mastering purpose : define it

MP007: Stephen Shedletsky of the Start With Why Movement [PODCAST]

People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it. -Simon Sinek

Stephen Shedletsky and the rest of the team running Start With Why are doing great things. But remember that just because something is great, doesn’t mean that everyone agrees with it.

What is Start With Why?

Start With Why breaks down the first place where any organization should start. It’s not the who, the what, or any of the other five w’s until the why is addressed.

It was eleven years ago (from the original date of this blog post) that Simon Sinek ran into an individual at a conference with a PhD in neuroscience.

The discussion led to a fascinating truth about how human brains are wired to achieve great success when there is a why, or a purpose behind the work.

Who is Stephen Shedletsky and What is His Why?

Stephen is the Head Engagement Officer at Start With Why. He is tasked with all things engagement (internally and externally) and responsible for making sure they are committed to practicing what they preach.

Internal engagements include making sure the culture is appropriate for their organization. That way they “feel” they are part of the same movement they are moving forward.

External engagements include interviews with others, speaking with audiences and also organizations that are eager for content they can use to become more engaged themselves.

To engage people in meaningful ways so we live in a more fulfilled world.

There have been times when Stephen feels unmotivated, disengaged, unfulfilled, and uninspired.

Thankfully, in college, he was able to have some great experiences. Some of the things he was in charge of included his natural talent and it led him to realize those strengths.

Later, in the workforce, he was no longer able to do those things. The opportunities were not available and it was much harder to have a positive impact with the same strengths.

He also talks about the importance of physical contact and service to others. Why?

Because it releases oxytocin. A chemical in our system that makes us feel loved and safe.


The Start With Why Culture and Motivation

You can’t lead an organization, you run an organization. You can only lead people.


The Process of Finding Your Why

Stephen mentions that by age 20, any given person has a why. There have been enough life experiences by this point, that you can track through life what gave the most meaning.

One thing that we can’t do is find it on our own. The reason? Because we can’t be objective with ourselves.

So, instead, head over to a whiteboard/sheet of paper and do the following:

1. Draw peaks and valleys

On the peaks, write the specific experiences and stories where the most fulfillment was felt.

It can be in a career or back to school years, college, or personal experiences.

When it comes to the valleys, what were the times that were extremely hard? Times that you wish never to return to.

Despite those times, you are still glad they happened because it has shaped you into the person you are today.

2. Share the experiences

After you find both the exciting times and the troubling times, it’s time to find someone objective.

It’s time to share that life story with people. Once others see it from a different perspective, patterns and themes will emerge that makes the why obvious.

3. Live life through a filter

You can start seeing things for what you are trying to achieve – they “why” behind those stories.

When it comes to making decisions, you’ll find it easier to see if your next action gets you closer to what you are trying to achieve, or further away.

The Celery Test (What’s in your cart?)

A great point was brought up in this session about the “celery test”. Stephen talks about an example of where multiple items are added to a shopping cart and depending upon the items placed in it shows how your why is visible.

Maybe your why is to lead a healthier lifestyle; therefore, you might place celery or kale in your cart.

Are You Using a Skill or a Strength?

A skill is something that you’re good at. A strength is something you’re good at and happen to enjoy.

This is referenced with what is known as flow theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is considered when you have a skill that you are good at and you’re also challenged.

By being challenged, you strive to be better.

Stephen’s Advice to Those Trying to Follow Their Purpose and Skills


We had a really engaging conversation about the true reasons behind your purpose. I hope you were able to take at least one thing away today in order to help your life.

Think about this: are you practicing your skills or your strengths?

[icon name=”microphone” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] PODCAST WRAP-UP – LINKS AND MORE

Things mentioned in this session:

Where to find Stephen:

The Start With Why website (Stephen’s personal website)

Some of the Start With Why books:

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
Find Your Why: A Practical Guide to Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team


I’ve got a great interview with Matt Heffner of Our Daily Rest. We talk about working online for income and stepping away from the technology to truly rest with ourselves.


In progress…


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