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  • Nikhil Dhawan

Start With Why

“Make your own Path”

When I was growing up, it felt as though I was given a limited amount of career options by my parents. I was told to become either a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or continue running the family franchise business. Like countless others before (and probably after) me, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do any of those things. What I did know, is that I wanted to carve out my own path, I just didn’t know how. Fast forward to the age of 23, I found myself franchising a 7-Eleven store, exactly what I always told myself I wouldn’t do. So why did I do it?

“Question Everything”

Why was I born? Does it matter? Should I care? Should anyone care? These are questions I ask myself all too often.

Those who know me are well aware that I’m inquisitive. I ask a lot of questions. My friends always joke about a phrase I use in the midst of most discussions: “I have a question…” It’s not an uncommon phrase, but I tend to use it anytime I’m presented with an opportunity.

Speaking of opportunities now is a good time to pose a few questions for you. These are rhetorical, of course, but feel free to share your answers if you feel compelled. I believe there are no right or wrong answers to these questions, merely answers that feel correct according to our own personal journeys.

What motivates you? When you wake up every morning, aside from industrial strength coffee, what makes you feel like it’s GO time?

Pause for a minute. Think.

Don’t feel pressured if you don’t have any answers yet, because most people don’t, and until recently, neither did I.

“It’s not necessarily about where you go, it’s about how you get there.”

At a much younger age, I started to believe that questioning things stemmed from a place of rebellion. Anytime an authoritative figure was disappointed in me, I felt as though I had done something wrong. It happened often, and I began to doubt myself. When my parents told me to do something, I always asked, “why?” Some parents may openly express their answer in the hopes that their child will then make an informed decision. In other situations, parents might say, “Because I said so”, or “you have no choice”. This answer leaves the child with two options: give in and do what’s asked, or keep asking why. I took the latter approach as a child, and I don’t think my parents were too happy with that. They obviously had the best intentions for me (and still do), but they were caught between forcing me to believe what they believe, instead of letting me figure it out for myself.

Not to sound redundant, but as adults, we’re all aware that the stove is hot and we wouldn’t want our children to touch it and burn themselves. But isn’t making mistakes a part of life? We all fall as children, get up, and grow stronger. We can’t bubble-wrap our children and protect them from the world. There are many important battles and decisions we face in our adult life, and for those situations, we need the confidence in ourselves and in our decision-making abilities. If all of our choices are taken away from us as children, then we’ll probably have a much tougher time weighing our options as adults. With all that said, I know for a fact that my parents always had the best intentions for me (purposely being repetitive about this because it’s very true), but for a long time, I was bubble-wrapped. The more inquisitive I was, the more they bubble-wrapped me, until a point where I began to resent them. (Luckily, as time has passed, we’ve all made an effort to understand one another better. That’s resulted in a great relationship today, in which all of us are transparent with each other and make decisions as a unit.)

As a child, I spent a lot of time thinking I was a bad kid. I questioned everything. I wanted answers, and if I didn’t get the answers, I wouldn’t do what I was told. Somewhere deep down I knew that it wasn’t wrong to question things. I wasn’t sure if it was the best approach, but I was confident it wasn’t wrong.

“Not to spoil the ending, but everything is going to be okay…”

Let’s bring it back to the present and see who we are now and how we approach our lives on a day in and day out basis. Since I’m so inquisitive, I’ve spent countless years questioning my existence. I’ve had several conversations with friends and strangers about different life philosophies. There are a variety of answers people have about life and what it entails. What life is all about, and what the afterlife may have in store for us. I’ve dug further by reading books, listening to podcasts, watching videos and the list goes on. My motive throughout this entire process has been to find myself because I’ve spent most of my life lost.

I knew for a long time that I wanted to leave a mark before leaving this world, but I just didn’t know how. I wanted to do something meaningful, but I could never pinpoint what it was, or how to go about doing it. But these thoughts yielded no results because I was starting in the wrong place. Finally, Start With Why, by Simon Sinek, struck a chord. I can’t say this book answered all my questions, but it’s helped me find my starting point. Here’s an eighteen-minute TED Talk on YouTube in case any of the non-bibliophiles would like to check it out.

Now, before I ramble on about the book and what my thoughts are, I urge you to answer a few more questions. Since you’ve made it this far, it means you’re potentially on a similar journey, searching to find yourself. So here it goes:

Is my current career path something I love doing?

Have I taken action into researching the fields I’m actually interested in?

Am I living for myself or fulfilling someone else’s dreams?

Is my major in college just to get me through, or do I actually enjoy most of my classes?

If you’re lost in life or searching for answers, then this may be a good starting or even mid-point. Simon Sinek also faced similar obstacles. He wanted to do something great, but he was lost and couldn’t pinpoint what it was or how he wanted to achieve this. One day, while studying several great leaders, Sinek finally cracked the code. He calls it the golden circle. This “golden circle” has 3 rings with the innermost being “why,” followed by “how,” and then “what”. He suggests going about it from the inside out rather than the outside in. He believes all great leaders follow this method, and is confident that why you’re doing what you’re doing is much more important than what you’re doing by itself. After years of researching inspiring leaders, Sinek himself became a motivational speaker and an author. He realized his own why is helping us understand why. So, this brings me back to those first few questions: Why was I born? Does it matter? Should I care? Should anyone care?

For all of the career options available to us in the 21st century, the last thing we should do is let our parents tell us that we have to become doctors, or lawyers, or engineers, or carry on the family business. We should stand our ground and decide what we want to do based on why we’re doing it.

Of course, Sinek said all of the above much better than I did, so I suggest if any of this is intriguing, you can look him up directly. There are many different ways of starting this journey; as long as you’re planting a seed or continuing to water a seed that you’ve already planted, you’re doing yourself justice. If you’re driven but haven’t found your calling, don’t panic. Keep your “why” firm, and keep pushing forward.

As long as you know why you do what you do, life will always have a more profound meaning and sense of purpose.

“Don’t ever quit your Daydream”

If you’re wondering what my “why” is, I’ll make a deal with you. First, think about what it might be, then respond to this post with your thoughts. Not only will I share my “why” with you, but I will also share the lessons I’ve learned in pursuit of my answer, along with my journey throughout this writing process.

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