See How Easily You Can Learn From Your Mistakes By Starting With Why?


See How Easily You Can Learn From Your Mistakes By Starting With Why?

I’ve been fascinated by the question ‘Why’ for a long time. It’s always a question I love to ask and the answers unlock interesting and insightful reflections. Our little girl Iona has reached a stage where everything is ‘Why.’ I find her natural way of observing the world, before competition, self image, need for approval and self-centredness creeps in very revealing. It’s especially beautiful at the moment, when the Why is more of a ‘Why Daddy.’ ……She had me at Why.

I love Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, and his explanation of the Golden Circle. He uses the story of Apple to explain the importance of ‘Starting With Why’ and how when people believe in your why, they’ll buy your products and services. We don’t need more products or more services to buy – but what we do want are people and businesses that we believe in: Mission Statements that we trust.

Enron’s were: “Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence.” Its “Vision and Values” mission statement declared, “We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves….We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don’t belong here.” It’s one thing to use the words, it’s another thing for them to be lived out within your organisation. What’s your mission statement and how do you embody it?

Recently I spoke to group of 300 entrepreneurs, in a talk entitled: ‘Being courageous in the face of adversity.’ I wanted to apply Sinek’s thoughts into learning from mistakes. It was an interesting time as we don’t like to talk about mistakes and failure. I love to; some of the biggest lessons are learnt here and it learnt to an invigorating and frank discussion.

Using the diagram above, we often start from the ‘outside in’ when we describe our organisation or business. Let’s take what I do as an example.

‘What We Do’ (I’m a writer, speaker, consultant and coach)
‘How We Do It’ (I build ideas, speak at conferences and support people and businesses)
‘Why We Do It’ (Do you want to book me or buy my book).

Not all that inspiring. Pretty standard, rather common and nothing particularly grabs your attention.

But how does this sound if we start from the inside out:

‘Why We Do It’ (I’m passionate for people to be all they were created to be & deeply committed to grow ideas that change the world).
‘How We Do It’ (I talk with hundreds of entrepreneurs, look at best and worst case examples and distill the wisdom of others into stories we all can grasp and implement).
‘What We Do’ (I’m a speaker, writer and coach… Want to book me to speak, buy my book or grab a coffee?)

Sinek argues that if we believe someones ‘Why’ then we are more likely to buy their ‘What.’ At that point the ‘What’ they do doesn’t matter as much, because we’ve been convinced by their story. Over time because the story has been grounded in quality, we’re not as fixated on the product. We believe in the Why. That’s what has happened with a lot of the great companies. Whether we realise it or not, we love what they stand for.

So how do you start with a good Why? Simply put, you can’t concoct it and you can’t rush it. You either have a compelling Why or you need to develop one over time.

But one thing I’ve noticed is how easily the answers to ‘Why’, ‘How’ and ‘What’ change when we start from the inside out. This is clearly visible when we discuss mistakes. Often when something goes wrong, we explain ‘What’ went wrong. And we give lots of detail as to ‘How’ it went wrong. By the time we’ve joined the dots, we’ve drawn a picture that rarely accurately describes ‘Why’ it went wrong. And when our egos are involved and we had to admit failure, this is rather convenient.

We’ve been able to take the sting out of the mistake, and produce a non self- critical understanding of ‘Why’ it went wrong. This normally sounds like making excuses, even though what we’re saying may be factually correct. By deadening the ‘Why’ we are not having to face the deeper questions. The ones of our vulnerability, frailty and ability to make mistakes. As we haven’t owned the mistake and we’ve missed the true ‘Why’ something went wrong, we’re far more likely to make a similar mistake in the future. Whereas when we own the mistake we find the bigger questions. When we carry out the changes orchestrated from these questions, we can then own the solutions. Start with the Why, and we can learn from our mistakes and grow through these into new opportunities. Painful but glorious. Like a butterfly, we grow out from the safe cocoons of denial into greater space and beauty.

How would shifting to ‘Why’ empower you to explore mistakes that you make? What mistakes or failures have you recently experienced and why did they go wrong. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or if they’re a bit personal, email me at


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