Something happened. Something happened that shaped my entire life, who I am, and what I want to do with my time on earth. And yet I don’t remember it at all.
When I was 6 months old, my older brother Rory passed away in a tragic accident – 3 weeks before his third birthday.
I don’t remember it happening, I don’t even remember him. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child or even a sibling. But I do know what it’s like to grow up in a grieving family. With parents who, in the blink of an eye, lost any sense of security they had. They lost not only their son, but everything they thought their lives were going to be. If you missed it, I talked about what this was like with my younger brother in episode 11 of our How to Change the World podcast. We had never talked about it before, and I learned so much through the conversation.
What I learned as a kid is that suffering creates a cage that defines how we see ourselves and the world – and limits what we think we’re capable of. It locks us in and holds us back.
And what I want to do in my lifetime is break open that cage for others as much as I possibly can. When I look around, I see that one of the biggest causes of suffering in the world is inequality. I believe that as people, we are fundamentally the same. But we live in a world where systems, structures, human behavior and words create inequity and injustice – and that really hurts.
Through my work, my vote, my volunteerism and the way I live my life, I want to make the world more equal. If I can even the playing field by just a millimeter, that will change countless lives.
But that’s a BIG task, which will take time and lots of others things. What can we do about suffering here and now? Because suffering is such a powerful negative force that we can’t delay addressing it. We need to stop it now.
Rory gave me the answer to this. He taught me the most powerful lesson I have ever learned – and that is that you must be kind.
Kindness is the only thing we have at our disposal to support those around us who suffer – and it’s a powerful, life-changing thing. The smallest, seemingly invisible act of kindness can be life-saving. Inversely, the lack of kindness when it is needed can be equally powerful in the opposite direction.
So, that’s my cause in life: Decrease suffering. Increase kindness and equality.
To put it in the language we use all the time at Javelina, that is my why. Everything I choose to do – all my what’s and my how’s – are driven by the why.
Don’t think for one single second that I’ve always known this or been able to articulate it that way. Even a short number of weeks ago I wouldn’t have been able to write it out like that, and two years ago I couldn’t have said any of that. In fact, two years ago I had told only a small handful of people about my older brother. He was a closely guarded secret in my life.
It was through a lot of talking, reflection and experience that I slowly figured out where my motivation to do what I do came from. And it took a lot of time and effort to find the words to be able to articulate it.
But boy, is it worth it. For a bunch of reasons:
- Understanding why I do what I do helps me make decisions. It guides how I decide to spend my time, what to prioritize and who is important to me.
- It allows me to powerfully connect to other people. It helps me find the people who are like-minded and share my values. Together, we’re able to change the world in a meaningful, impactful way.
- It keeps my feet on the ground and my perspective in check. Knowing where all this came from and what it is all for helps me find my center faster when things go wrong and I overreact – which can be pretty often.
If you have never seen Simon Sinek’s TED Talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action, stop everything you are doing and watch it now. Especially the first four minutes.
I’ve never seen a more succinct, powerful explanation of the power of knowing and articulating your why.
One of Javelina’s core services is message and story development for businesses, nonprofits, and political candidates. A fundamental part of this is helping people and organizations find their why. It is not an easy thing to do – it takes deep reflection, thought, experimentation and time. We know that organizations who find their why and thread it through their external communications, as well as their internal culture, are the ones that change the world. It’s urgent and essential.
Take a look at this 5-step guide to developing your powerful story, which includes some tips on how to unearth your why. Whether you’re an individual figuring out their next career move, the head of an organization working on big problems, or a business leader scaling your enterprise, this guide will help you develop your story.
The story is already inside of you. All you have to do now is find it and share it with other people.