Simon Sinek changed my life.
I’m sure most people know his name by now. Simon Sinek, the man who created the Golden Circle, detailed in the third most-watched Ted Talk ever. In it, he explains how most of us operate knowing what we do, either at work or personally. Some of us know how we do what we do. Few of us know why. Simon set out to change this, and in doing so, to change the world.
My introduction to Simon Sinek was his talk on Millenials. The interview went viral on social media. My husband was the one who shared it with me. I loved the video, Simon and the way he presented information. I wanted to pursue his work further, but daily life quickly got in the way.
Recently, I took a trip out of town. Still determined, I bought Simon’s book, “Start With Why,” on Audible and listened to it as I drove. It was amazing. I arrived home inspired, ready to move on to finding my own why.
Allow me to digress for a bit. In 2005, I started a very small business called Give a Dog a Bone in Evansville, IN. It was a natural pet food store, the only one of it’s kind in my city. Started with $15,000 and sweat equity, over the course of 10 years, I grew my business to two locations with gross sales of $1M, a growth rate of 116% (if I did the math right).
From its inception, my small store was a labor of love. It was also created from desperation, as I explain in my book.” What I didn’t know at the time was it would one day define my why.
My tiny 700 square-foot store, paid for with cash, operated without debt. That much was done with intention. The rest came from living out my why, followed by a period of losing sight of my why.
Within a year of opening, I moved the store, tripling the size of the space we occupied. It continued to grow, mainly through word-of-mouth as customers shared their experiences with friends and neighbors. We were known as a store with knowledgeable, friendly employees, thoughtfully selected product lines and a business customers could trust.
In my role as owner, I thrived on building relationships with my customers. Having a conversation about the benefit of probiotics for a dog with chronic yeast infections gave me energy while allowing me to connect deeply with others, sharing solutions to help beloved pets live healthier, happier lives.
As the business grew, my time was taken up more and more by distribution issues, meetings with sales reps, financials, new product research and the continual problem of finding space for the new products. The business continued to grow as my “why” grew fuzzy. I lost my passion.
During the same time, the recession hit. We made it through because we carried no debt, already had healthy customer relationships and an owner willing to cut her own pay, to the point of not drawing a paycheck for over a year, to ensure all my employees kept their jobs. They got paid first.
About this time, my husband, who is prior military, decided he wanted to look at going back into service with the Army. I recognized the passion behind his desire and supported him. When he left for training, I stayed, taking care of the kids, dogs, horses and my business.
Before he left for training, we had talked through everything, including how to deal with a long-distance marriage. Fort Campbell Army base is located in Kentucky, a few hours away from our southern Indiana home. We assumed incorrectly it would be easy for my husband to be posted there.
Instead, after a year of schooling in Florida, my husband got orders to a small base in Maryland we’d never heard of. Over 14 hours by car, it was the long-distance commute from hell. During this time, our youngest daughter was diagnosed with Type One diabetes.
Within a year, my marriage was collapsing. The distance proved too much. I was operating out of desperation. Thinking I was going to be on my own raising my kids, it seemed like the perfect time to make another life-altering decision to open a second location for my business 45 minutes away, in another state. Crazy, I know.
Both my stores were created out of desperation. With the first store, everything flowed. We went from initial concept to opening day in 30 days. Within a year we’d expanded to the point we could no longer stay where we were.
Opening the second store was the worst business decision I’ve made. I violated critical operating guidelines, ignored my strong misgivings, AND put myself over $80,000 in debt. I was running on fear, completely off balance. I was not led by God, but by fear. The result? The second store never made a profit.
Slowly, things turned around personally. My marriage was renewed, my daughter covered by the Army’s incredible insurance, it seemed we’d made the impossible possible. Yet I was more tied to Indiana and my business than ever before.
Part of the reason the second store never generated a profit is that my heart wasn’t in it and I spent little time there. It was a beautiful store in a good location in a city that demographically should have embraced it. But I didn’t convey my “why” to this store’s manager and staff as I had in my initial store.
In 2015, I closed the second location and sold my company to an amazing couple who have done an excellent job of taking it to the next level. I moved to Maryland, and embarked on a crazy ride that happens when a person loses focus, operating without a defined “why.” I wrote and published a book, blogged, got into training horses and for a while, things were good. Inside me, however, a storm was brewing.
I had big plans when I published my book. I was going to write a companion workbook, blog and coach other entrepreneurs. Then the Army sent my husband to Korea, and immediately after, to Georgia. We pulled up stakes and moved. Because I had so thoroughly lost my why, no matter what I tried after moving to GA, I never gained traction.
I spent more than I should have on online programs, promising anything from building an awesome business through mindfulness (guided meditation), million dollar webinars and coaching programs. None of it helped. I was ready to give up. It was at this low point I found Simon Sinek, his Golden Circle and a map to rediscover my “why.”
I’ve always wanted to know why one of my stores wildly succeeded while the other didn’t break even. I understand it now and rediscovered my “why” in the process.
I exist to help others develop deep, meaningful relationships in all areas of their lives. That’s what inspires me. It’s what I thrived on in my store. It’s where I’m the most effective today.
One person at a time, I want to leave the world a more loving and connected place than it is. If I’m successful at all, I’m sure I’ll be long gone before I can see the change I’m working to create. Today, I’m good with that.
Originally published at medium.com