Sharing Your Why

September 8, 2020

I sat down on a plane next to a young woman and her boyfriend. I struck up a conversation, and I learned the woman was a recording artist who goes by the artist name Whipped Cream.

She was on her way to play a show. Her music is called “dubstep,” which is hard-hitting and has bass like you have never felt. There was little chance we would connect over her music.

Instead, I asked her why she was a recording artist? She told me she needed to inspire people to chase their dreams and reach their potential. She asked about me, and I shared what I do and that my why is to make things better.

A profound conversation ensued with a real connection to the point where she invited us to her show, and I rescheduled our connecting flight and went with my son to see her perform on New Year’s Eve in Chicago.

I got to witness this young artist chasing her dreams, and I can now scratch “attend a rave” off my bucket list. I want to thank her and her team for her kindness and tell her that watching her live out her why was an amazing experience. It all came about because I was willing to be vulnerable, ask about her why, and share mine.

The irony of social media is that while we have never been more connected in the virtual world, we have never been more isolated in the real world.

When I was young, I remember how open and connected my grandparents’ house felt. They knew virtually everyone on the block, and everyone looked out for each other. Today, I know the neighbors to the left and right of me, but we never socialize.

It feels like the speed of our lives is increasing in step with the speed of our internet connection and what’s being lost is our connection to each other.

We want to believe we don’t need anyone else to be happy in our lives, but the truth is we do. It is not a coincidence the rise of anxiety, depression, hate, and cynicism has followed our isolation and retreat into a virtual world.

Even in the virtual world, people want virtual connections. They want to know the stories behind the influencers, shows, and content they consume. The Food Network exploded by letting us get to know the people behind the food and their stories. The most successful YouTube stars are people who the audience feels like they know. Reality TV and even competitive shows like The Voice or America’s Got talent give us the back story on the contestants. We feel like we understand why they are who they are, not just their talent.

We all need to belong; to know we are not alone; to feel connected to others. This need is biological. Humans depend on their relationships to survive, reproduce, and flourish. Our need to belong to a group is very much hard-wired into who we are. Throughout our evolution, connection has literally been a matter of life or death.

The beauty of the story I started this video with is that people can be wildly different and still connect if they are willing to share their why. On the surface, it would have seemed there was little chance a young artist in her 20s with blue highlights would have anything in common with a 55-year-old medical negligence lawyer from Cleveland, Ohio. It’s below the surface that we all have things in common. We just have to talk.

The famous author C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’

Johann Hari, in his book “Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions,” tells a story of a housing project that had punk rockers, religious conservative Turkish immigrants, and sex workers living together with bars on their windows isolated from each other as the landlords tried to run them out of their homes through gentrification. One older Turkish woman put a note on her window that she would be taking her own life the day before she was evicted.

The note gave these diverse people a reason to talk, and their talking spurred a protest that ultimately led to rent control changes in the laws. More importantly, the conversations led to relationships and forming a sense of community among a disconnected crowd. It’s a beautiful story.

It all starts with sharing real things that are important to us. Are we willing to get past small talk and have a real conversation?

Sharing our why is, to me, the biggest of the big talk. Our why goes to the core of who we are. It’s like opening your chest and letting someone see your heart. There are lots of little reasons to share your why with others, like clarity, accountability, and motivation, but the real reason to share your why is because you get to make a connection with another person; you realize you are not alone, and you get goosebumps. It just feels right.

Next time you meet someone new, try skipping the small talk and ask them about their why. Then, when they ask about yours, don’t be afraid to share. I think you will like the results. You could end up attending a rave like I did.

I’m making these posts to share my journey, to show how in my experience, our why shapes everything in our lives, whether we want it to or not. I hope the people who read take away something they can use to help themselves on their own journey.

Thanks for reading, and be well.

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