Start With Why

Meeting Simon Sinek at AEEE in San Diego.
April 16th, 2018 | Photo by @zsundquist
It was mid-June, 2017. There were a lot of negative things happening in my life. In some regard, I felt very lost. I wasn't fulfilled. I had just visited with my dad about fulfillment, and turned to YouTube to help me understand what fulfillment actually means.

What I found was a man named Simon Sinek. In his book, Start With Why, Simon talks about the purpose that drives each of us. In The Infinate Game he changes the phrase from "WHY" to "Just Cause" (and that's 'just' as in based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair. [source: Oxford Languages and Google]).

That began a journey of discovering the singular purpose that drives and defines my every action. I processed all of the decisions from my life and saw many connections that led to the same place. It took me about a month to really understand that everything I do is simply because...

I Love The Journey.

Loving the Journey may not seem like a Just Cause at first glance -- it appears to be about my love for travel, but it's far from that. I spend a lot of time in my life focused on the emotional, mental, and physical journeys. I want to constantly improve myself, which I see as a journey from wherever I am to wherever I need to be. I also love helping people in their journeys. I want people to love life -- for their hearts to be full -- and to love the entire journey.

Mike's Guiding Principles

I do everything in my power to make every decision in my life based on loving the journey and the following principles.

1. People First.

Without people, we have nothing -- no purpose, no relationships, no community. I don't want to be a 'welcome mat', but I believe that people are our first priority. I've been known to travel halfway around the world to help someone. If someone is in need, provide for them. If someone is hurting, help them. If someone is lonely, love them. I'm not always perfect at this. I fail more often than not (see #7), but I keep trying to improve.

2. Be There.

Yes, I love to travel, but being there is more than getting on a plane. It’s about being in the moment with those around you. If someone needs help, it is better to stand next to them than to offer empty promises of support. One of my favorite things to tell people is "I’m with you." And, of course, sometimes that means getting on a plane in a moment’s notice, but it also means doing things that are uncomfortable because it helps someone else. Saying "I'm with you" is about walking through the depths of dispare with them -- not taking on their pain, but letting them know that you are there and that they will survive.

3. Be a Two-Year-Old.

Question everything. I believe that to understand you must ask and clarify. It’s not about creating conflict; it’s about seeking a deeper understanding. I spend a lot of time seeking opinions and thought processes that challenge my own. Don't have any strangers, say hello to everyone. Try new things. Take risks. Have fun. Play.

4. Be Your Own Competition.

In Simon Sinek’s book The Infinite Game, he talks about companies that last are companies that don’t worry about their competition, but instead try to constantly improve from where they currently are. I am always looking at where I've failed so that I can correct it. My goal is not to put myself down, but to find the weaknesses in my approach that I can tweak to make things better.

5. Offense First, and Don’t Let Them Catch Up in the 4th.

I love football (Boomer Sooner). And I hate when a team goes out and puts the pedal to the metal at the start, but slacks off in the fourth quarter. This isn’t about worrying about what the competition is doing, it’s about not letting yourself settle. Get out there and give it everything you’ve got until the game is over. Just remember, we’re playing an infinite game, so it’s never over unless we quit.

6. Let Data Drive, But Trust Your Gut.

I love data (that's why I track all of these details about my flights and my hotel stays. You can learn a lot from data because there’s no emotion. But you can also make the data say whatever you want. So, don’t forget to trust your gut.

7. It’s Okay to Fail.

In every school there’s that teacher that has a sign that reads, “A mistake is only a mistake if you choose to not correct it.” One of my vocal teachers once told him, “Sing loud so I can hear your mistakes and correct them.” A friend of Mike always says, “You learn or you earn.” All of these statements boil down to this: It’s okay to fail, you just have to learn from it and correct the course. When flying, being off one-degree on your course isn’t a big deal, until you’ve travelled a thousand miles. Fail loud, see it as quick as possible, make an audible call, and correct your course. Own it. Fix it.