This article was written by Scott Addis, CPCU, CRA, CBWA, CEO of Beyond Insurance. Article originally appeared in Rough Notes.


A few months ago, I was introduced to  Simon Sinek and his book Start with Why. Sinek, author, motivational speaker, and marketing consultant, has made the foundation of his work the examination of “WHY”—the exploration of who we are and what inspires us to act.

By first asking WHY, there is compelling evidence of how much more we can achieve—personally and professionally.

Sinek argues that our WHY is intuitively formed at an early age, as early as 17 or 18, and possibly sooner. And the rest of our lives are spent through the inspiration of our choice or the frustration of our inability to achieve the purpose.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle, named by Sinek, finds order and predictability in human behavior. It helps us understand why we do what we do. By first asking WHY, there is compelling evidence of how much more we can achieve—personally and professionally.

Before we explore the application of the Golden Circle, let’s first define terms, starting from the outside of the circle and moving inward.

WHAT—All professionals and organizations know WHAT they do. When asked, they are comfortable and confident describing the product, service, or solution their firm sells, as well as the   job function they have within the organization.

HOW—Professionals and organizations also are schooled in HOW they do WHAT they do. The HOW may come in a well-thought-out value proposition, unique process or customer experience. In conveying the HOW, you may think that it enables you to distinguish your capabilities … to stand out in a crowded marketplace. While it is a good beginning, Sinek teaches us that there is a missing element—the WHY.

WHY—It’s your cause, purpose or belief. It is the essence of your professional existence. It is the reason you get out of bed every morning. Today’s consumers want and need to know WHY. WHY you? WHY your organization? WHY do you do what you do? It is a given that your customers know WHAT and HOW you do what you do. That being said, it is your value and beliefs, not just the quality of your products and services, that create deep, long-lasting connections.

Very few people and organizations are able to articulate WHY they do what they do. That’s because they don’t take the time to discover it. They are too busy working on the HOW to justify the WHAT. It is a shame, because people notice the WHY and are drawn to it.

In today’s fast-paced, commoditized world, individuals and organizations are using tangible features and benefits to build a rational argument for HOW their product, service, or solution is better than another. These well-intentioned professionals and firms are trying to sell WHAT they do, but they are missing the mark as consumers are motivated by WHY they do it. When communicating from the inside out, the WHY is offered as the reason to buy, and the WHAT and the HOW serve as proof of that belief.

Fame and fortune?

Do you know someone who has all the material things one can buy but feels hollow inside? I’ll bet you do. It is a sad commentary that, at an early age, we are led to believe that fame and fortune represent our quest for success. Money and power do not correlate to one’s desire to contribute to society.

In the book When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, Harold Kushner states, “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Those rewards create almost as many problems as they solve. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter so the world will be at least be a little bit different for our having passed through it.”

It is safe to say that what robs one’s life of joy is the absence of meaning.

Great leaders are driven by a cause, purpose, or belief. And it is the leader’s ability to communicate the WHY that inspires others to follow. It is their unique ability to have others buy into their vision without external incentives to be gained. Think about Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Vince Lombardi, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, George Washington, and Nelson Mandela, to name a few.

The WHY in the business of insurance and risk management

What is your cause in the business of insurance and risk management? What gives you meaning in your work? What inspires you to act? What is the reason you get out of bed every morning?

If you think it is centered on the breadth, efficiency, or competitiveness of the insurance transaction, you are short-changing yourself and stripping the motivation you need to move to a higher level of success.

As you know, there is a perception issue in our industry. The typical consumer does not view the insurance or risk management professional in the same light as the physician, accountant, or attorney. Our examination of Sinek’s Golden Circle gives us the answer. As an industry, we are consumed by the WHAT and the HOW. And we spend countless hours packaging and delivering them. It is because of the WHAT and HOW that we exist. Right? Wrong!

Today’s consumers remain bored and uninspired by our deliverables as we communicate and act from the outside in. Even worse, many express skepticism and cynicism over our efforts. The time has come to answer the WHY, and live each day from the inside out. So where do you begin? Start by asking yourself, “What is my cause, mission, purpose, and belief?”

To help you, I suggest that you study the definitions of four words:

  • Uncertainty—The state that causes doubt, apprehension, and fear.
  • Risk—Someone or something of value that is exposed to danger, harm, or loss.
  • Risk Management—The process of managing doubt, apprehension, fear, danger, harm, or loss.
  • Insurance—The transfer of uncertainties and risk to a third party.

Your WHY is risk and uncertainties supported by a process to strategically deal with them. What then is the insurance transaction? It is simply WHAT you do—the product, service, or function. Remember that  consumers know WHAT you do  and HOW you do it. Your WHY will separate you from the pack.

As you discover your WHY, you will gain enhanced clarity, purpose, and passion. And you will notice that your clients, prospects, centers of influence, and colleagues react differently to you.

Why? Because you are inspiring them. Start with WHY—your purpose for existence!