Author: Jeremy Vickers
Category: Blog

Post Tags: Leadership |

What’s your why? What drives you to change the world? What do you wake up thinking about? What do you spend hours thinking about fixing? Is it a global problem? A personal faith calling? Perhaps it is a sweet child that looks at you as if you hung the moon or a group of people you serve that deserve a better life. Regardless, everyone has a why. Often, we have many whys. Whys are like the white lines on the highways of our lives that keep us focused and on track. Have you ever visited a friend or colleague’s office and noticed what is hung on the walls or whose pictures embody the frames? Often, we can see someone’s why in a direct and straightforward way, yet usually we do not. 

I invited a good friend to speak to one of my entrepreneurship classes a few years ago, and he chose the topic of ‘why.’ He encouraged the students to consider their motivations, passions and purpose. He challenged my students to allow their why to drive them, and he presented the story of his why. As I look back on that discussion, I want to relay to you the value of understanding your why.

My why has changed and evolved over time in ways that I could not have foreseen. As a young man, newly graduated, I felt that my purpose was to change the world. I had big dreams and ideas, but minimal context and experience for what that meant. Just changing the world was about all I could successfully communicate. I spent the first few years of my career soaking up as much knowledge and experience as possible. A transformation began to occur in me, and I saw a pattern of passion present itself. I fell in love with entrepreneurship, more specifically innovation, and I realized that I wanted to help people and organizations innovate. Could I have told you what that meant at 25 years old? I genuinely do not believe so. It took me nearly 10 more years to massage this passion and purpose into my why.

Simon Sinek wrote, “Start With Why” the seminal text on this subject. In his work, Sinek highlights the importance of leaders using their team’s why to help inspire and motivate them. We understand psychology better in the 21st century and know that people are not inherently driven purely by money. Motivation is multifaceted, but we know that intrinsic motivational factors often supersede extrinsic elements, although they can be helpful. When a leader and their team understand each other’s why, they are able to use that to support one another toward successful action empathetically.   

Process your why. Get to know it at a deeper level. Communicate and share what drives and motivates you. Do not be afraid or embarrassed about it. Use this knowledge to engage others. Perhaps it is your team, leader, or peers that need to know it. Use your experience to create and support personal growth for you and your team! I encourage you to check out Sinek’s TED Talk to continue learning about this subject.


Jeremy Vickers, Ph.D., serves as Associate Vice President of External Affairs at Baylor University where he leads institutional events, community relations, and external affairs. He is passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship and channels that passion to serve organizations where he can support both growth and change. Jeremy lives in Waco, TX with his wife Jackie and four children.

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