The Most Important Question You May Ever Ask Yourself!

What’s in Your Top Box?

It’s a question I heard from Bill Hybels way back at the 2015 Global Leadership Summit. Bob Buford was asked the same question from a high-powered strategic planner he hired as he was considering how to move from success to significance in the second half of his life.

I’ve asked that question of myself more than once during my 35-year career as a business owner, employee, leader, and now in ministry.

It’s a question that each one of us needs to ask ourselves. Whether in our business, our home, our ministry, or in any role where people look to us to bring a sense of purpose to our mission.

So what do I mean by your Top Box? Every day we wake up to limitless potential. So often we look at the day as just one more 24 hour period of meandering through life just grinding it out to get to the thing we love most; weekends and holidays. Wondering what it is that we’ve been placed on this planet to do or who we were meant to be. Could that be more depressing? We were created with a purpose and need to ask the right questions and seek out the wisdom to determine why. Mark Twain nailed it when he said this – “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” So think about it. As you consider what the driving force is behind why you do what you do, ask yourself what’s really in my Top Box?

A simple parallel may be considered as you envision an old, deeply rooted tree. The root system represents our core values, beliefs, and mission. Who we are and why we exist. The trunk, our operating principles. How we do things. The branches represent the culture or behaviors that exist in our organization. The fruit – The Results. Those results ultimately reflect back to the roots; our mission and the WHY behind doing what we do.

Besides coaching and consulting with CEOs and business owners I’ve had the privilege of owning and leading a small business that provided guests with some of the best food packed in a glass jar.  We closed the doors after 20 years of operation in 2017. Originally located in the village of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, Intercourse Canning Company (ICC) offered a seemingly countless variety of canned edibles. Pickled vegetables, jams, jellies, relishes, salsas, sauces, fruits, dressings, and more were on our shelves. You name it. That’s the real “fruit” of the labor of many hard-working folks and originating with our Creator. The ‘what’ and ‘how’ are obvious. The WHY? Not so much.  You may have said, “To feed people.” I say it was more than that. It was to care for those, while on vacation, who were looking for a place to enjoy themselves and disconnect from the pressures of life. Yes, they purchase specially crafted and unique food but really it was about the experience they had when they walked through our front doors. To graze on incredible samples of a variety of goodies; to see how canning was done the old-fashioned way and learn how it all started. Our team members were charged with the mission to make the experience a special and memorable one. That’s the “Why.” To create a moment that they’d talk about for quite some time and when chowing down on the “fruit of our labor” they’d smile about the respite from life during their visit.

Howard Schultz, who built Starbucks, challenged his team to remember that “we don’t just sell coffee; we provide a third place in people’s lives. A critically important space between their work and home for people to gather their thoughts or gather with friends. This is for sure. Our why is so much deeper than selling coffee and it’s worth giving our best efforts to.”

In order to accomplish its vision, Southwest Airlines needed every one of its executives, pilots, and employees to work together for a common purpose. A paycheck is usually enough to get most people to work on time, but only an inspiring purpose beyond a paycheck would encourage people to go the extra mile. According to Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, “Southwest is a great place to work and brings the greatest joy because we have such meaningful purpose.” A purpose should answer the question, “Why do we exist?” Southwest has stated the following as their purpose:

 “We exist to connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”

Southwest Airlines has been operating for 50 years. Remarkably, after 40+ consecutive years of profitably, they never rested on their laurels. Like all true customer service champs, Southwest executives and employees are always striving to improve their service, culture, and to create even more loyal customers.

Reflecting on your unique “WHY” will reveal that whatever you have in your “Top Box” is either fueling you to more dizzying heights of significance or forcing you to re-think exactly why it is that you do what you do. If it’s just for the money I challenge every one of you to go deeper.

I want to ask you something again, and depending on your answer, may not only change YOUR life but countless others you serve, for an eternity.

What is in your top box?



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