The Right 'Why' Matters

Do you know Simon Sinek? He is an author, motivational speaker, and marketing consultant and probably best known for his TED talk “How great leaders inspire action”. The Description of the video says:

“Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership — starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers …”

It’s the “why” that drives us most or at least should drive us the most. Not the “how” or the “what”, it’s the “why”.

Okay, now what the heck am I talking about, you might ask. Simon Sinek is talking about the leadership of a company. He wants the leaders to think about why they are leading the company and why their company is doing what it is doing.

Most company leaders – and employees – start with the “what”. They know what they are doing or what they want to do. After that, they figure out how to do it. Most of the time, it stops right there. Very few people go further and really ask the question why they are doing all this stuff. Of course, you might say you have to get up to earn money and get something to eat. But in this case, it’s not about that “why” I am talking about. It’s about the meaning of your day to day activity.

In my opinion, it’s exactly the same with software development. Whenever I know why I’m creating this particular feature and what’s the meaning of the big picture, I don’t have any motivational problems. I’m even more happy to implement it. Whether you’re helping people with your software, or you’re creating something that could be part of the future, or you’re giving people a piece of software that is fun to them and makes them happy. Or maybe you’re writing a little tool that’s helping a co-worker to do her job a bit faster. There are many things that will give your work as a software developer meaning. And it’s a damn good feeling to find that out.

Making games, for instance, gave me the feeling that I will provide something that lets other people have a good time. With the video game, I’m involved in, gamers may have a feeling of accomplishment and acknowledgment. They will feel better.

Working in the health sector, I think that I can have a real impact on people’s lives and that I can help them stay healthy.

When I was working for a bank, I couldn’t find any meaning, hence, I quit pretty fast.

Granted, it’s not easy to find a job with “the right why”. Maybe you’re in a situation where you cannot afford to choose between several options. Maybe you have to find your “why” first. But if you do, it will change the way you work, the way you think about the next feature you have to implement or the next bug you have to fix.

By the way, it doesn’t have to be your job. It can also be a side project. I guess with your side project you don’t have such big problems to find meaning. It’s something you chose. Maybe it’s something you’ve wanted to learn for so long? Or maybe you’re dreaming of this one app or game you wanted to create in your spare time.

Either way, it’s a good time to start thinking about your why. It may change the way you’re writing your next line of code.

But wait, there’s more!

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