Keeping “Why” in Mind

My son has been learning to build tall towers of playing cards: pyramids of triangle upon triangle, Kings leaning on Jacks, a floor of spades, a roof of diamonds.

You know the cliché—are you building a house of cards? Something improbable, impermanent, that will collapse in a heap if you breathe too hard?

It’s a building without a foundation, and it takes a lot of effort to create. It sure does look cool, though.

I’m thinking a lot about what we’re all building, these days.

Starting with WHY

In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek encourages us to think about not just WHAT we build, or HOW we build it, but WHY we’re building at all.

Our WHY is what motivates us. It’s what we’re really trying to accomplish.

When we start something (a blog, a project, a book, a shop, a company) we usually know what we’re about. We know WHY we’re doing this thing. We want to help someone, inspire someone, bless someone, teach someone. We want to change something. We want to be of service.

As our projects grow—as our brands grow, as our names grow—though, sometimes we start to waver. We forget to act from that place of purpose, and start acting out of self-preservation.

Staying focused on our WHY is the challenge.

Staying with WHY

Sinek writes:

“Gaining clarity of WHY, ironically, is not the hard part. It is the discipline to trust one’s gut, to stay true to one’s purpose, cause or beliefs. Remaining completely in balance and authentic is the most difficult part.”

Because it’s true: as you grow, you do have something to lose. Time, money, attention, followers. Contracts. Relationships. Momentum. Routines.

Maybe you start making choices that won’t offend anyone. Playing it safe. Not rocking the boat.

But keeping quiet, hiding rough edges — that isn’t what you were made for, is it?

You have to know what you’re about, and keep being about it, even though not everyone will follow. You still have to share your opinions. You still have to take a stand. If you know what you’re called to do—your WHY—sticking with it matters.

False Security

Sometimes I don’t even play it safe, I just stop playing.

For example: a big influx of blog traffic? Suddenly everything I intended to publish seems not quite good enough. I should just wait on that, I tell myself. I freeze up.

That’s not serving my WHY, and it isn’t serving my readers. I’m not being driven by my purpose anymore, I’m giving in to being driven by fear—fear of not being good enough.

When I focus on ME, I feel like I need to protect myself from judgment and critique. When I keep my focus where it should be—on WHY I write—I can keep going, one word falling into place after another.

Fear-based or Service-based

Working to maintain your success isn’t the same as working in service of your WHY, your purpose, your calling—and spinning your wheels to keep everyone happy isn’t sustainable. It’s fear-based, not service-based.

It does keep us busy, though. It’s a lot of work, trying not to step on any toes. It takes a lot of effort, to keep looking successful. And it’s easy to confuse hard work with important work.

So what are we working toward?

Are we building houses of cards?

Are we building lives without substance, without a foundation to stand on? Something flimsy, ephemeral?

Even building a house of cards takes effort. That same effort could go into building something lasting.

Self or Service

Without the foundation of our calling, without the grounding of our WHY (our call to serve, to teach, to inspire), what are we left with?

We can spend our days trying to protect our image, our access, our audience. That’s like trying to protect the wind.

Or we can let go of all of that. We can focus on our purpose. Pursue that. Make sure our actions flow from our WHY.

We get to ask ourselves: What are our lives going to be about today? What will they be about tomorrow? What will our legacy look like?

Every day, we get to choose to focus on either what we do, or why we do it. Self, or calling. What’s it going to be?

And how will you stay focused?

Being the Change

A few weeks ago, something really cool happened to me. Sarah McLachlan replied to a question that I asked her on a Twitter chat she was hosting.

I thanked her for the reply, and also shared something with her that I hoped she would take the time to read.

While I honestly don’t think she has the time to read what I wrote, I wanted to make the effort anyway. It made me feel good to reach out.

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Being a Work in Progress

I get inspired by seeing people live out their callings in real life.

Sometimes it’s something big: trying to improve the foster care system. Writing a book on spiritual formation. Orchestrating a leadership conference to change a whole community.

Sometimes it’s smaller in scope: meeting the needs of a child with special needs, with endless patience. Bringing a weekly meal to a neighbor. Making time for that teenager who has so much to say and no one to listen.

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Coming Out of Hiding

What does it take for any of us to be our authentic selves? How do we suffer in our own ways when we choose to hide our truth in order to fit in or avoid being judged?

How many of us are hiding in our own lives in ways we are too afraid or ashamed to talk about? Is it worth coming clean about?

This is what the journey is all about in my book. The march of this life is a walking toward, a backing away from, and a walking again toward, authenticity. Everything we do is at its core an attempt to uncover – or cover up – the truth.

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Excellence, Not Perfection

I called Camille because I knew.

I had spent two full days stewing over thought chaos that had exploded in my brain. I was stumped. Confused. Tired. Frustrated. And I no longer wanted to waste precious headspace chasing the never-ending rabbit trails of useless thinking.

Her advice was calm and passing, yet, it was as if she yelled it in my face with a megaphone. It hit me hard. Hit me deep. Hit me with truth.

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