The Power of “Why?” [Video]

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Simon Sinek’s “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” TED Talk

Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s “The Why of Priesthood Service” (text)

A Compelling Why

In the Golden Circle, Simon Sinek talks about how to get people to buy your products. He paints an excellent picture of what it takes to get people to believe in what you believe. “The goal is not to do business with people who need what you have, it is to do business with people who believe what you believe. If you can get to people who believe what you believe, it makes it much easier for you to sell them something, teach them something, or convince them of something. Sinek does a great job of helping you understand why it is important to have a compelling why. The “Why” drives all that we do. We don’t eat right or exercise because someone told us. We eat right and exercise because we believe that it is what will help us. We believe that it is worthwhile. If we didn’t believe it, we wouldn’t do it, or we would do it for much less significant reasons.

I always say that, you know, if you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money, but if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears. And nowhere else is there a better example of this than with the Wright brothers.

He goes to tell the story of the Wright brothers who achieved man-powered flight. They had a competitor named Samuel Pierpont Langley who was given $50,000 to create a flying machine. He had the best minds, he was in all the newspapers, but he couldn’t do it. When he found out the Wright brothers achieved it first, he gave up and left. He was not committed to the “Why”, but the Wright brothers were committed. They were out testing with less-than-genius-level assistants, nobody knew about them, and they were simple folks who believed in something. They found others who believed what they believed, and they figured out how to fly.

The Why of Priesthood Service

President Uchtdorf in his address discussed the “Why” in priesthood service. He also touched on the same things that Sinek did. if you work with people who believe what you believe, they will go to the ends of the earth for you. This is essentially the whole crux of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we will sacrifice everything that we have for him. President Uchtdorf spoke of his first priesthood calling as president of the Deacon’s quorum in a very small branch with maybe two young deacons.

“This is an important position,” [the branch president] said, and then he took his time and described why. He explained what he and the Lord expected of me and how I could receive help…I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember well how I felt. A sacred, divine Spirit filled my heart as he spoke. I could feel that this was the Savior’s Church. And I felt that the calling he had extended was inspired by the Holy Ghost. I remember walking out of that tiny classroom feeling quite a bit taller than before. It has been nearly 60 years since that day, and I still treasure these feelings of trust and love.

President Uchtdorf realized that even after 60 years, he still “still treasure[s] these feelings of trust and love.”

Explaining the why can have a powerful effect, as it did on President Uchtdorf, and as it did on the Wright brothers and their associates. Both showed that they appreciated understanding the “Why” from their leaders and then excelled at the assignments they were given, though they were unqualified for the honors they received.

President Uchtdorf reminds us that as we go through life, we always need to be reminded of the “Why” and that it is the way we truly learn:

We need to be constantly reminded of the eternal reasons behind the things we are commanded to do. The basic gospel principles need to be part of our life’s fabric, even if it means learning them over and over again…But it is in the why of priesthood service that we discover the fire, passion, and power of the priesthood.”

We can certainly go through the motions of being a holder of the priesthood, but if we don’t understand the “why”, we will never discover the “fire, passion, and power of the priesthood.” I love that quote because it is so powerful. It invites us to understand deeply, and not find the easy way out.

Uchtdorf + Sinek (+ Scott)

Sinek explains that the golden circle is not just his opinion. He says:

It’s all grounded in the tenets of biology. Not psychology, biology. If you look at a cross-section of the human brain, looking from the top down, what you see is the human brain is actually broken into three major components that correlate perfectly with the golden circle. Our newest brain, our Homo sapien brain, our neocortex, corresponds with the “what” level. The neocortex is responsible for all of our rational and analytical thought and language. The middle two sections make up our limbic brains, and our limbic brains are responsible for all of our feelings, like trust and loyalty. It’s also responsible for all human behavior, all decision-making, and it has no capacity for language.

So, our limbic brains make decisions, and there is no capacity for language. We would call the way people feel the Holy Ghost. The Spirit can guide us and make our decisions correct. I like the way Elder Richard G. Scott explained it in his talk from General Conference in April of 2012. He said:

Two indicators that a feeling or prompting comes from God are that it produces peace in your heart and a quiet, warm feeling. As you follow the principles I have discussed, you will be prepared to recognize revelation at critical times in your own life.

The What and How of the Gospel moves no one to it. But the Why of the gospel is what converts us. President Uchtdorf: “The what of priesthood service teaches us what to do. The why inspires our soul. The what informs, but the why transforms.”

Sinek’s speech introduces the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. as the best example of a compelling why. He didn’t just get people to listen to what he was saying, he spoke about what he believed. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leader who got us to believe in his dreams.

We followed, not for him, but for ourselves. And, by the way, he gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech.(Sinek)

King truly gave an example to the rest of us. Martin Luther King Jr.’s belief and style of presentation was so amazing, that nearly 250,000 people showed up to walk with him and hear his message. There is another person who gave us a great example of how to live our lives. His style also was one to lead by example of how to treat others. Jesus Christ said, “Come, follow me” and “Do as I do”. He set the example by talking about what he believed (and knew to be true.) Jesus’ message so powerfully communicated the “why” that millions upon millions of people call him their Lord and Savior, and they devote their lives to Him. His is the ultimate compelling why.

Mindset, Part 2

One of my favorite beliefs of the gospel is the idea of the gifts of the Spirit. In Moroni 10, the gifts of the Spirit are listed, and then Moroni says:

 And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will. (verse 17)

So, everyone pretty much gets their gifts. Christ gives them to us, and we can have many gifts, or not very many, but everyone can have at least one. D&C 46 reads: 

For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.

To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby. (verses 11 & 12)

But where it really gets interesting and pertains to Mindset is here, in verses 8 and 9 of D&C 46:

…and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;

For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me…

Not only is the Lord willing to give us all at least one gift, but He also commands us to pray for and seek more gifts, so that we may have more opportunities to benefit those around us. This is truly possible. And it is quite spectacular that we can have so many gifts if we just ask for them. 

In Mindset we read:

Some people simply pick up these skills in the natural course of their lives, whereas others have to work to learn them and put them together. But as we can see from the “after” self-portraits, everyone can do it. 

Here’s what this means: Just becasue some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training. This is so important, because many, many people with the fixed mindset think that someone’s early performance tells you all you need to know about their talent and their future. (70, emphasis in original)

Sounds an awful lot like gifts of the Spirit to me. It doesn’t matter what we are born with. We can develop those things that we need to have if we seek the Lord and ask for the gifts. I love that the gospel teaches us naturally to become growth-minded individuals. 

Crucial Conversations [Book]

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition , by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switler is a book that is widely considered a must-read for anyone in a  position where they might disagree with someone. It walks you through how to have a successful crucial conversation, which is defined as:

A discussion between two or more people where (1) stakes are high, (2) opinions vary, and (3) emotions run strong. (3)

There are many instances in the scriptures where crucial conversations happen. Patterson suggests that the best way to deal with these crucial conversations is to:

Prepare for high-stakes situations with a proven technique
Transform Anger and hurt feelings into powerful emotions
Make it safe to talk about almost anything
Be persuasive, not abrasive

One thing I really like about Crucial Conversations is that it never says you need to just be nice and worry about hurting other peoples’ feelings. The whole point is to be honest and totally open, even if that honesty is hard to hear. The important thing is that the dialogue happens, and happens continually. Dialogue is the “free flow of meaning between two people” (20).

In the Book of Mormon, Alma, Amulek, and Zeezrom have a crucial conversation. It starts by Alma preaching to Zeezrom, then Amulek gives it a shot. Zeezrom says that he will give Amulek money if he denies the Christ. Amulek refuses, then calls Zeezrom on his foul ideas.

This qualifies as a crucial conversations for the following reasons:

  1. Stakes were high because Zeezrom had the potential to destroy a lot of work that Alma and Amulek had been doing.
  2. Alma and Amulek were devoted to preaching the gospel, and Zeezrom was devoted to derailing their teachings, so opinions varied greatly.
  3. Emotions were running strong. Amulek snapped at Zeezrom after Zeezrom tried to give him money to get him to deny his testimony, “O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me?” (Alma 11:23)

In Crucial Conversations, the authors state that the best place to start with crucial conversations is with heart: “Skilled people Start with Heart. That is, they begin high-risk discussions with the right motives, and they stay focused no matter what happens” (30). Alma and Amulek were there to preach the gospel. They had no intention of forcing anyone to change their mind or forcing anyone to do anything they didn’t want to. That is not how the gospel of Christ operates. But, they did stay focused on sharing their testimonies and trying to help all come unto Christ.

In the end, Zeezrom was silenced by the power of their testimony of Jesus. He was wracked with guilt, and was near death when Alma and Amulek saw him again. He gave in to the concensus method of decision making (which is really the only method that can be allowed in salvation-related crucial conversations). Zeezrom “honestly agreed to one decision” (166), the decision to believe in Christ. When he made this decision, he was saved from death.

What other crucial conversations happened in the scriptures?

Amulek, Alma, and Zeezrom

QBQ! By John Miller

QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability at Work and in Life may win the award for having a title that takes longer to read than the book itself. This is a quick read, and a good one. There are so many parallels to the gospel that it is hard to find where to begin and what to highlight. Miller even invites you to read the book again when you are done (a good strategy).

This book is about personal accountability. Miller invites the reader to not just whine and complain when things don’t go the way she wants, but rather asks the reader to ask a couple more questions. “What can I do?” becomes the clarion call of the QBQ thinker.

There are two ways I want to illustrate how we learned this simple account of personal accountability.

First, the hymn, Have I Done Any Good (Music), is the exemplification of Personal Accountability and QBQ!

Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.

QBQ! is about finding ways to be the solution to the problem, not another complainer. This hymn is great because it reminds us to go out of our way to solve problems and help others. One of the great stories Miller shares is of a server in a busy diner that saw that Miller didn’t have anyone helping him yet. When Miller asked for a Coke, the server mentioned that they only served Pepsi products, so Miller asked for water instead. Much to his surprise, a couple minutes later, the server returned with Miller’s food and an ice-cold Coke. When Miller inquired of the server where it had come from, he learned that the server had sent his manager next door to the grocery store to buy one so Miller could have what he wanted (needed). Personal accountabilty is about “making better choices” (14) like the server did to get what someone needed.

Second, there is the story of Nephi. Miller relates a story about a girl and her father flying in a small airplane when the engine stopped. The pilot (the father) told his daughter he would have to fly a little differently than usual. He put the plane into a nose dive right over Lake Michigan and tried to get the engine to start again. When that didn’t work, he tried again, still over frigid Lake Michigan, and a few hundred feet closer. This time, it worked. Miller says:

When faced with a new situation, [the father] took action and solved the problem. But if he had resisted the change and instead spent his time whining and complaining…things might have come out much differently. (30)

Like the father in this story, Nephi, the Book of Mormon prophet, saw a problem and he fixed it. When the bows of his older brothers had lost their spring, and Nephi’s bow broke, everyone else immediately started complaining. Nephi had personal accountability and asked himself, “What can I do?” Then he did something-which is essential for a QBQ thinker-he made a bow, and asked his father where the Lord would have him go to find food. 1 Nephi 16:23:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did amake out of wood a bow, and out of a straight stick, an arrow; wherefore, I did arm myself with a bow and an arrow, with a sling and with stones. And I said unto my father: Whither shall I go to obtain food?

Nephi gave the most excellent example of a QBQ thinker throughout his life, but this is one time where he  did what truly needed to be done. He didn’t blame others for their weak bows, nor did he blame his father for dragging him out into the wilderness. He saw a problem, and dealt with it, the best way that he could, by finding personal accountability and taking action. Nephi didn’t just solve the problem, he also didn’t even blame anyone. “Who do accountable people blame? No one. Not even themselves” (49).

Why Learning Leads to Happiness [article]

From the US News and World Report: “Why Learning Leads to Happiness” by Philip Moeller

Mr. Moeller knocks it right out of the park in the first sentence, “Your mind may be the closest thing to the Holy Grail of longevity and happiness.” In Doctrine and Covenants 130:18-19 we read: 

18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

So, we get that learning, or adding to our knowledge and intelligence really is the Holy Grail. The thing that keeps us going long past the time that we should die. 

In his article, Moeller quotes psychologist Laura Carstensen who says that education is the single most important factor in increasing the length of our life. There are a lot of socio-economic benenfits, like getting a better-paying and safer job, as well as living in a better neighborhood, with less crime, etc. But there are also many non-socio-economic benefits.

For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light… D&C 88:40

So, the Doctrine and Covenants teach us that as we gain knowledge, we seek out and gain more knowledge, wisdom, truth, virtue and light. These are all great to have, but if learning really does lead to happiness, we must be very happy if we have knowledge, wisdom, truth, virtue and light. Cartensen acknowledges that more education leads to better problem-solving skills, and helps people have the tools needed to overcome disease and prevent illness much more than those with less education.

My primary teachers taught me that being engaged in a good cause (D&C 58:27) would help me be happy, too. Thirty years ago, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term “flow” which means that a person can get so caught up in a task that he or she loses hours and focuses solely on that task. When we are anxiously engaged in a good cause, we can lose ourselves as well. From Matthew 16:25 we learn that flow can relate to serving the God as well: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Losing our lives in service to God will help us find the life that we really want. 

It is easy to understand that learning leads to happiness, because that is one of the major points of our existence on this earth: to gain a body and learn.