Out on a Ladder, Dangling from a Helicopter.
I’m going to utter a phrase that I’m confident has never been uttered in the history of the internet (if it has, I’ll eat my shoe): “The WHY Is Your Shark Repellent!” I’m venturing out on a limb here … or a ladder, dangling from a helicopter … in an attempt to connect Simon Sinek’s brilliant “Start with Why?” Ted Talk …
… with a classic TV scene from a 60’s Batman episode …
… where Batman dangles from a ladder attached to a helicopter that’s hovering over the ocean … a shark has its jaws clamped soundly to his leg … punches, elbows and heel kicks won’t convince the shark to let go … only the “shark repellent spray” which is too-slowly handed to Batman by his upside down, side-kick Robin (the helicopter must be on auto-pilot, right!?) can shake that pesky shark loose. Spoiler alert: the shark explodes at the end 🚁🦈💥 . Even if you don’t read another word, I implore you to watch both of these videos. It‘ll be well worth your time and each will blow your mind in different and satisfying ways!
Can You Articulate the Why?
Knowing the WHY … I mean, not just asking Why? … but knowing Why? … being able to articulate Why? … is an incredibly powerful life weapon. The shark is a metaphor for any question that needs answering, at any level of your life. The Why is Your Shark Repellent! Let’s start with the biggest Why ever … Why am I here?
So, Why Am I Here?
If you’ve never explored David Allen’s Horizons of Focus, you should definitely check it out. I stumbled on it a while back and it completely changed my perspective on … well, everything! At it’s core, the Horizons of Focus put you in an airplane, 50k feet above the ground. Ground level is your day to day life. From way up here, it’s hard to see the weedy details, you are forced to look at your entire life. Yikes. This is where you pontificate on your “Purpose.” Admittedly, this was a really tough concept for me to wrap my head around. “Why am I here?” And “What’s my purpose?” Aren’t normal, every day questions we ask ourselves. Honestly, my initial thought was: “Um … I’m not curing cancer or ending war or solving world hunger … do I even have a purpose?”
Looking at it a Different Way.
By shifting my perspective, I was able to make sense of this big WHY. Admittedly, it’s an equally daunting question in it’s scope, but I could at least wrap my head around the intended outcomes: “At my funeral (gulp 😳), what would I want my family and friends to say about me?” Still on the intense side (and bleak, I know), but this re-frame helped me make some forward progress. Thoughts started trickling into my head at first, and then the fire hose opened full throttle …
I would want to be remembered as a great dad … a great husband … a great son, grandson, brother … (my brain’s wheels kept churning) … I’d want to be remembered as a great leader … (some of my “strengths”, many dormant for years, started screaming to be let out) … wait, I’m a creative person too, I like to draw (and I’m pretty good at it, but I hadn’t drawn in years … I’m a huge Stephen King fan BTW, I shared one of my recent drawings below), I realized I should be doing more of THAT! That’s part of who I am! … and it went on like that for a while until I’d identified five buckets that made up “My Why.” Ultimately, these buckets are a mix of things I aspire to be, things I want to keep doing and built in strengths I want to play to more. It’s kinda crazy, but these five buckets start to answer: Why am I here?
Infinite Levels of Why.
In my last post (Head Zero, Inbox Everything), I discussed the importance of having a productivity system in place that you trust. I use Things3 by CulturedCode (I love it!) to track my ground level to-do’s and projects. I use Things3 to track WORK projects and tasks, around the HOUSE projects and tasks AND ME projects and tasks. I don’t know if it’s “best practice” to track your 50k foot, “My Why” level stuff in the same place as your day to day stuff … but I do and I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.
These five buckets were just the starting point for me. My obsessive compulsive strength kicked in and I had to drill down on each bucket to understand Why? I found myself on a bit of an adventure. I saw a crack, something had been exposed … Alice’s rabbit hole maybe … and I was compelled to swallow the red pill and take the plunge!
A Quick Example.
Let’s noodle on just one nugget of my Family bucket. I think you’ll get a sense for how it played out for every other detail of My Why. Here was the inner dialogue between the “Isn’t it obvious?” and the “Try harder!” voices in my brain:
- 😏 I Want to be a Great Dad.
- 🤨 Great … Why?
- 😒 Well, isn’t that obvious?
- 👎 No … you have to be able to articulate it.
- 🤔 OK, fine … I want to be a great dad … um … so my kids grow up to be great adults. There, satisfied?
- 👎 Nope … that’s a good start, keep going. Why? What does it mean for your kids to grow up to be “great adults?” Keep drilling. What would you want other people say about your kids when they turn 18? (See what I did there?)
- 😐 Dang it. OK. I’d want them to say my kids were … kind … caring … polite … they display good sportsmanship … they are well rounded … they are confident … (wheels churning) … I’d want them to be able to trust me, that’s important, to know they could come to me with anything, especially the bad stuff … I want to teach them things … I want to spend more time with them and be more present when I am with them …
- 😎 Nice. You got it.
From Why? To How? To What?
And so it went down the rabbit hole of WHY for each of my buckets, the sub-buckets, the sub-buckets of those sub-buckets! Until I got to a place where I was ready to think about the HOWs (OK, so how do I become a great dad? Well, I know drawing with my kids would be fun …) and the WHATs (I got it! I could do an Art Class with them each night where they think of the topics and …).
This exercise turned into a fun little “Art Class” with my son and daughter. One that I led, teaching them tips and tricks about shading, perspective, to draw what you see, not what you think you see, stuff like that. They’d pick a topic each night (sea life, unicorns, barn yard animals, Harry Potter characters, etc) and we’d each draw and learn and laugh together. This “Art Class” has been a way for me to scratch my Creative itch while Teaching my kids some actual art stuff while ultimately getting to spend focused, in the moment … in the NOW … time with them.
I track all these 💪ME things in Things3. Why? Because it creates balance. In the old days, 90% of my projects and tasks were Work related. Now, the ME stuff has a seat at the table. This is a HUGE component of WHY it’s important to be Productive with a Purpose. Being Productive is fine, but it’s the Purpose … the WHY … that is so often missing. The Why is Your Shark Repellent!
One Last Why.
Quick Q: With all this Why? Talk, is it odd that I’m still not exactly sure WHY I created this website? Or why I’m sharing any of this? Seriously. I’ve never done anything like this before (this may be painfully obvious to you!). I’m not a writer. I’ve never “blogged.” I’ve never even pretended to know what @ and # are, let alone “Tweet” an actual Tweet. Why would I do any of this stuff? I’m the guy who lurks and reads, not the guy who creates and shares? SEO? Tags, Key Words and add-ons? WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com? Wait, there’re two different versions of WordPress and one is easy to setup and use, but you should use the other one? Huh?! Why on God’s green Earth am I doing this?!
I think it’s this darn Journey I’m on … that keeps going … and going … propelling (or pulling, I’m not sure which) me forward. And each day that passes, I’m realizing how close I still am to the starting line. I think I’ve tickled something that plays to my creative strength in a new way. I know I’m playing to my “ingrained compulsion to understand what’s happening so that I’m able to explain it” strength. I’m trying to codify it.
You’re competing with yourself, competing in a journey to determine how much you care about making an impact. Here’s to a powerful and productive year. Make a ruckus.Seth Godin’s Blog
As Seth’s posts so often do, this one hit me square and at the right time. It confirmed that whatever the heck I’m doing, I should keep doing it … keep trying to figure it out … keep creating … and keep sharing. Being Productive with a Purpose is a journey, and one worth sharing IMHO. Like Seth said, 2019 is going to be a big year. It’s definitely time to make a ruckus.
The Why Is Your Shark Repellent!” And now you know 😉.