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.