With increased regularity, I hear people quoting Simon Sinek. Specifically, parents and educators alike are fond of telling children that they must find there “Why”. “Why” as in “why” do you want to become whatever you want to become – doctor, lawyer, scientist, teacher or professional athlete.
For years, many parents have subscribed to the idea that knowing your “why” was the key to having success, to completing an assignment, and to leading others. Notwithstanding, Mr. Sinek’s popularity, the number of times his TED Talk has been viewed, or the number of books he has sold, I believe Mr. Sinek is incorrect.
Though I don’t have the fame, following, or equal net worth as Mr. Sinek, I maintain that he’s wrong. In fact, I’m so certain about my position that if you know him make sure you tell him that I said he’s wrong. Mr. Sinek knowing your “why” is important but it pales in comparison to knowing your “who”.
DON’T START WITH WHY
When it comes to finding your own way much less raising children, asking your child to know their “why” is both fleeting and egotistical. That’s because our “why” especially the “why” of a child changes routinely. From birth to high school graduation, a child’s “why” – “why” they believe they exist – changes a million or more times and nearly all their “whys” begin and end with them becoming famous.
If you don’t believe me ask your child about their “why”. If you don’t have a child to ask, an excellent example would be to ask a child especially a male who lives in an urban neighborhood about their “why”. Undoubtedly, they will give you an answer that is temporary and narcissistic.
I know firsthand about the answer you are likely to receive. I was one of those children and the answer to my “why” was “I’m going to play in the NBA”. What I didn’t know was that even if I had become a professional basketball player, the average NBA career only last 4.8 years.
START WITH WHO
Based on a life expectancy of nearly eight years, I would have spent more than seventy-five years being something other than an NBA player. I trust you can see the flaw in encouraging a child to proclaim that there “why” would be professional basketball career or any other short-lived profession – a career, a “passion” that would only cover a small fraction of their lifetime.
There is no way any of us was created to live on the planet for eighty years and believe all we could accomplish and should do occurs in fewer than five years. The better option – the more permanent and selfless option – is to raise a child to know there “who”.
THREE PARTS TO WHO
So how do you raise a child to know there “who”? Simple, you instruct a child that, at the end of each day, no matter what profession they choose or whatever “passion” they follow they should be able to positively and emphatically answer the following:
- Who did you help (other than yourself and immediate family)?
- Who did you serve (other than yourself and immediate family)?
- Who knows you care (other than your immediate family)?
I hope the difference between knowing your “why” and your “who” is obvious. But in case, you aren’t paying attention knowing your “who” unlike knowing your “why” is neither temporary nor narcissistic. Knowing your “who is enduring and altruistic.
A NATION ON LIFE SUPPORT
And if somehow you managed not to notice the sad uncivil state of this nation, if there is one thing this Nation needs now more than ever are leaders who are guided by helping, serving and caring for others.
Thus, I don’t believe it is an overstatement to say that raising children that know their “who” is critical. For if this Nation is ever going to live up to her lofty declarations and noble promises, the citizens, and leaders of tomorrow are going to need to know much more than their “why”. For if we are going to fix all that ails this Nation, today’s parents must raise children that know how to start with their “who”.
Do you know your “who”? If I asked your child about you would they say you lived for your “why” or your “who”?
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