Most of us assume that we know why we do the things what we do. But with that said, how do we explain when things don’t necessarily unfold or end up as we thought or assumed? Better yet, how do we explain when others are able to achieve great things or social change that seems to defy all of the assumptions? For example, why is Apple so innovative year after year? Frankly, they are more creative and innovative than all their competition and yet, they are simply just another computer company. At the end of the day, they are essentially just like every other computer company. All computer companies in the U.S. have the same access to the same talent pool, the same agencies, and the same media outlets…Yet, why is it that they seem to have something different? Why is it that Martin Luther King led the Civil Rights Movement? He certainly wasn’t the only man who suffered in pre civil rights America and he certainly wasn’t the only great speaker of the day. But, why Mr. King? And why is it that the Wright brothers were able to figure out manually controlled flight when there were certainly other folks who were better qualified and better funded? Yet, the Wright brothers beat these other folks and teams to it. How…More importantly, why did this happen? Maybe, we can answer these questions to see and understand both the physical and spiritual applications!

Let’s start by first recognizing and understanding the dynamics of ‘patterns’. All of the great and inspiring leaders and organizations (people with a common belief and goal) in the world, whether it’s Apple or Martin Luther King or the Wright brothers – they all think, act, and communicate the exact same way and it’s the complete opposite to most others. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the world’s most simplest formula and visual for understanding why we do the things that we do and why we are person we are. All of this can be understood by visualizing a big target like what you would see at a gun range. Image a target with three circles. The bullseye is ‘Why’. The second ring is ‘How.’ And the outer ring is ‘What’. This target example will help explain why some organizations (church or business) and their associated leaders are able to inspire where others are not.


Every person and social organization on the planet knows what they do 100% of the time. A portion of these folks know how they do it – but very few people and organizations know why they do what they do. And by ‘why’ I don’t mean to make a profit or to receive a form of gratification – that’s a result. By ‘why’ I mean, what’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your destiny? What’s your belief? Let’s break it down even further – Why does the physical or church organizations that  you currently identify with exist? As a result, the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate is from the outside or the outer ring of the target to the inward. In other words, the way we think and communication typically move outside (what) to inside (why). Unfortunately, this is the norm for most folks and is obvious because we go from the clearest or easiest thing (what something is) to the fuzziest thing (why something is). But inspired leaders and organizations, regardless of their stature and size, all think, act, and communicate from the inside (why) to the outside (what). Let’s look at the following marketing example with the understanding that we all have something to market…Even salvation through Jesus Christ! Hopefully, that doesn’t offend you! But it’s true – how we approach and package communication matters greatly.

Imagine marketing the use and need for an Apple product because they are easy to understand and everybody gets it. If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them may sound like this: We make great computers. They are beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Want to buy one? Meh!

But the truth is that this is how most of us communicate. That’s how most marketing and potential opportunities are communicated and that’s how most of us communicate interpersonally. We say ‘what’ we do, we say ‘how’ we are different or ‘how’ we are better, and we expect some sort of behavioral change, an acceptance of our product, or even an electoral vote.

“Here’s our new law firm. We have the best attorneys with the biggest clients. We always perform for our clients – do business with us.” Or, “Here’s our new car – it gets great gas mileage, it has leather seats and the latest in audio technology – buy our car.” But if we’re honest, these forms of communication are rather mundane and uninspiring.

Here’s how Apple actually communicates – Everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?

If we’re honest, this scenario and form of communication is different, right? You’re really ready to buy a computer and all I did was simply reverse the order of the information. Folks don’t buy into what you do, folks buy into your product in regard to why you do it. This explains why every single person reading this is perfectly comfortable buying a computer from Apple whether you have one or not. Not only that, but we are also perfectly comfortable buying an MP3 player from Apple, or a phone from Apple or a DVR from Apple. But as we read earlier, Apple is just a computer company. There’s nothing that distinguishes them structurally from any of their competitors. Their competitors are all equally qualified to make all of these products. (This is wonderful parallel of the church and its myriad of denominations). In fact, a variety of competitors have tried to match Apple’s results such as Gateway whom came out with flat screen TVs. They are imminently qualified to make flat screen TVs, they have been making flat screen computer monitors for years. Yet, nobody bought one! Dell came out with MP3 players and PDAs and they make great quality products and they can make perfectly well designed products –  yet,  nobody bought one! In fact, talking about it now we can’t even imagine buying an MP3 player from Dell. Why would you buy an MP3 player from a computer company anyway? But we do it everyday. People don’t buy into ‘what’ you do, they buy into ‘why’ you do it.

The first step is not to force relationships and to not necessarily conduct business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to build relationship and to conduct business (strengthen connections within the body) with people who believe what you believe. Here’s the best part. None of what I’m telling you is my opinion. It’s all grounded in the foundation and tenants of biology. It’s not psychology or even prophetic, but biology.

If you look at a cross section of the human brain, looking from the top down, what you see is that the human brain is actually sectioned into three major areas that correlate perfectly with the three ringed target. In the human brain, our neocortex corresponds with the “what” level. The neocortex is responsible for all of our rational and analytical thought and language.

The middle two sections make up our limbic brains and our limbic brain is responsible for all of our feelings, like trust and loyalty. It’s also responsible for all human behavior and decision making, yet it has no capacity for language. In other words, when we communicate from the outside in then yes, people can understand vast amounts of complicated information like features, benefits, facts, and figures, but these understandings don’t drive behavior. When we communicate from the inside (why) outward, we are talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior and then we allow people to rationalize or process it with the tangible things we say and do. This is where gut decisions and supernatural discernment come from.

Look, we can give folks all the facts and figures and they will easily say, “I know what all the facts and details are but it just doesn’t feel right.” Or, “I’m just not ready for that…” We hear this because the part of the brain that controls the decision-making, doesn’t control language and the best we can muster up is, “I don’t know. Or, it just doesn’t feel or seem right.”

Or sometimes you say you’re leading with your heart or you’re leading with your soul. Well, I hate to break it to you, those aren’t other body parts controlling your behavior, that’s all happening in your limbic section of the brain. This is the part of the brain that controls decision-making rather than language. So, if you don’t know why you do what you do and people will always respond to why you do what you do – then how will you ever get someone to vote for you, buy something from you, or more importantly be loyal and want to be a part of what it is that you do and believe? Again, the purpose is not just to sell to people who ‘need’ what you have, the goal and purpose is to present to people who believe in the core tenants and values what you believe. The goal and purpose is not just to lead people who need a leader, it is to lead people who believe what you believe for this is the hand of the Lord drawing people unto Himself. It is Christ in YOU and that he is gloried in bringing hope to others.

It’s easy to look back and understand that if a organization, let’s say, an employer hires people just because they can do a job, they will usually work for the money alone. But if you hire people who believe what you believe and why you believe it, they will work for you with blood, sweat, and tears. And nowhere else is there a better example of this than with the Wright brothers.

Most people don’t know about Samuel Pierpont Langley and back in the early 20th century, the pursuit of powered manned flight was like the dotcom of the day. Everybody was trying it. Samuel Pierpont Langley had what we assume to be the recipe for success. I mean, even now when we ask, “Why did your product or company fail?” People always give you the same permutations of the same three things. Undercapitalized, the wrong people, bad market conditions. It’s always the same three things… So let’s explore that. Samuel Pierpont Langley was given $50,000 by the War Department to figure out how to produce a viable flying machine. Money was no problem. He held a seat at Harvard and worked at the Smithsonian and was extremely well connected. He knew all the great minds of the day. He hired the best minds money could find and the market conditions were fantastic. The New York Times followed him around everywhere and everyone was rooting for Langley. Then why have we never heard of Samuel Pierpont Langley? We’ll come back to this question. But a few hundred miles away in Dayton, Ohio lived Orville and Wilbur Wright. They had none of what we’d consider to be the recipe for success.

They had no money, they paid for their dream with the proceeds from their bicycle shop. Not a single person on the Wright brothers’ team had a college education. Not even Orville or Wilbur. And the New York Times followed them around nowhere. The difference was that Orville and Wilbur were driven by a cause, a purpose, a belief. They believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it will change the course of the world.

Samuel Pierpont Langley was different. He wanted to be rich and he wanted to be famous. He was in pursuit of the result, he was in pursuit of the riches and lo and behold look what happened. The people who believed in the Wright brothers’ dream worked with them with blood, sweat, and tears. The others just worked for the paycheck. And they tell stories about how every time the Wright brothers’ went out, they would have to take five sets of parts because that’s how many times they would crash before they came in for supper. And eventually on December 17, 1903 the Wright brothers took flight and no one was there to even experience it. We found out about it a few days later.

And further proof that Langley was motivated by the wrong thing – the day the Wright brothers took flight, he quit. He could have said, “That’s an amazing discovery guys and I will improve upon your technology.” But he didn’t. He wasn’t first, he didn’t get rich, he didn’t get famous, so he quit. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And if you talk about why you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe. Well, why is important to attract those who believe what you believe?

There is something called the law of diffusion of innovation. And if you don’t know the law, then you definitely know the terminology. The first two and half percent of our population are our innovators. The next 13.5 percent of our population are our early adopters, the next 34% are your early majority, the late majority, and your laggards. The only reason these people buy touchtone phones is because you can’t buy rotary phones anymore. We all sit at various places at various times on this scale but what the law of diffusion of innovation tells us is that if you want mass market success or mass market acceptance of an idea, you cannot have it until you achieve this tipping point between 15 and 18 percent market penetration and then the system tips.

I love asking businesses what’s your conversion on new business and they love to tell you proudly, “Oh, it’s about ten percent.” Well you can trip over ten percent of the customers. We all have ten percent who just “get it”. That’s how we describe them. That’s like that gut feeling. “Oh, they just get it.” The problem is how do you find the ones who just get it before you are doing business with them versus the ones who don’t get it. So, it’s this here, this little gap that you have to close as Geoffrey Moore calls it, “Closing the Chasm.” You see, the early majority will not try something until someone else has tried it first and these guys, the innovators and the early adopters, they are comfortable making those gut decisions. They are more comfortable making those intuitive decisions that are driven by what they believe about the world and not just what product is available. These are the people who stood in line for six hours to buy an iPhone when they first came out. When you could have just walked into a store the next week and bought one off the shelf. These are the people who spent $40,000 on flat screen TVs when they first came out even though the technology was substandard. And by the way, they didn’t do it because the technology was so great. They did it for themselves, it’s because they wanted to be first. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe. In fact, people will do the things that prove what they believe. The reason the person bought the iPhone in the first six hours was because of what they believed about the world and how they wanted everybody to see them. They were first.

So let me give you a famous example – a famous failure and a famous success of the law of diffusion of innovation. First the famous failure. It’s a commercial example. As we said before a second ago, the recipe for success is money, and the right people and the right marketing conditions, and you should have success then. Look at TIVO. From the time TIVO came out about eight or nine years ago to this current day, they are the single, highest quality product on the market. Hands down there is no dispute. They are extremely well funded, market conditions were fantastic. I mean we used TIVO as a word, “I love TIVO stuff on my piece of junk Time Warner DVR all the time.” But TIVO is a commercial failure, they never made money. And when they went IPO their stock was about $30 or $40 dollars and then plummeted and it’s never traded above $10. In fact, I don’t think it’s traded above $6 except a couple of little spikes. Because you see, when TIVO launched their product, they told us all what they had. They said, “We have a product that pauses live TV, skips commercials, rewinds live TV and memorizes your viewing habits without you even asking.” And the cynical majority said, “We don’t believe you. We don’t need it. We don’t like it. You’re scaring us.” What if they had said, “If you are the kind of person who likes to have total control over every aspect of your life, boy do we have a product for you. It pauses live TV, skips commercials, memorizes your viewing habits etc.” People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it and what you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe.

Now let me give you a successful example of the law of diffusion of innovation. In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people showed up on the Mall of Washington, DC. to hear Dr. King speak. They sent out no invitations and there was no website to check the date. How do you do that? Well, Dr. King wasn’t the only man in America who was a great orator. He wasn’t the only man in America who suffered in pre civil rights America. In fact some of his ideas were bad but he had a gift. He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America. He went around and told people what he believed. “I believe, I believe, I believe,” he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause and made it their own and they told people. And some of those people created structures to get the word out to even more people. And lo and behold, 250,000 people showed up on the right day, at the right time to hear him speak. How many of them showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It’s what they believed about America that got them to travel in a bus for eight hours to stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August. It’s what they believed. And it wasn’t about black versus white. Twenty five percent of the audience was white.

Dr. King believed that there were two types of laws in this world: those that are made by a higher authority and those that are made by man and not until all the laws that are made by man are consistent with the laws that are made by a higher authority will we live in a just world. It just so happens that the Civil Rights Movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. We follow him not for him, but for ourselves. And by the way, he gave the I Have a Dream speech not the I Have a Plan speech. Listen to politicians now with their comprehensive 12 point plans, they don’t inspire anybody. Because there are leaders and then there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority but those who lead inspire us, whether they are individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead not because we have to but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why?” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.

Credits: Simon Sinek, Dr. Martin Luther King. Apple Inc., TIVO


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