Why you Should Develop a Product you Know Little About

Katie Corbett holds the book, "Start With Why"

By Katie Corbett

Sometimes, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of your job that you forget your purpose. I found this to be true at my first job out of college. I went to work and did the same thing day after day. Part of the reason I hated that job was because I was there to make a paycheck and knew it wouldn’t be a long-term gig. The other reason I hated it was because making a paycheck wasn’t a compelling reason for me to work the job in the first place.

I was so focused on the “how” of my job that I couldn’t keep close to mind the “why” for my being there. Author Simon Sinek points this out as a pitfall and potential reason for failure. When companies—and people—forget their purpose, they start throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks. Often, he says, this leads to disaster. Sinek’s book, “Start with Why,” gave me a great idea for defeating that possibility: Be the “why” person; hire the “how” people to work for you. I decided to apply this in my own life by jumping into activities, even when I didn’t know exactly how I would do them.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I thought of an idea for an apparel product. It’s still under development, so I won’t give away too many specifics, but I’ll say that my knowledge of the apparel industry was limited when I started. I knew this product was in line with my “why,” because it would help people overcome a specific challenge and that they could be happier and more fulfilled. I wanted it to be created. I just needed to find the people who had the tools and knowledge to make it happen.

Through networking, recommendations from others, and by accident, I found the people I needed. I’ve brought on board a textiles consultant who is helping me plan and strategize, a seamstress who is assisting me with the design and will create prototypes, a web developer who will be working on my web presence and e-commerce store, and a branding expert who will support me as I market my product.

All the while, I’m able to keep a clear vision of my “why.” I’m excited to learn and to see something that started as an idea in my mind turning into a real product. I’m eager for the journey. And even if this venture doesn’t succeed beyond my wildest dreams, I’ll know why I undertook it and will have learned a lot in the process. To me, that’s worth the risk. Why not think of a way you could try this for yourself?

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Feeling Obligated? Apply the Celery Test

Katie Corbett holds the book, "Start With Why"

By Katie Corbett

Confession time: I’m a people-pleaser who avoids conflict. I often used to find myself saying yes to people and projects simply because I felt obligated to do so. Resentment would build, motivation to accomplish tasks would wane, and I would be left feeling annoyed and grumpy that I had agreed to do things I had no interest in doing, all because I couldn’t say no. Developing a purpose statement for who I am and what I do changed everything.

Getting clear on your “why” can keep you from taking on projects that don’t inspire you or line up with your life’s purpose. In “Start with Why,” by Simon Sinek, the author describes this process as “The Celery Test.” Sinek applied this test in the business world.

The celery test goes something like this, to paraphrase Sinek. People will tell you many things are good to try in your business. Some will say, “You should get M&M’s in your business; everyone likes those.” Others will say, “Oreos! Success lies with Oreos.” Still others will say, “Celery! That’s the way to attract customers.” You could go to the store and buy Oreos, M&M’s and celery. Would someone looking at your shopping cart know why you are in business? That, of course, will depend on your “why” statement. If your “why” consists of being all things to all people—which is not sustainable or desirable—then this might work. But if your “why” is to provide healthy snacks, the Oreos and M&M’s would make no sense. If, however, you walk by with celery and granola bars, anyone who peeks into your grocery cart knows healthy food is important to you.

I’ve applied this test as an individual with liberating results. When I’m asked to volunteer for a nonprofit or take on paid projects, I evaluate them through the filter of my “why.” Will this project encourage people to overcome challenges? If so, then great; I’ll consider it. If not, I can say no with confidence that I’m making the right decision for me.

After you’ve discovered your “why,” apply the celery test the next time you’re asked to do something. You’ll know right away if the task doesn’t fit with your skills and interests and can say no with confidence.

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How to Develop a “Why” Statement

Katie Corbett holds the book, "Start With Why"

By Katie Corbett

Ever had one of those days when you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” On a microscale, it can be productive to evaluate the purpose for certain practices such as job hunting methods, interviewing techniques, and wording used on a résumé. If you find yourself questioning your vocational goals on a grand and frequent scale, however, development of a “why” statement, or purpose statement, can bring clarity, help you find like-minded people and provide vigor and steadfastness during times of uncertainty.

The book, “Start with Why,” by Simon Sinek, along with the “Start with Why Podcast,” outlines how to develop a statement of purpose. Complete the sentence: My purpose is to _____________, so that __________. For example, my “why” is to encourage people to overcome challenges, so that they can find happiness and fulfillment in their lives. This is why I’m a career coach, and this is why I’m writing this blog. I believe both these pursuits give me a tangible outlet for my purpose.

It’s important to note that developing your purpose statement isn’t going to happen overnight. When it comes to purposeful accomplishment, the motivations for our behaviors originate in the emotional portion of the brain. This region is not part of the rational area responsible for language and can therefore make it difficult for us to discover and process why we do what we do. Take a few days to think about your reasons and motivations. Talk it over with a friend to help you find the right words to express your “why.” It’s worth taking the time and being thorough in your search.

This process can assist individuals and businesses alike. In his book, Sinek explains how developing a “why” statement helped Apple remain on top of the technology world. Wal-Mart isn’t what it used to be because it hasn’t consistently stuck with its “why.” TiVo completely failed because it’s founders and advertisers didn’t discover and use its “why” to attract ideal customers. I won’t go into specifics here, but let’s just say that success and developing a strong and clear “why” can mean the difference between succeeding against all odds or failing miserably. Read the book for more details, and get working on your “why” statement. When times of uncertainty hit, you’ll be the one who knows why you get up in the morning. Won’t that be a great feeling?

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