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Sabbatical #1

I’m gonna be switching things up a little bit in this episode. This is one of what I’m calling my mini sabbatical episodes.

In case you didn’t know, I’ve decided to start taking every 7th week off as a sabbatical. The purpose being to relax, plan, write, and focus on my secondary passions like creating music or art.

What is your WHY?

Today, I want to talk about this idea of the WHY for a moment. What is your WHY? What are you about?

Sure, you have certain pursuits you are fond of and things you enjoying doing, but what is your greater purpose?

Here’s an example: for me, instead of saying podcasting, or writing, or making videos, or doing lettering, my WHY is helping people make a living with their passion. Your WHY might be to enable business owners to visually communicate their message to potential customers. Your WHY might be to assist people in living more healthy or holistic lives.

This is good to know. If you don’t know your WHY, spend some time reflecting on what you’re about. What is your greater purpose? Give yourself some quiet time and space away from the doing.

That’s much like what I’m doing now. As you listen to this, I’m in Colorado, stepping back from my regular commitments. We need that distance to keep ourselves centered and not to get caught up in the busyness of life.

I have my WHY, now what?

The goal is to get people on board with your WHY.

This is how you build an audience, this is how you gain a following, this is how you sell products or services, get speaking engagements, sell books, build community, and ultimately get supported. Your WHY is very important.

However the WHY is intangible. It’s like a mist. People can’t grasp a mist. Humans are physical beings and we deal with the physical every day. Abstract concepts are difficult to convey.

People need a tangible handle to grasp. They need something real and they need a story. They need to know what you’re about.

The reality is that people put other people in boxes. There are too many people in the world and too many facets to each person for people to fully wrap their minds around. The way I like to put it is:

The world cannot process your awesomeness.

They’re going to put you in a box. That’s not anything you can control. It’s just a fact. You can’t prevent people from putting you in a box, but if you curate your output to a very specific thing, you CAN control what kind of box they put you in.

The simpler you’re able to make the concept of what you’re about, the more palatable you make yourself. The more people are able to process you—the easier it is for them to get what you’re about.

Does this mean you have to be a boring person? No, of course not. We all have many intricacies about ourselves. It’s ok to enjoy many things, but I’m talking about limiting what you put out to a single thing.

A common problem I see is people who have this grandiose WHY. They have this great purpose and this thing they’re about. They have a vision, and they want people to get on board with that. They want people to get in with their WHY.

The problem is this WHY is intangible. Again, it’s a mist. The WHY is a mist. People cannot grasp the mist.


I want to introduce this concept I came up with today while called WHAT → WHY → WHATS.

Let’s take a step back for a moment. What are we talking about here? We’re talking about getting people into your WHY.

The way you get people into your WHY is through something tangible.

You need something real. Something they can grasp. That is your WHAT. Your WHAT is the something real.

People can’t grasp the mist, they need something real. Your something real could be anything:

  • It could be writing.
  • It could be logo design.
  • It could be painting.
  • It could be music production.

But whatever it is, you are limited to one thing. That initial WHAT is singular. You have to simplify (Related: e074 Curate What You Share).

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

“But Sean, I have a bunch of things I’m good at!”

Here’s the deal: You can either be known for one thing or you can be known for nothing (Related: e105 What if I’m Jack of All Trades and Master of None?). You have to curate your output.

This one thing is the handle your audience can grasp. This is how they are able to pull themselves into your WHY. The WHAT is a reflection of the WHY.

You have your WHY internally, that’s fine, but you will never be known for that WHY if you don’t start with the single WHAT. It’s the physical, tangible, embodiment and personification of the WHY.

This is the only way for people to “get” what you’re about. Once they “get” the WHY through the vessel of your initial WHAT, then they’ll be on board! They’ll be on board for your other WHATS.

That’s the last piece: WHATS. Those are the many other things you get use to express your WHY!

All of those things that you’re good at and all of the things you want to do, you get to do eventually—just not at first.

Once people are on board, they can follow you to the next thing. They can’t process all of your awesomeness at once, but once they understand what you’re about (because you simplified it for them), they can follow you to the next thing. They understand your WHY and now they’re able to see all of your future WHATS as an embodiment of that WHY.

If you want to become known, if you want your WHY to matter and for people to hear about it, you have to first project a single WHAT. That is the only way you will become known and be able to impart your WHY onto anyone.

Food for thought

  • What is your initial WHAT?
    • What is the one, single thing you are projecting?
  • What is your WHY?
    • You might need to think about this one. Give yourself some time to reflect.
  • What are your future WHATS?
    • What are the things you’re choosing not to do right now? The good news is, this doesn’t mean you don’t ever get to do them, they just need to wait until later. Trying to project all of them now would be a disservice to your WHY.