“So what is your why?” asks the man sitting next to him. Paulo was sitting by his departure gate at the airport waiting for his flight to arrive. It was his first business trip after his first son was born. He was a bit nervous about it but knew that his wife, Alicia, was more than capable of handling any situation that would arise. As he was waiting for the flight, he decided to continue reading his book that his wife had bought him for his trip, Start with Why by Simon Sinek. He was really enjoying the book and was going through it quickly for the same reason. As he’s starting the last chapter he gets interrupted, “So what is your why?” asks the man sitting next to him. “I’m sorry?” Paulo responds after he looks around and realizes the man is talking to him. “I can tell you’re really enjoying that book and are almost done with it, I was just curious if you’ve thought about what your why is as you were reading it. My name is Peter by the way.” responds the man as he extends his hand to shake Paulo’s. Paulo shakes his hand, still puzzled about the question he was being asked and who it was coming from.

One thing to note about Paulo, he is a people person to say the least. He has a way of talking to people that usually leads to interesting and memorable conversations. Rarely did he sit next to someone without starting a conversation, regardless if it was someone he knew or a complete stranger. This time however he was not very aware of his surroundings, maybe it was because of the slight nerves he had about leaving his wife alone with their son for the first time for several days, maybe it was because he was really into the book he was reading. Regardless of the reason, there he was, being approached by a man in a very similar fashion as he would normally approach someone. He liked it and was very eager to continue this conversation with this stranger he now knows as Peter. “Nice to meet you Peter, my name is Paulo. Based on your question, I take it that you’ve read this book before?” asks Paulo. “Answering a question with a question, I take it that you are used to leading the conversation?” responds Peter with a smile. Paulo smiles back and after a short pause responds, “OK, so what is my why, or in other words what is my purpose in life, it is to do something I love while earning enough to provide my family with our desired standard of living and still being able to have enough time and money to give to the people and causes that have meaning in my life.". As Peter is about to speak, Paulo continues, "I know, most of this is pretty general and probably applies to most, let me expand on the something I love. The something I love is to be able to bring better quality education to those areas that are in need of them. I'm not talking about our standard education system built by the industrial age, I'm talking about the type of education that heavily promotes and unleashes creativity and emphasizes on life preparation. I could go on and on about this but I'm sure it's enough to answer your question". Peter responds, "That's very interesting Paulo and a great answer indeed. So is your current job and the reason why you're traveling today related to this purpose?” No, not at all actually. The part of giving to causes that have meaning in my life is where my purpose comes in. Don't get me wrong, I like my job, but the main reason I have it is because it puts me on a path to eventually be able to dedicate my career to this purpose.” responds Paulo. After a hmmm sound coming from Peter, he says, "So is it fair to say your current job is not your true passion then?” Paulo responds, "It's fair to say that. I'm a believer in finding your passion and pursuing it, but many times this is misunderstood. This doesn't mean to only work on those things that you're passionate about. You set your goal based on your passion, but there will be many steps along the way that you need to take to get there that you might not be very passionate about, things that you might even hate doing. But if you keep that goal in mind, that thing you're passionate about, your purpose, it will continue to drive you past any challenge you encounter along the way." I'm impressed Paulo.” Peter responds, "And I agree with your statement, I only wish I knew it when I was your age and maybe I would have gotten to where I am today much sooner. Well, I hear they just called my flight to approach the gate. Here’s my card, it was great to meet you.” Paulo takes a look at the business card and is thrown back when he reads that Peter is the Founder of one of the largest organizations supporting global education. After recovering from the shock he turns towards Peter and finds an empty seat. After looking back at the card then at the seat where Peter was sitting, Paulo says out loud to himself, "And just like that he's gone.” "I'm right here Paulo.” says Peter standing in front of him as Paulo looks up at him with a slight look of embarrassment. “It was a pleasure talking to you Peter.” says Paulo while standing up and shaking Peter’s hand. “The pleasure was all mine. Call me up some time, I would like to hear more about your why." says Peter, then he heads over to his gate.

In the story, when Peter asked Paulo about his why, about his purpose, Paulo was quick to answer as he already had his purpose pretty well defined. This is not the case for many of us, and if you fall in this category and have a few minutes to spare, doing a short exercise on finding your purpose is a worthwhile exercise. There's a lot of good stuff out there, just google "exercise to find your purpose" and pick something that's believable to you. Or just pick up a sheet of paper and start writing. It might be rough the first time you do it, but you'll at least start narrowing it down and eventually get to where you want to be.

The two most important days in life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

Author's Bio: 

My name is Hector Lopez. I grew up in a small town in south Texas. I graduated with a degree in Manufacturing Engineering and work brought me to Houston where I have lived most of my adult life and currently reside with my beautiful amazing wife and two extraordinary sons.
I started my professional career working as a Manufacturing Engineer. Seven years into my career I took on a new role as a Performance Analyst. In this role I was challenged to change the culture of the work force to a culture of continuous improvement and this challenged me to change my entire way of thinking and put me on a new path. This led me to finding my true passion, becoming a student of human behavior. This also made continuous improvement become second nature to me and am always striving to find ways to implement what I learn as well as share it as a way of giving back to society.