In 2013, Simon Sinek, the author and speaker, published, “Start with Why.” He shined a light on story. We learned successful business people first know their "why”. Your why is your purpose, your reason for being, and for getting out of bed in the morning. I admire his work.
And in developing my own books and my branding business over the last 25 years, I’ve discovered that starting with “what” can be a more potent question.
Your what is your personality, who you are in the world, and your joy.
I got my start as a bestselling kids book author and made the unlikely first move into branding with a Fortune 100 company because I saw that what makes a classic kids book is the same thing that makes an iconic brand.
Why is a question that looks first for its answer to your head. What looks straight to your heart. Brand = heart first followed by head.
Try this experiment at home boys and girls: All you need is an old bookshelf, and/or a still active memory and a willingness to do what my unwitting brand guru, George Carlin, referred to as “think off-center.”
So here’s my question: what’s the first book you were read as a child? Likely this isn’t something you have thought about recently so give it a moment. What was the first book you loved? Maybe you asked to have it read over and over although you had l00 other choices of books on your shelf.
Can you remember resonating with a character in the story? Maybe the hero? Was it a happy memory? Maybe not so pleasant? Either way, are you willing to consider for just one moment the influence this character/story had and continues to have on you today?
My book is If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss. I can still feel myself feeling as Gerald McGrew, the hero, certain good was good enough. But if he had his way, he would make it even better. He saw more possibilities than anyone else could see and strived to make those real.
This is not about resurrecting your inner child. It’s not about remembering Captain Underpants and then running around the office in your skivvies. It’s about reconnecting with what fascinates you.
In my case, I don’t work with a client or have a discovery call without hearing possibilities I know they are not yet aware of.
I have seen or listened to people’s voices light up before me, transformed, without their even knowing it the minute they recall their book. I’ve watched how they quickly go on to answer any remaining why’s, develop a strong voice, rebrand, refuse to curb their enthusiasm and in some instances get New York Times bestsellers, start-ups, or go on to sell their company for a half billion dollars I’ve heard titles from Go Dog Go to Matilda to Goodnight Moon to an exec who never had a story read to him. But he watched Kurosawa movies when he was four.
Show me that story and I’ll start showing you your brand.
Thank you for reading.