Seeking Clarity is a powerful habit exhibited by high performers.

I remember seeing Simon Sinek’s seminal TedX talk, Start with Why, back in early 2010 and thinking, “wow! that’s exactly what I need to do. Lead with my why and the rest will work itself out…” Brilliant. But how do you go about finding your why? How do you go about connecting with the things you were born to do? The person you were destined to become? It feels overwhelming just thinking about it.

Seeking clarity is a high-performance habit. Research shows that people operating at their highest level are constantly asking themselves “who they want to be”, “what they want to do with their lives”, “the quality of relationships they want in their lives” and “how they want to be remembered”.

These are big questions and it will take a while to get used to asking and answering these question on a depth that really creates an impact in your life. “What is my purpose?” is a question that I debated for a number of years without much success. I had a great career working with interesting people, on complex projects, which was well paid, but I never really felt like I was doing the work that I was supposed to be doing.

I was lost until I came across a great framework known as the “Hedgehog Concept” in the brilliant book Good to Great by Jim Collins. The purpose of the book was to answer one simple question

“Can a good company become a great company and, if so how?”

I believe the findings and concepts detailed in this book are as equally applicable to our own lives, as they are for the companies in which we work.

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The Hedgehog Concept is a simple, crystalline concept that flows from a deep understanding of the intersections of the following three questions:-

  1. What can you be the best in the world at?
  2. What drives your economic engine?
  3. What are you deeply passionate about?

What you can be the best in the world at?

This is a fundamental question that should transcend ego and focus you on the things you could be the best in the world at and more importantly the things that you won’t be the best at. For example, I’m a good cook and a decent athlete but I don’t think that I could be the best in the world at either. However in the area of leadership development and performance coaching, I think I might. I’d love to own a restaurant but despite having some of the competencies required to run that type of business, I don’t think I could be the best. In contrast, when I work with people and organisations, especially underdogs, I get the feeling that I was born to do that work. I would do that type of work even if I wasn’t getting paid. So ask yourself this weekend, what can you be best in the world at?

What drives your economic engine?

Elon Musk’s famous quote “you get paid in direct proportion to the difficulty of problems you solve” is a great example of understanding what drives his economic engine. He is solving some of the worlds biggest problems and his recent (2020) increase to his net worth is a reflection of that. Understanding what problems you can solve for others, and more importantly, the problems they will reward you for solving is a very important realisation. Sound like common sense? Well, common sense isn’t often common practice and in my experience I see a lot of people focused on solving the wrong problems. Note, reward doesn’t necessarily mean money here in my opinion. Part of what drives my economic engine is “favours” or “skills exchange”. I do something for you and in return, you do something for me. It doesn’t have to always be about money. So ask yourself this weekend, what drives my economic engine? what are the big problems I can solve for others for which they would reward me?

What are you deeply passionate about?

This should be a no brainer. Passion gives you 1) the ability to overcome setbacks (resilience), 2) the ability to influence others to become part of your journey and 3) the drive to be consistently better than you were the day before. Doing things that you are passionate about increases the likelihood that you will be successful as you will refuse to fail. This took me a while to work out and I had to reflect on my entire career to date to identify the achievements or activities that gave me the most satisfaction and pride. All boiled down, it was doing things that I didn’t think I could do, and helping other people to do the same. So ask yourself this weekend, what am I deeply passionate about? What would I jump up out of bed for in the morning to do?

I hope this serves you and gives you a framework for how to deal with one of life’s biggest questions. Spend some time this weekend reflecting on what you can be the best at, what drives your economic engine and what you are deeply passionate about and at the intersection of the answers to those three questions, lies the answer to the bigger question, “what is my why?”.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments – particularly if you are currently grappling with any of these major life questions currently.