Flipping through my notebooks this week, I came across a quote I wrote down last year that resonated with me as a leader and team member:
“You must know “why” before you can know “how,” but as you are learning the “whys”, you must constantly practice the “hows.” – Steven Stipelman
This quote is from Steven Stipelman’s book, Illustrating Fashion: Concept to Creation. Steven is an amazing fashion illustrator, teacher, and author. In this quote, Steven is referring to learning fashion illustration. I am definitely not an illustrator. So why would this resonate with me? When I read this, I thought: is this not also the evolutionary process of our approach to our work in companies and organizations?
Whenever you begin a new endeavor, whether a job or otherwise, you have a reason why. You may a take a new job to learn, to make money, to contribute to something bigger, to spend time with people, or a combination of whys. There are millions of initial whys for starting something new. However, you won’t actually go for it and start without having a why. You might start with a why that is more personal and the larger why of the job or company may at first not feel so meaningful. It may be more of a means to an end and you may be going through the motions, going through the how, to achieve your why. However, as you learn how to do the job, over time, the whys are revealed: whys for yourself and the why of the larger company or organization. Do you find this is true?
There are millions of initial whys for starting something new. However, you won’t actually go for it and start without having a why.
Many of my whys for starting a new job started as something more superficial like a good feeling about the opportunity, a reason to start something new, or a well-paying job. As I spent time there and learned how to do the job, I found that I kept doing the job because I found deeper meaning in it, I enjoyed it, I loved the team, or I was learning new things. I also often realized that I was contributing to something bigger and meaningful to many users or customers. I found it was true that I didn’t really understand my deeper whys until I had directly experienced the how over time. I took ownership of improving the how with curiosity and dedication. This approach also helped me to be a more curious learner and a more patient worker. I believe finding true meaning in what you do takes dedication, patience, and practice over time. The more time I spend in a job or workplace, the more I understand the whys of the organization and my own whys for doing the job evolve and deepen as well.
I found it was true that I didn’t really understand my deeper whys until I had directly experienced the how over time. This has helped me to be a more curious learner and a more patient worker.
In Awake Leadership, one of the opening exercises in section one is writing your team’s mission. If you are a leader within a company or organization, you are usually given a mission that contributes to the overall mission of the company. In Awake Leadership, we look at how your team fulfills your mission through specific tasks: the hows. Over time, as you execute your tasks toward the mission and work through the guidebook on the other important vitals, the “how”, or Vision Plan, evolves as your team gain news skills, learns more, collaborates more, and obtains better tools. By practicing the Awake method and taking iterations around and up the Awake staircase, you fine tune your hows and you learn how you contribute to the overall company mission. This is one of the focuses of Awake Leadership: to get clear on the how to reveal the whys.
…get clear on the how to reveal the whys.
Working to master the how to constantly reveal deeper whys allows for greater efficiency as well as clarity, confidence, and meaning in your work. You may have to pivot a few times; try new ways of approaching objectives, pivot roles, change companies, or change work fields before you resolve your own true whys, reveal the whys of your company or organization, and find a mission you’re enthusiastic about. Continue to be curious about how you can improve the how and continue to ask why. Learning and practicing the how leads to resolving deeper questions inside. You also develop empathy and compassion for others. Once the whys become clear and meaningful, it becomes easier to execute and improve the how, you lead with more confidence and authenticity, and you become more enthusiastic about your work and contribution.
Once the whys become clear and meaningful, it becomes easier to execute and improve the how, you lead with more confidence and authenticity, and you become more enthusiastic about your work and contribution.
“Learning, being curious and alive, and sharing your thoughts and knowledge will help you find a style.” – Steven Stipelman
Thanks for reading!
To begin learning the how to reveal the deeper whys for your work, check out the guidebook: Awake Leadership. Awake Leadership is an interactive guidebook for driven, curious leaders and teams.