What is Your “WHY” – at Work and in Life?

April 19, 2022

Do you know your “Why?” Simon Sinek’s 2009 TedTalk on this has 58 million views and is the basis for his book, “Start with Why.”

The question seems simple – who are you and what do you stand for?

The answer is not so simple – is it? Can you state, in one sentence, who you are and what you stand for as a person? As an employee? As a manager or a business owner?

My son is a Millennial and we were having a conversation about the kind of work he wants to do. He thinks a lot about what he’s contributing to the world – like many of his generation. And I thought about this when it comes to my own work.

When I was a student, I wanted to make a difference in the world. The earth’s air and water was so polluted it was making headlines; I wasn’t aware of it until years later, but one of the most horrifying and defining moments illustrating how bad pollution was in the U.S. was when the Cuyahogo River caught fire. Yes, read that again. A river in Cleveland, Ohio caught fire.

There were many other examples of water and air pollution, including toxic waste dumping, all of which led to the passing of the Clean Air Act in 1970, and the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Regulations created and then enforced by the EPA did a tremendous amount to clean up the air and water in the U.S. And, perhaps, because of this, my generation got complacent; we felt better and better about the country we’d inherited. We’d protested when we were students, and we felt as though we were part of the solution.

The biggest problems we had seen were being solved (or so we thought).

All of this is to say that I was very conscious of wanting to work at a place that didn’t harm the planet. I drew lines in the sand for myself: about where I would and would not work, such as:

  • I would not work for a cigarette company. (Phillip Morris was a huge organization that employed a lot of people in NYC.)
  • I would not work for a firearms company (also a big industry near me).
  • I would not work for an oil company.

In fact, I worked in the nonprofit world for seven years, trying to make the world a better place. It was at a number of organizations, ranging from Save the Children to the Lakota (in South Dakota) to local theaters (the arts promote economic prosperity throughout the U.S.). I even went back to the for-profit world with a focus on helping the nonprofit industry.

Which brings me to where I am today, and my why.

I created a new platform, Marketing Career Mentor, to provide others with the kind of mentoring and career coaching that I wish I’d had when I was starting out in marketing, but never received.

The advice and information is all free because my plan is to get sponsorships – from marketing employers and others – to pay for the cost of maintaining it and adding valuable new content every month (such as Executive Interviews, with advice to young marketers).

When we do generate a profit, I plan to donate to programs that save wildlife and their habitats.

But enough talk about me. What about YOU?

I’ll end with the same question I started with – do you know your “why?” And, if so, are you living it yet?