Surprisingly, it’s not “what’s the weather like up there?” (though that’s a close second). It’s a question I always hated as a sprightly young kid.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It always irked me for a couple of reasons:
- At what point in my life am I ‘grown up’?
- Why do I need to decide now? Deciding the trajectory of one’s life seems like a lot of pressure for a kid.
Years later this question still eats away at me.
Am I grown up yet? Wait, really? Are you sure? But shouldn’t I know what I want to do with my life by now?!
Well, this is awkward.
No matter, this question is dated and ridiculous. How can anyone be expected to know what they want to do in, say, 3-5 years, let alone when they ‘grow up’?!
Think about it. With a constantly evolving landscape, the companies that we may end up working for might not even exist yet. Look at the explosion of Uber and Airbnb for example. These companies didn’t exist 5-7 years ago. I’m pretty confident in 2010 there weren’t kids at school saying “When I grow up I’m going to rent my house out to strangers and drive my own unmarked car as a taxi”.
So where does that leave us?!
Enter one of my many man-crushes, Simon Sinek.
Start with why
About four years ago I discovered Simon Sinek through his now world famous TED talk. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour before reading on. I promise you’ll get something out of it (just like the other 32 million people who have viewed it).
Sinek is a change-maker. He’s a black sheep challenging the way we think and act. And that’s precisely why I love him.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to apply the golden circle thinking to a whole bunch of aspects of my life and random ideas. In particular, I find understanding ‘why’ to be so critical in business and in life. It’s about trying to understand business purpose and trying to answer the question ‘what’s it for?’.
Give us an example, 2metre
In case it wasn’t clear. I’m a nerd for this stuff. So here are a few examples of me applying this thinking.
A bird’s eye view:
Why I created it: I believe in continuous learning and being a better human every day.
How I support that: Reading, listening and experimenting.
What I actually do: Write and share blog posts like this one.
I feel like this one needs some context.
18 months ago I was at the gym using a small lacrosse ball to get some trigger point therapy on my tight joints and began to get frustrated. The small surface area of the lacrosse ball meant I couldn’t get into the sore spots in my larger muscle groups, particularly my glutes, hips, quads and hamstrings.
So, as you do these days when faced with a problem, I Googled it.
“Large trigger point massage ball”.
Up popped a bunch of links to AliBaba for various suppliers of lacrosse balls. I emailed a handful of them and eventually convinced one supplier to create a custom size for me (about 33% larger) and send me a sample. Truth be told, I had no intention of purchasing the minimum order quantity of 10,000 from this supplier. I simply had a problem, and I wanted to solve it.
When the ball arrived it actually took me by surprise. It was BIG. It was hard. It was bright blue. It was absolutely perfect.
Fast forward a few days and there I was at the gym groaning in pain, as I rolled on my hip flexor on my new ball. The gym owner came over and asked “Where’d you get that ball? It’s huge!” I explained the story and, much to my surprise, she looked me straight in the eye and says “I’ll take five.”
I went straight home, ordered 100 balls, created an Instagram account, whipped up a very basic website and the aptly named blueballrelief was born.
Why: At blueballrelief, everything we do is designed to improve quality of life. We believe in building better humans. We believe in living our best lives.
How: We provide simple, effective movement and mobility products that empower athletes to take control of their bodies and movement patterns.
What: This product is a larger, harder trigger ball.
Enough about your blue balls, what about that pesky question?
Let’s take the Sinek method and revisit the original question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’.
Perhaps the key is to not worry about “what” you want to be when you grow up, but instead, understand your own purpose. Understand your why. Understand “why do you get out of bed every morning?”
If articulated correctly, this should act as the guiding principle or lens in which you filter all decisions you make. At least, that’s the theory right?
Having a clear purpose helps give meaning to all tasks. Big or small. Exciting or mundane. You understand the benefit of said task because you can see how it relates to the bigger picture. Here’s a brilliant podcast that explored this exact concept far better than I ever could.
How do I know my why?
It can be tough to determine what your ‘why’ is. One technique I’ve found beneficial is to think about tasks or projects that give you energy and/or inspiration. Once you have a list of these, consider the purpose of these tasks. Then look for any common themes.
Another way is to write down your first reaction when you hear the question “what’s your purpose?” Then ask “why?” 5 times and jot down the answers. By the 4th or 5th iteration you should be getting close.
Of course, these are just my thoughts and opinions on the matter. If you’re interested in digging further feel free to reach out or, checkout the man himself, Simon Sinek, and his soon to be released book ‘Find Your Why’.
Conversely, if you’re one those lucky types who’s known what they want to do since they were 3 and is now questioning how to get 5 minutes of your life back, then please enjoy this clip of Homer Simpson watching Twin Peaks.
7 thoughts on “The most annoying question of all”
Maroje, thanks for reaching out and commenting mate, it means a lot. Glad this post was able to help you as we try and come to terms with ruckus-making post-altMBA
Peter – I am reading this on a glorious, sunny, warm winter morning. If you are familiar with being over-e-mailed you will understand; sometimes we “star” an email to get to it later. Well – I have read this several times, and, I keep leaving the star on – as it is one or the most important questions in my life right now and you have broken the steps down for me!
Thank you for the insights, breakdown and resources mate!
Thanks for the comment Luke, always good to hear from another Sinek fan! Looking forward to that new book
Llana, thanks for the comment. Absolutely happy for you to use any of the above for your daughters assignment :). Glad you found it useful
Great article, so true!
My 9 year old daughter has this question for homework at the moment! Do you mind if I use some of your wisdom to help finish her assignment!?
Good stuff, mate. Big fan of Sinek, so I loved your take on it. I didn’t know he had a new book coming out. It has been pre-ordered.