What is Your Why?
By Harper Tucker, Chair of Finance Practice
Why do we do what we do? My purpose, my Why, is building financial literacy and helping impact the right people for the betterment of the economy and the world in which we live. I have seen lives upended because people lacked a good understanding of money. People are more willing to talk about their sex lives than their finances and this reticence causes serious damage to people on a personal level. It’s appalling that most of these problems could be mitigated if not eliminated by simple financial literacy. For many people, their Why is that they want to provide for their families, or they want to be comfortable. These aren’t altogether bad responses, I can respect someone for feeling this way. However, imagine two organizations identical in every way except that one’s CEO does this to get a paycheck and the other wants to change the world, which one sounds more attractive? To my mind, if a company is about more than just numbers or personal interest, if it has some cause that I can believe in, that makes it something worth my time or money. For many corporations, this can be an altruistic goal. Think of TOMS Shoes, a company that has made charity an integral part of its business. Other companies have important causes that are more focused on business – Simon Sinek has a great breakdown of Apple’s Why in which he claims that Apple seeks to challenge the status quo with every move they make. Sinek makes the point that we all have to start with the Why, that the rest of our decisions must flow out of a core precept. If we don’t have a greater purpose guiding us, there will come a point where money alone no longer motivates. I want to address both the significance of a clearly defined purpose and the practicalities of making one.
What do you believe? What problem do you address or what altruism do you enforce? If you work with entrepreneurs, maybe your goal is grow companies. This is a worthy goal and maybe as you go along you find yourself becoming more specific, maybe in a year or two you want to grow companies with a commitment to their communities, or ones working on the cutting edge of AI. What you should know is that you are able to build upon and evolve your mission. At the outset, think of something you know is unshakably true, find a professional bedrock that can support your career. Once you have it, write it down – this is a proven method for success. This could be a few sentences at first or it could be twenty pages. By putting your ethos onto paper you are making a promise to yourself. It seems minor but it is a sign of commitment, it gives you a concrete first step, and you are holding yourself accountable. To this end, let the world know about your belief. Attach your name to this belief, tell everyone who will listen. By getting people to know you as the person trying to fund renewables, or find the best investments for retirees, or bring jobs back to a community, the people you wish to impact will come to you. Your employees should believe in this goal, and, if they don’t, adjustments might have to occur. Even if you have the best salesperson in the world, if they aren’t sold on your purpose, they will never reach their full potential. Get the right people on board to execute your mission – alignment is key for new hires.
A significant distinction to make here is the one between your personal and your company’s mission. If executed perfectly, there should be little difference between the two but it is worth noting that your personal mission is more important because it’s the impact you will make on others and the world. Your company can be an extension of this mission but there is a slight separation. Another note to make here is a the difference between your three-to-five year goal and your vision. You shorter-term goal should not be miniscule, it should be an audacious goal that you strive for but don’t mistake it for your vision which is a fifty-to-one-hundred year goal. Your vision is your legacy on the world at large, how you will be remembered when you are gone. You’ll have many missions that contribute to this greater goal but don’t lose the forest for the trees.
While your vision and mission can evolve if new information comes your way, the first couple of sentences, the heart of it, should remain. Again, this is because your goal should be built upon an inarguable good. You should want to help or innovate in some way, you should want to build up people or industries that will have a positive impact on something important. While this may seem abstract for some financial professions, I argue that the opposite is true. We live in a country where people have disdain for financial institutions. If you were to stop ten people on the street and ask them what they thought of Wall Street, nine of them would likely have something negative to say. We need leaders in the financial fields presenting meaningful goals behind their services. Distrust breeds a resentment that has made people disinterested or afraid to learn about how to handle their money. While money does not bring a guarantee of happiness, it brings misery to countless people who let it get away from them. This is part of my mission and my vision to foster financial literacy. I am going to help people who seek to grow the public’s understanding of money, how are you going to impact the world around you? Make a plan, shout it from the rooftops, and evolve it as necessary.