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What’s Your Why?

Simon Sinek is probably the most well-known speaker to talk about “Why”. His book Start With Why is one of my favorite reads to date! The importance of your ‘Why’ for doing anything will dictate the results achieved in many cases. Without a strong enough reason for doing a task, we often lose interest in it, give up, or don’t give it our best effort. I see this in my students all the time. They don’t have a reason to work hard in school. “Because Mom and Dad said so”, just isn’t enough for them anymore. This leads to poor attendance, lack of effort, failure to progress academically, poor test scores, etc.

I know it’s true for myself as well. I didn’t have a direction in high school. I wasn’t aiming for anything in particular so I didn’t have a reason to work extra hard. Mom and Dad were enough of a reason to keep things ticking along nicely, along with my pride and competitive streak, BUT I didn’t do my best in school. As a result I finished with decent results, but nowhere near my potential. I am a firm believer in a growth mindset and my ability to complete any task or learn any piece of information with enough time, practice, and reason.

That last part was key for me. Until I figured out what I wanted to do in college and what career path I wanted to go on, I was in cruise-control. Thankfully I didn’t blow my chance of pursuing my career choice (Education) before I figured out what I wanted to do, but we often see that happen with our students. They blow off school for so long, that by the time they want to take it seriously, they’ve been left behind and the mountain to climb needs more ‘why’ than they are willing to give it.

I say all this because our ‘why’ for starting a business is equally important. It can determine whether students do really well, break-even, make a loss, or fail to even start. Pat Flynn, in his book Will It Fly?, makes the important point that if a business starts simply to make money, they will not be successful. Yes, they may make some money, but they’ll never take off in the way that we hope a business will. Instead, he advocates for helping or serving people to be your ‘why’. If a business exists to solve a problem for someone, they will be successful because automatically there is a need for the business and people who want that problem fixed.

A Simple StartUp is a little less dependent on an altruistic ‘why’, since the primary purpose of the project is to teach students the process, knowledge, and skills needed for setting up a business. HOWEVER, learning to think about the why of a business IS an important part of the process. Ask you students: what is the reason you want to start a business? If they say “to make money”, challenge them to go deeper with the how? As a Simple StartUp guide, encourage your students to look for the problems and challenges in society, and then develop business solutions to those problems. Or if they are dead-set on a business idea to make money, ask them “what problem does this solve?”. If there isn’t a problem to solve, then why would people buy it?

The problem can be as simple as “helping people when they are hungry” or “helping people display their affiliation to their favorite sports team to find connection with others”. Almost every business that exists can solve a problem. By getting students to think about the problem they are solving, you are helping them to develop a better ‘why’ for doing the project.

What’s your ‘why’ for teaching an entrepreneurship project? Why did you join this mailing list? Anyone can say to students “go start a business”, but someone with a stronger ‘why’ looks for tools and strategies to increase the chance of student success and high level learning experiences. I hope The Simple StartUp or another curriculum provides that for you.

As always, share your stories of helping your students to develop their ‘why’ in our Facebook Community.

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