When I was eight years old, I burst into the house from the day’s baseball practice to discover a pencil sketch propped up on the kitchen counter for me to see. I recognized it as the cover of one of my favorite Batman comic books. I knew my dad could draw, but this didn’t look like his style. When the true artist revealed herself, I exclaimed in amazement, “Wow, Mom! You can draw, too?” (She was really good.)
When I was a kid, no one ever handed me a sketchbook and told me to start drawing. I just did. A lot. I drew Disney characters, superheroes, Charlie Brown and Snoopy. As I grew older, I would draw scenes or characters from books I read.
Because I loved to draw, I ended up in the graphic design field. I graduated from design school at a time when only geeks knew how to use the Internet. But that soon began to change. Shortly after landing my first graphics job, my supervisor left to take a web designer position. I was impressed. I didn’t know what type of hocus-pocus magic it took to make websites, but I was sure it was done by people with brains the size of super-computers.
Eventually, I learned how it was done and began building websites myself. I loved everything about graphic design and web design. I loved that it involved a computer—especially a Macintosh. I loved HTML. I was amazed when I discovered CSS and found I could change styles across an entire site by modifying a few snippets of code. I had a lot of intrinsic reasons why I did what I did for a living.
So how did I go from web designer to telemarketing manager and sales trainer? Those two career paths may seem miles apart. But they’re not, really—not when you look at the extrinsic reasons behind what I do.
You see, I also found a great deal of satisfaction when I created a printed piece or website that actually helped a client grow their business or increase revenue. When I saw a client get top search rankings and heard that he got praised by his boss because of it, I felt that I had contributed a small part to their success. Now that I train sales people and telemarketers, I get the same sense of satisfaction when one of them takes what they’ve learned and becomes successful.
Why do You do What You Do?
Author and speaker Simon Sinek offers a simple yet profound explanation why leaders like Apple Computer, the Wright Brothers, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were able to inspire those around them. I’ll give it to you in a nutshell:
People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
In other words, companies and leaders that truly inspire others “start with why.” All the rest start with “what.”
It makes sense. If you don’t know why you do what you do, then how will you ever get others to respond to you, vote for you, or buy your product?
I’ve heard that the average person changes careers 3 – 5 times in their lifetime. In a world of outsourcing and off-shoring, knowing your unique “why” keeps you both flexible and adaptable.
So what about you? Why do you do what you do? What’s your particular “why”? Listen to Simon Sinek’s presentation, How great leaders inspire action, and tell me what you think.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.