I had the opportunity this week to speak to the seniors at the top of our graduating class. This group is an impressive selection of young people with an unbelievable amount of potential. My message, while easy to express in words was full of powerful ideas that could potentially push and challenge each of them to live more fully. I encouraged these seniors to consider something well beyond themselves once they leave the walls of our high school. The following was my message to these seniors.
I have often heard people discuss the idea of “finding your why.” Simon Sinek, a philosopher and author, has said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” (He also has a great TED talk on this concept, it’s worth the time to watch). This sounds simple, but it takes a great amount of reflection to understand the “why” as we apply it in our own lives. Serving as the principal at Southport High is what I do. How I accomplish that endeavor, can hopefully be seen through my daily work with students and staff. But, neither of these explains my why. The position of principal alone does not motivate me; my daily work, while fulfilling, is also not what motivates me. My motivation comes from why I do my job. Ultimately, I have a desire to help people. I have a desire to push not only myself, but also the staff and students I serve to be their very best. I have a desire to make the community I work and live in a better place. This, is what motivates me everyday. I get up in the morning because I believe in what I do, and how I do it, and that it makes our community and our world a better place. This is my why.
Adding to this idea, Victor Frankl states in Man’s Search for Meaning, “the striving to find meaning is the primary motivational force in man,” He goes on to tell us, “One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out, a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment.” The funny thing about finding true fulfillment is that is does not come from us. Happiness always takes a ‘me’ first mindset, and that is easy to accomplish. We could all find something to do in the very immediate future that would make us happy. We could go and see how many likes we have on a new post, eat our favorite food at our favorite restaurant, or go do that one thing we love to do in our personal time. But those moments are fleeting, and to stay happy, we must repeat them over and over again to futility. Fulfillment on the other hand is not just about you, it is about others. It is about the joy that comes from investing in those around us. This is also what makes fulfillment so difficult, it is not just about ourselves and our actions; it is about constantly considering how our actions impact others around us.
The more I have considered my ‘why,’ I have found that my why is really more of a ‘who.’ I realize that life is not about the never-ending search for finding your why, but more about finding your who. If you look to my example at the beginning of this post, my why, my motivation, my purpose, is all tied up in the people I serve. They… you… are my why.
This has made me realize that who is more important than why. When striving for successes or deciding what we want to do with our lives, who we are trying to serve is more important than the why behind our decisions. If we always consider others first, then our decisions will reflect that purpose. Regardless of the area we pursue in our lives, if that pursuit only benefits us, it is not worth achieving. If you only look to benefit yourself, you will always be worried about criticism, judgement, approval, being alone, failure, or a track record of success. When it is about you, nothing is ever enough. When we focus on others, their happiness, their successes, their growth and achievements will reflect back to you and help you to see true fulfillment as you make the world around you a better place for others and in turn yourself. Your legacy is not just what you do for yourself; your legacy is how you lead and forge a path for others to follow.
When we place focus on people over products, then and only then, can we find fulfillment. As students leave the walls of our schools, let us help them realize that it is in the service of others where they will find fulfillment. Help the students decide who they are looking to serve in their life, and then in their professions. If this is done their life’s path will become much easier to determine, because they have started with who and used that to determine their why.
Keep learning, keep growing, keep sharing!