A year ago, I stumbled across a TED talk from Simon Sinek “Start with why”. It resonated strongly with me and what followed was a journey of rethinking, of questioning, of resetting, but also of joy, excitement and inspiration.
Every road I took on that journey always ended with the question: “Are you the person you want to be? Why do you do what you do? What’s my purpose in the grander scheme of things?”
Memories and stories that inspire
I looked further into Simon Sinek and sought inspiration from his second book – “Find your why”. This book gives guidance on how to get to the very roots of your personality using specific techniques and methods to assist you on this journey.
It begins by taking a “rocking chair perspective”, looking back at your life and the stories which you have collected. Stories about special personalities you met, stories that changed or challenged your way of thinking, stories that inspired you and stories that touched your heart.
One of my stories happened on a company sports trip to a small farmers’ organization (BESH). I originally organized this trip to educate adidas employees on how to make better and more sustainable food choices. However, I came back inspired by the founder of BESH, Rudolf Bühler.
Rudolf Bühler’s story
After studying agriculture and traveling the world working in community development, Rudolf Bühler came back to his hometown in Germany, Schwäbisch Hall, to take over the family business. He noticed that the new direction of the livestock farming industry and government policies were destroying the culture and livelihood of many local farmers. Determined to reform the agriculture in his region, he founded a small farmer community focusing on high quality standards and guidelines. This meant eliminating the use of growth promoters or GMOs, strict rules on the use of antibiotics and creating procedures to ensure the farmers could sustain their livelihood and that the animals were treated with respect.
He started by traveling the country to rebuy old local breeds, which were in danger of extinction due to efficiency reasons. To support the processing and availability of local meat, he created a co-op to invest in the restoration of the slaughterhouse and saved it from being closed. In doing so, he needed to make sure he had the ingredients necessary to process the meat.
When the local spice markets were unable to provide the quality of spices he desired, he took a trip to India and met with spice farmers there. He educated them on how to farm according to organic guidelines and helped them to become independent. Furthermore, he created a direct system without middlemen ensuring to always pay them double the market price. BESH now has over 1,400 members.
Walking the walk
I was deeply touched by his story – Rudolf not only fought for his livelihood, he also ensured that the people around him, and his suppliers in India, could make a decent living.
How did he achieve all this? Well, he led by example. Instead of forcing his opinion upon others, his actions inspired those around him. He was not motivated by money but was driven to stand up for the better treatment of the animals, the environment and the farmers, both in Germany and India.
Fear kills creativity and team play and if everyone is afraid and trying to save themselves, no one will stand up for each other and no one will help one another. In an environment without trust, growth and development will never reach their full potential.
That day on the farm I was reminded of that TED talk. Sinek’s statement “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” captured how great leaders inspire people to take action.
Rudolf Bühler’s vision was not to become the biggest meat producing organization in Germany and double his profit, but to create a sustainable, high-quality system that treats animals and farmers on every level with the respect they deserve.
The space and support to find your why
I spent long evenings with a friend collecting stories, writing and rewriting “why” statements and figuring out how to achieve them; always torn between staying within comfortable habits and finally changing something.
We created a safe environment to be open, honest, challenging and supportive and started to see why the personalities of Simon and Rudolf resonate so strongly within me.
Trust and caring were values that came up again and again in discussions until finally an action point for how to live my why was clear – I’m all about ‘providing and helping to find trust’.
When your why doesn’t align with your reality
As I took the next step thinking about what I could actually do, the realities of my career became clear: my jobs never put me in a management position where I could provide a trusted caring workplace to others. So how could I follow Simon’s thoughts on leadership or Rudolf’s example of how to take care of the people around you?
It was time to pick apart my job. As a nutritionist I interact with a lot of people. I started to realize that the majority of consultations I had ended up being psychological ones. Often, I had no power to change anything for my clients, but sometimes it just needs one thing, a listening ear.
Everyone has a story to tell. We are who we are, and we act the way we act, because of these stories; in our workplace, in our relationships and also in our nutrition.
I am very grateful for every person that opened up and trusted me with their story and I hope I could help them a little bit as well.
Swapping comfort for purpose
The process of finding my purpose was long and challenging but so much more rewarding than asking myself while sitting on the couch on January 1 every year, what’s important to me?
My answer to myself this year is: “To empower people so they make better-informed choices and find balance and value in their life.” I know it’s a true reflection of who I am and the difference I can make.