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The bird is telling you

I have sub­scribed to the visu­al book­shop Lucid. This friend­ly appli­ca­tion allows you to get the gist of a book in a few min­utes. If one want­ed to be mean, one could con­clude that peo­ple write too many words to explain some­thing and that a few nice dia­grams are all that is need­ed. In a way, War and Peace is set in Russia.

Any­way, I went with the so-called moti­va­tion­al read­ing : No Rules Rules (the orga­ni­za­tion­al prin­ci­ples that led to the suc­cess of Net­flix), Think­ing, Fast and Slow (or the art of under­stand­ing one’s bias­es and being wary of one’s intu­ition), Dare to Lead (what makes a good leader), Grit (anoth­er book on lead­er­ship) and final­ly, Start With Why (iden­ti­fy­ing one’s deep­est moti­va­tion, one’s rea­son for being).

This last book par­tic­u­lar­ly appealed to me, both on a per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al lev­el. The chap­ter titles speak for themselves :

  • The Impor­tance of Know­ing your Why.
  • How Gut Instincts Dri­ve Decisions.
  • The Key to Your Why.
  • How Lead­ers Attract Fol­low­ers.
  • How to Ral­ly Those Who Believe.
  • Align­ing Your Actions With Your Why.
  • Why Suc­cess is the Biggest Chal­lenge.
  • How to Dis­cov­er Your Why

The Eng­lish lan­guage has a way of wrap­ping con­cepts around each oth­er. To say in French Con­naître son pourquoi does not make much sense. How­ev­er, the con­cept is sim­ple and demand­ing : Know­ing one’s rea­son for being, one’s why should be based on who one is as an indi­vid­ual. What dis­tin­guish­es us as a per­son is our life expe­ri­ences, our edu­ca­tion. What did you like to do, to under­take ? What stopped you from con­tin­u­ing, or what led you to con­tin­ue in that direc­tion ? How old are you ? At this point in your life, has your path diverged from the first paths you took ?

Entre­pre­neurs should all ask them­selves this cru­cial ques­tion of why, as this pri­ma­ry moti­va­tion should be the one that guides them towards the devel­op­ment and growth of their busi­ness. The same is true of our per­son­al lives.

For exam­ple, who was I as a teenag­er ? A dreamy boy, who wrote poet­ry, but also a mind fas­ci­nat­ed by sci­ence, sci­ence fic­tion, the pos­si­ble. I was build­ing forts and Lego planes. I want­ed to become an archi­tect because I liked to draw lines, I liked to draw a lot. I want­ed to build at the same time ; I want­ed to escape. I always had a thirst for expla­na­tions, for great schemes.

Then, I hit a wall uni­ver­si­ty. I didn’t have the grades ; I wasn’t dis­ci­plined enough, I told myself, to become an archi­tect. My hous­es would fall. At least that’s what I was led to believe and, naive, I went along. After sev­er­al harm­less wan­der­ings where I had to get to know boys and betray­als, I start­ed writ­ing again and pub­lished a few books.

My career path was a series of cir­cum­stances. Every step I took had a desire to build, and that’s how I became a com­put­er graph­ics design­er, then a pro­gram­mer, and now, more or less, the direc­tor of some­thing vague, between the real­ist and the artist, the astrologer and the lover. I have remained equal to myself, with­out pos­sess­ing the dis­ci­pline to make a suc­cess sto­ry accord­ing to the stan­dards con­veyed in pop­u­lar and well-writ­ten books.

This glo­ry, this com­ple­tion as one reads in these books, is cer­tain­ly not with­in reach of every­one ? Of course, you have to define this notion of suc­cess for your­self. My father, at the age of 87, says that he has suc­ceed­ed in life. He want­ed a fam­i­ly, intel­li­gent chil­dren, a beau­ti­ful and deter­mined wife at his side. He has had it all, he says. He is proud of his life. So suc­cess is open to interpretation.

But it would be suit­able for all of us to ask our­selves this ques­tion and ask it fre­quent­ly to make our why a moti­vat­ing leit­mo­tif, a motor that allows us to dri­ve on four, three, two, or one wheel.

A leader can com­mu­ni­cate his or her dream and bring on board peo­ple who are ready to make it come true, to steer the boat to port. A busi­ness leader who is con­tent to gov­ern will see his sailors turn into pas­sive ser­vants, or admin­is­tra­tive zom­bies. If he/​she does not under­stand the direc­tion of his/​her moti­va­tion, he/​she will not be able to induce it in oth­ers, and the boat will invari­ably be car­ried away by the cur­rent and the storms.

Where am I, at 62, in my why, my rea­son for being ? It might be painful to answer, because it is easy to plunge into regret. I con­tin­ue to write lit­tle bits of text that float hap­pi­ly on the ocean of the Inter­net. I lis­ten to peo­ple, it’s part of my cor­po­rate respon­si­bil­i­ty. I am said to be smil­ing, to be doing good. I also pro­gram, I men­tor with­out hav­ing the degrees.

I’m not sure I under­stand this why. It is a bird that bangs its wings against the walls of my thoughts, of my lungs. It insists on mak­ing wings out of my arms. Per­haps I do not ask the ques­tion of why enough. What should I do now ? I don’t want to rest ; I’m not that tired. Do I feel lis­tened to ? Am I a zombie ?

Per­haps.

I remain a dream­er who, with drool on his lips, watch­es the shad­ows of his impuls­es draw sweet rea­sons for being with each of his many lim­it­ed breaths.

Per­haps I will nev­er meet my true whys in my path. But if all the peo­ple in the world asked them­selves ques­tions, would there not be less mis­ery, broth­er, sister ?

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