If You Want To Build A Ship

So recently a teammate and I got into a discussion about how to keep going with all that life throws at you. With your job, your family, your responsibilities and anything else that’s important in your life, it’s understandable how one can get easily overwhelmed.

For me, I always seem to get fixed on the “how.” I always want to know how something
is going to be accomplished. When I worked for an audio, video, lighting company, I always wanted to know how they were going to hang the speakers or how they were going to hang the projector. It seems as though “how” is the unknown part of the equation a lot. Dictionary.com defines “how” as “in what way or manner; by what means?”

But maybe we’ve been asking the wrong question. How are we going to get more people to join our team? Or how are we going to get our projects, organization or department in order? Or how are we going to build this hypothetical ship? This whole time we’ve been looking at how, when maybe we should have been asking why.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery – Author of “The Little Prince”

I have this quote pinned on my cork board above my desk. I read it often, and it really inspires me to attempt to do great things. It speaks to the “why” rather than the “how” of what I’m trying to accomplish.

The “why” of what you do will always take you farther than the “how” ever could. The “why” speaks to passion and calling, where the “how” only speaks to the up hill battle and the tough meetings that will be involved. What in your life do you need to change your perspective and placement on?

Dictionary.com defines “why” like this; “a question concerning the cause or reason for which something is done, achieved, etc. 

It’s interesting that the definition assumes something is accomplished. It doesn’t say something not done or only attempted.

It’s easy for me to revert back to the “how”. I do it all the time. It’s something in me that makes me feel better about starting something, because I can know the outcome. But who cares!? If it’s so important you’ll figure out the how.

So “why”? Why do you do what you do? Why did you start, and why do you continue? What in your life have you been looking at the “how”, and do you need to change your vantage point back to the “why”?


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