I start by commending to you an amazing event some of our board members attended recently – the Global Leadership Summit. It is a 2-day conference heralding speakers from all areas of business as well as minstry joining together to share their insights on what it takes to be a great leader. The man who has been organizing and serving as the host of the event since its inception in 1992 is Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Church, Chicago, IL. The event is held on Willow Creek’s campus and is then watched via live simulcast at locales around the world.
It would take hours for you to read, and days for me to write, all the insights I gleaned while sitting at that conference. So, I decided to limit myself to one question that was posed by Hybels himself at the very beginning of the conference. As you can guess based on the title of this post, it is trying to figure out your “white hot why”.
He proposed that while most of us have a good idea of “what” we are doing, and even a good idea of “how” we’re getting it done, oftentimes we forget to stop and ask ourselves “why” we are even doing what we’re doing in the first place.
I found this to be a powerful distinction, and this is the lesson I took from that question, besides the challenge for myself to figure out what is my “white hot why”. The lesson I took is that sometimes I think it can be really difficult to separate the “what” from the “why”. For instance, if someone has it as their aim to work towards ending poverty, be it on a small or large scale, they might assume their “why” is “to end poverty.” But, as Hybels spoke, it became clearer to me that an answer such as that is still at the “what” stage. It is “what” someone is trying to do – end poverty. The reason “why” is a bit more ellusive and therefore takes a longer moment of pause to discern.
You see, if someone is working towards something, and they reach their goal, that means their journey is complete. Someone who has as their “what” an answer that involves helping others, they need to take a step back and move from the “what” to the “why” because it will broaden their reach and the power of their impact.
This is what I mean – again, using the example of “ending poverty” as the goal. That is a huge undertaking, and a lot of energy might be leaked in the process. But, if that person takes a step back and ponders “WHY do I want to work to end poverty?” their answer will probably be much broader and possibly more nebulous, but something positive will happen as a result.
Because the answer most likely will be “I want to work to end poverty because all people have value and deserve to live in such a way that demonstrates that.” That is an answer to the “White Hot Why.” And, you see what it does is it broadens the context for our work. Then I can work on my “white hot why” whenever and wherever I find myself. Because people are all around us, and we can do things every day to demonstrate to others that they have value. And so we can feel more empowered in our larger work because we know then that even if we run up against road blocks in our designated “what”, our “why” hasn’t changed, and we can always be working on that.
I would like to encourage you today to take some time to consider “what” you are spending your energy on these days, and “how” you are accomplishing that, but I would also like you to take some time to think about “why” you are doing what you are doing. And, to consider how the answer to that question can open up your world in some very amazing ways!
Have a great day!