Simon Sinek’s TED talk has been viewed more than 36 million times. It doesn’t have a particularly memorable title but what I’ll always remember about it is a key phrase he uses all the way through – ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’
This has always made sense to me. When you are introduced to someone at a social or business event, they inevitably ask ‘What do you do?’ And how many times has your answer been a conversation-stopper? Imagine how different such an encounter would be if they asked, ‘Why do you do what you do?’ and you were able to answer with absolute certainty and clarity?
If you don’t know why you do what you do, now is the time to start reflecting on your answer. Because if you’re serious about becoming more visible as a creative, you need to know what drives you.
The most successful creatives build their careers on something that feels deeply meaningful to them. This helps them to overcome barriers more easily and keep going even during the difficult times. On our Storytelling for Self-Promotion course we guide people through the process of finding their purpose statement and purpose story.
There are many benefits to doing this. Here are just a few:
- Talking or writing about your purpose will help you resonate with your audience. It will give them a way to connect with you and your work.
- It will give a journalist an easy way to understand your worldview.
- If you have a lot of projects on the go it will help you connect the dots and find the theme that underlies all of the work you do, giving you a deeper context as an artist.
- A purpose story can also be used on your About Me page to help your audience trust you and understand that your work is rooted in something meaningful.
- A purpose statement can give and your audience clarity. But whether you communicate it or not depends on what you want to achieve.
My purpose statement might be: the purpose of my work is to demonstrate that personal storytelling can help creative people create powerful personal connections with their clients and fans. But there’s something deeper than that which drives me – something more universal, which is to put an end to silent suffering. I might choose to share the story behind that statement – but only if I felt it would resonate with the audience I was communicating with at that moment.
There are layers of purpose – and sometimes you need to keep digging to find the statement that touches you deeply. If you find the words that bring tears to your eyes then you’ve almost certainly struck gold.
Let me tell you about Rob.
Rob is a trained chef who had worked in food consultancy and was ready to launch his own business.
He wanted to consult with and train people in London’s top restaurants. He was keen to work with high-calibre clients so that he could stay inspired and keep challenging himself to be the best in his industry.
He came up with product ideas and planned marketing tactics to attract the right clients. It all seemed clear and straightforward until Rob began to lose his sparkle. He realised he didn’t care that much about helping restaurants sort out their staffing problems.
Eventually it dawned on him that his passion wasn’t about working with the best at all – it was about inspiring ordinary people to learn how to cook properly and be creative with food.
Rob had found his inspirational purpose and, as a result, a much more fascinating and fulfilling business was born.
So I’ll ask again – why do you do what you do? To help, here are 10 of the questions we share with our course participants. Some of the questions will give you more insights than others. If you don’t get anything, then move on to the next question. You may find a story, a memory or a feeling pops up. Go wherever it takes you.
- What’s really important to you about your work?
- If your work could make a change to society or the world – what would you love that to be?
- Why does it matter to you that other people experience you or your work?
- What is true about you today that would make your eight-year-old self cry?
- If you knew you were going to die one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?
- Where do you add the greatest value?
- Who really inspires you and why?
- How would your friends describe your finest qualities?
- What energy do you bring in to the room when you’re firing on all cylinders?
- What conversations set your soul on fire?
As my Trailblazing Creatives partner Nicky wrote last week, it’s important to be clear about what you do without worrying about ‘being labelled’. But it’s equally important to be clear about why you do it. Because, as Simon Sinek says, there are people out there waiting to buy…
- If you want to be a better storyteller and get clear on describing why you do what you do, our next Storytelling for Self-Promotion online programme will be launching in April. Watch this space for more details.
- Join our Facebook group Trailblazer Tribe to connect with other ambitious creatives, get tips about self-promotion and access to exclusive content.