Knowing Your Why

“Lemonade! Lemonade for sale!”

My son and daughter are screaming and waving cardboard signs wildly at passing cars.

“How much?” asks a cyclist as he and a partner slowly approach. He is studying the sign in front of the stand. It says Lemonade For Literacy.

Hustling for library books.

Hustling for library books.


“Twenty-five cents. Fifty if you want a sprig of lavender with it,” responds my daughter.

“Okay; two with lavender. What does ‘Lemonade for Literacy’ mean?” The cyclist doesn't understand the connection.

“Our school is redoing the library and they’re fund raising to add new books. We want to help.”

“Wow. Good job. Here’s a five. Keep the change.”

“Thank you!” My kids whoop with joy. “Look Mom!”

They run over to show me another five-dollar bill as I top off their lemonade supply.

As I do, I marvel at their energy and excitement. After all, they are spending long hours in the dusty heat and many cars blow by without stopping.

“Tell me again why you two like doing this?” I ask.

“Mom, we love talking to all the people,” Nichola says. “And, we love money!”

“We want to help our school,” adds Ben.

Ah yes, I think to myself, this is their “why.”

Why “why” matters

In his popular TED talkSimon Sinek says “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

This explains why folks hand over five dollars--and sometimes more for a $.25 cup of lemonade.

Yes, thirsty customers sometimes just want a sweet refreshment on a hot summer day.

And, there are others who will support kids who want a better library filled with great books.

From the TED stage, Sinek goes further: “The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.

My kids believe that they should have a great library at school.

They believe that they should have more recent titles to choose from.

They believe that they should be able to read great books.

On hot and dry Saturdays, they sold lemonade to some--and a new library to others.

Watching what unfolded at this simple lemonade stand, I thought of my own work as someone who wants to inspire others no matter what organization I’m part of. What’s my “why”?

More importantly, what’s your “why”?

Knowing your “why” is not always clear; so let’s break it down:

>> What are your beliefs? 

>> What's your “mission”?

>> How do you want to make the world a better place?

>> Why does your company (if self employed) or organization (if not) exist? 

Knowing your “why” is all about looking in the mirror. (tweet that)

Your “why” is deeply connected to who you are and your values.

Your “why” gets you out of bed in the morning.

Your “why” connects you to others who share your beliefs—folks who want to work with you or buy from you.

So, as I think about it, here’s what gets me out of bed in the morning:

I believe people have an intrinsic desire to grow towards the edges of their potential in work and life—and that a coach can get them there with ease, grace and often with fewer bumps on the way.

Spend a few moments and think about it. What’s your “why”?

Banner Photo by Erol Ahmed