It all comes down to "WHY"

“Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.”

- Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why

I love this quote!!  Well, let’s be honest, I love just about anything and everything Simon Sinek says.  (Simon says!!).  

He inspires me with his emphasis on finding the “WHY” of the goal, task or mission and this inspiration has shaped the way I work with my students in helping them find their mission, and complete their goals throughout their college planning and preparation process.

Mr. Sinek’s quote above is one I actually hadn’t read or seen before and it really hit home. You see, discovery is all about inventing over and over again, using the information and feedback to make new and different choices.  

When we operate from discovery, we are always open and always learning.  Each experience is not about failure or success – it’s about how we interpret the results to change course for the next time.  

Discovery is also about evaluating the outcome from a new and different perspective, and having the willingness to try something new and move forward, instead of allowing failure to hold us back. 

I had the most awesome experience recently while helping one of my students brainstorm for one of her college application essays.  The essay prompt asked her to take a look at the failures she had experienced in her life and how she’d learned from them, and she was having a hard time coming up with something that she had failed at.  

My first thoughts about this prompt were “failures experienced in life?” 


These kids are 17 and 18 years old at most - failure is a VERY strong word.  I sincerely hope that none of them have felt like they experienced failure!  

How about not achieving a goal?  How about not winning?  But failure!!! 

Okay, so then I calmed myself down, got out of my own head and we looked up the definition of failure together, as a way to start brainstorming this question.  

What we found is that the actual definition of failure is:  “lack of success”. 

Okay - cool!  

So, now we are getting somewhere.  I knew that she had been competing in dance since she was five years old, so I asked her:  “have there been any competitions or events in the last 12 years where you did not experience success”?  

And she said “oh yes, there were many competitions where I didn’t win”.

So I asked her, “well, how did that feel and how would you like to write about those ‘failures’.  (Internal eye roll and grimace at that ‘failure’ word!)

She said to me: “But I don’t consider those failures.  Each competition you either win or lose, and you use that to figure out what you want to do differently for next time”.

Trying my absolute hardest not to burst into tears of joy, jump up and down and hug her - I said “I love that - how would you like to write about that”.  

And she did!  And she started with “Why”!

She wrote about how she was participating in dance because she loved it.  That she was learning from every competition about ways that she could do things different for the next event and how to maximize her performance. And how, if she lost, it wasn’t a failure to her, it was an opportunity to learn and grow. 

As we head into the holiday season, in the midst of shopping and cooking and work events and traffic – I encourage you to take a moment here and there and focus on your “why” so that all of the other stress fades away, even if just for a moment.

I know that if you’re willing to try this, you’ll find more opportunities to experience the many opportunities to be thankful for this season!