply to be better than ourselves? What if the goal was to do better work this week than we did the week before? To make this month better than last month? For no other reason than we want to leave the organization in a better state than we found it?
All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year. Those who forget WHY they were founded show up to the race every day to outdo someone else rather than to outdo themselves. The pursuit, for those who lose sight of WHY they are running the race, is for the medal or to beat someone else.
What if the next time someone asks, “Who’s your competition?” we replied, “No idea.” What if the next time someone pushes, “Well, what makes you better than your competition?” we replied, “We’re not better than them in all cases.” And what if the next time someone asks, “Well why should I do business with you then?” we answer with confidence, “Because the work we’re doing now is better than the work we were doing six months ago and the work we’ll be doing six months from now will be better than the work we are doing today. Because we wake up every day with a sense of WHY we come to work. We come to work to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. Are we better than our competition? If you believe what we believe and you believe that the things we do can help you, then we are better. If you don’t believe what we believe and you don’t believe the things we do can help you then we are not better. Our goal is to find customers who believe what we believe and work together so that we can all succeed. We’re looking for people to stand shoulder – to – shoulder with us in pursuit of the same goal. We’re not interested in sitting across the table from each other in pursuit of a sweeter deal. And here are the things we’re doing to advance our cause …” And then the details of HOW and WHAT you do follow. But this time, you started with WHY.
Imagine if every organization started with WHY. Decisions would be simpler. Loyalties would be greater. Trust would be a common currency. If our leaders were diligent about starting with WHY, optimism would reign and innovation would thrive. As this book illustrates, there is precedence for this standard. No matter the size of the organization, no matter the industry, no matter the product or service, if we all take some responsibility to start with WHY and inspire others to do the same, then together, we can change the world.
And that’s pretty inspiring.
- Book Review: START WITH WHY (montyrainey.wordpress.com)
- Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and My Life (karpfuciussay.wordpress.com)
- Motivation Monday: Inspire Action, by asking the question “Why?” (princesdailyjournal.com)
- Why-How-What: the best agenda for strategy discussions (corporate-shift.com)
- ‘It Just Takes Me A Little Longer:’ Video About Scott, Man With Cerebral Palsy, Goes Viral (VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)