Monday, November 4, 2013

Learning from

Last week, I checked out the TED website in preparation for helping one of our faculty members who has been selected to give a TED talk in 2014.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the TED phenomenon, the subtitle on the website is "Ideas Worth Spreading." The talks cover an amazing array of topics from vulnerability and sustainability to architecture, privacy, and the notion of home.

And they're also addictive.  I intended to watch just one or two to get an idea of what they're about, but after going through six or eight of them, I had to force myself to push them away as if they were a half-eaten box of donuts.

One of the talks struck a particular chord with me.

In "How Great Leaders Inspire Action," Simon Sinek talks about effective marketing--whether we're trying to sell others a product, get them to vote for us, or lead them to a course of action.

Sinek says that we erroneously focus on the "what," when what we should be emphasizing is the "why."

People don't buy what you do, he says. They buy why you do it.

He's so right, and there is a life lesson there.

I thought about the huge house we stayed in at OBX two weeks ago:

It had six bedrooms, six or seven bathrooms, a theatre room, an infinity pool, a hot tub on the waterfront, and a gourmet kitchen with a killer view of Currituck Sound.

But all that was just the "what."

The "why" was being there with wonderful friends and relaxing together in that hot tub.  The why was my husband cooking fabulous meals for everyone in that gourmet kitchen.  The why was watching everyone with a camera try to capture the gorgeous sunsets every night.  The why was all of us coming together to carve and decorate pumpkins for Halloween.

Was it wonderful to do all these things in a beautiful house? Of course.  But without the other people, the house would have been just ... a big house with a pretty view.

I always wanted a beach house myself.  I dreamed about it, but it was a dream that was always out of reach.

Or so I thought.

Until one day, I was looking at a real estate website and saw this:

It didn't look much like the beach house of my dreams then, but it eventually became the beach house of my dreams after Doug and I put a year's worth of hard work into it:

But the reason it fulfilled my dream wasn't the what.

It was the why.

I wanted a beach house so I could take a few steps from my front door and see this:

And this:

And do this:

and this:

And see Doug happily doing this:

And see Pax like this:

It was never about the what.  I didn't need a big fancy beach house with lots of rooms and a $1 million price tag. 

I needed a humble little shack where I could spend lots of time with my husband and our beloved pets relaxing and renewing ourselves in a completely different environment from the one we live in most of the time.

And I'm kind of glad I'm not rich enough to have afforded a big beach house because if I was, I would have missed out on the whole experience of tearing apart a mess and rebuilding something wonderful with Doug. 

So for me, the beach cottage really was always about the why.  

And I think we should always focus on the why when we make decisions about what path to follow, what to buy, which leader to follow....

Because the what is just the what.  The what can leave us feeling empty when it doesn't deliver on its promises.

As Sinek says, Martin Luther King didn't deliver the "I have a plan speech." He delivered the "I have a dream speech."

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