Why do you do what you do?

He was coaching me and he didn’t even know it!

I thought he was the hired photographer but…

At the end of my seminar for a trade association last September, the guy who’d been taking photos all morning came over and introduced himself as Hersch Wellman. He said he was the region’s past president and wondered if I’d be willing to come and speak for its larger Eastern Zone meeting a few months later.

Toward the conclusion of our in-depth and engaging 30-minute chat, Hersch asked me a question I’d never heard posed quite this way. He asked, “So, what do you want people to get from your talks? What’s the message you’re hoping to impart?” In other words, “Why are you doing this?”

Seeing as the talk he’d just heard was on Leveraging Social Media for Business and I speak mainly on the topics of customer service, sales and leadership, I asked him to clarify which topic he was referring to. “All of them,” he replied. “What’s your ‘message’? What do you want people to get out of what you’re doing? … Do you need some time to think about it?”

By the time he was done asking, the answer hit me like a ton of bricks. “It’s all about relationships,” I answered. “My mission is to share with people that in every aspect of business and life, our relationships will always be at the core of our success … however one chooses to define success.”

In that moment, it became crystal clear to me that the common thread in everything I’d ever delivered over the previous five years, under the Driven To Excel umbrella (through sales training, team workshops, customer service training, leadership coaching and speaking engagements) was and is about building mutually beneficial, remarkable RELATIONSHIPS.

I thanked Hersch a number of times for helping to bring me so much clarity, and then asked the same question of him. He said no one had ever asked it back, and after a little thought his answer was quite inspiring; it was rooted in being of service to others and helping them to grow.

In Dan Pink’s latest bestseller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he proves – drawing on 50 years of indisputable research – that our intrinsic motivators at work are autonomy, mastery and purpose – purpose being defined as being a part of something bigger than ourselves. It was gratifying to realize that both Hersch’s answer and mine conveyed a clear sense of purpose in our work.

If you’re in a career you love and are truly passionate about, chances are good that all three of the above motivators – autonomy, mastery and purpose – are firmly in place for you. If, on the other hand, one or two are missing, you may now know why you’ve been feeling stuck, unsettled, or even unplugged.

So, I ask you – yes, you: Why do you do what you do?

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  1. Your excellent illustration encourages us to inquire within for what motivates us in work and in life, Steve. Not many think in those terms when they think about their job. After all, it’s just a job, right? Well, it may be that or it may have been that, but starting now it could transform into something much, much more meaningful to you.

  2. Thank you for posing this very important question Steve, and for sharing the story behind it! For me, it’s all about making a difference…unfortunately, my industry doesn’t have the best reputation. I’ve made it my personal mission to make a difference for both my clients as well as the education of other contractors and that’s what keeps me doing what I do.

  3. @Lowell: You said it!

    @Mina: From what I know of you, your behavior and mission are certainly aligned and you are making a difference.

  4. I’m still working on my answer, but what I have so far is that I love to help others and show them the good side of people. I fear that humanity has become too selfish. We need, desperately, to open our eyes and stop the race-to-our-destination mentality; change course and hold a door for a stranger. Holding a door for a complete stranger who may be struggling with 2 kids in a (mini tank) stroller with a third kid wandering off, gives me just as much pleasure as providing the best banking service to my client.

    Why do I do what I do? Because I love to see and feel (emotions can be physical and observed/shared without a word) others feel good.

    Thanks for the thought provoking.

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