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”?

Getting Myself and My Team Organized

So something my team and myself are really struggling with is keeping on track with the tasks at hand. It’s not because we don’t want to or even because we aren’t trying to. The problem is we always feel like we’re playing defense. There are tasks that are always coming at us and we never feel as though we can get on top of them. We always feel like we’re barely keeping afloat.

I had always known and heard about project management software but for some reason it didn’t make since to me. It was one more task that you had to add to your ToDo list. It seemed as though it was more work.

Enter Asana. Asana is project management software. I’m sure you’ve all heard of something similar. Asana for us is a perfect fit. It’s structure is 4 primary layers. Organization > Team > Projects > Tasks. I love it because my team is made up of other smaller teams but at times we are all working together on the same project. With this layout you can organize all of that very easily.

While this seems to be solving the problem of keeping tasks organized, it’s not helping us start a project when we’re trying to get all of the information we need. I noticed that each time a new task or project came to us, we’re asking the same questions. When? What? How big? What color? How many? So, my team and I have started something else that we’re calling Start Sheets. These are the questions to be asked at the start of a project, event, or task.

I work in a church and in our church we have a master calendar. When someone adds something to that master calendar there are a series of questions that they have to answer about their event. These questions range from, “when will your event happen?” and, “how many people will attend your event?” to “who is in charge of your event?”. It even has a section that my department added about the technical needs of the event. For some reason though, most of the answers on my section were, “see me later” or “more info to come at a later date.” And let’s be honest, a lot of the time that later date was the day of the event.

Over the years I’ve learned that getting out of my seat, walking to someone else’s office, and having a face to face conversation is the best form of communication. So, with these start sheets we will do just that. And in return they will do more than get some information about an event or a project, they will allow us to really understand what the person is trying to communicate. We will be able to see the expressions on their face when they are describing the project. It will give us significantly more clarity than an email or a calendared event.

I really believe Asana and Start Sheets will give us an advantage in our work that we haven’t had in the past and I can’t to see all of the possibilities. I hope to come back to you in the future and tell you about all of the things we’ve been able to accomplish because we’re organized.