Start With Why

Why do you want to do the things you want to do? Why is it important to you? Why does it matter? These are the questions that I’ve been pondering as of late. After coming down from the high of completing a lettering project every day for a year, the next question I ask myself is what’s next? I am not one to do things for no reason and there’s a great deal of thought that goes into every major decision I make. I find comfort in only taking calculated risks since I’m incapable of doing things “just because.” If you asked me a year ago why I wanted to draw or challenge myself in that way, my answer would’ve been “because one day I want to be an artist making a living from my work”. But as the questions of why start to pull at my heartstrings, I noticed that my response doesn’t answer the question.  What I do is create handmade or digital designs but what I do does not answer the question of why I want to do it.

I recently finished reading the book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. I don’t know what has lead me to thinking about why or where the thought arose but somewhere in my subconscious the question was presented to me and this book found its way into my hands. If you’re unfamiliar with Simon Sinek by name, you might recognize him from his Ted Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action which has been viewed over 7 million times on YouTube and is considered one of the most popular talks of all time. Every time I watch him speak I’m always left feeling inspired and eager to hear more.

Throughout the book, Simon shares the stories of different leaders such as Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Rollin King and Herb Kelleher founders of South West Airlines as examples of the principle behind starting from a place of WHY. He shares the rules of the Golden Circle which centralizes WHY as the primary focus that all business should start from. As he puts it, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. WHAT you do can change with time but WHY you do it never does”.

Reading similar sentences like these throughout the book brought me back to my question of why. Why do you want to do the things you want to do? Why do you want to be a lettering artist/graphic designer? Why did you start For tha Masses? These are questions I’ve unknowingly dodged and never thought to ask myself. It could be the source of my inability to define myself and what I do. If my WHY has not been established, it’s no wonder that I experience so much internal struggle with decision making. I let WHAT I do define WHY I did it.
Early days of blogging photos

When I originally started the blog, I was not in a good mental place. Jon and I moved to Knoxville 6 months to a year prior and how unhappy I was with my job and myself was becoming abundantly clear. I was a recent college graduate doing nothing with my degree and finding work related to my field seemed next to impossible due to “lack of experience”. In reality, my life wasn’t so different from that of other millennials but, at the tender age of 26, I felt like a failure and needed to find an escape. At the time, blogging was something that everyone seemed to be doing as a creative outlet. When searching for inspiration of where to start, the blogs I encountered (speaking objectively) seemed to be spaces filled with poorly written material that didn’t appear authentic and DIY projects that appeared crafty but not very purposeful or well made. One space looked like a replica of so many others, only with different graphic elements and a different name. Since I saw these spaces as not fully representing the types of things I wanted to see, I said to myself “I can do this too!”

As I slowly (and I do mean slowly) started to create content here and there, my lack of self-confidence got in the way. I kept looking at what others were doing and was jealous and angry that everyone else was getting attention and I wasn’t. I was annoyed that mediocrity was passing as success and I questioned the decisions I made to try to fit in with everyone else. I started to see how this thirst for fame was getting in the way of trying to create from an authentic place. I needed to go back to the drawing board because this could not be life. I couldn’t operate from a place of disdain; it’s not healthy. I needed to work on myself first.

Self-help and wellness turned into my refuge and gave me strength. The more I worked on myself the more I found the willpower to move forward and do the things that scared me. Taking care of my mental health and absorbing as much information as I could made me take notice that if I was going to be successful in anything that I did, I needed to learn how to validate myself. I needed to stop comparing myself to others, learn to love myself, and trust in the decisions I made. Reasons like these are what made me realize that prioritizing wellness alongside pursuing creative endeavors was a must. I’ve been able to use personal challenges and everyday experiences to find a path to clarity and a path to my WHY.
My WHY comes from a place of finding purpose within uncertainty and doubt. My WHY comes from being too scared to try and needing to show that my fears were self-inflicted. I blog because I needed to find something to believe in and that needed to be myself. I do this because in the midst of personal turmoil, I turned struggles into action. I do it because whether I’m capable of having a self-sustaining business or not, I have already accomplished more than imagined by simply starting. I want people to come to For Tha Masses and see someone who doesn’t have it all figured out yet but is still trying to do something from an authentic place. I believe in people and I want people to believe in themselves and in others. I want my art to uplift others and support businesses with mindful business practices that operate with the intent of prioritizing people, the community, and the environment because this is deeply personal to me.

It has taken me years to get to this place of assurance but I’m happy I’ve stumbled and questioned myself more times than I can count before getting to this state of mind. If I didn’t struggle I would never have thought that wellness was essential to life. I would have continued to search for work that didn’t align with my personal beliefs or may have compromised those beliefs in the process.  As Simon puts it, “Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention”. I wish I had heard those words years ago to keep me from overworking myself and my mind and instead enjoy the process of discovery. But now that I know my WHY, anytime doubt or fear shows its ugly head, I have my personal mission to keep me grounded and focused. Starting from WHY cuts out all the noise and serves as a check-in point. Now that I know my WHY I feel better and more eager than ever to continue to follow my moral compass. Like all things, I don’t know where this will lead but if I can inspire someone to simply start, then all this work will be worthwhile.

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