having a strong "why"

The common thread among the most successful people inhabiting this planet is that they are all driven by a strong “why”. They are all on a sacred journey to fulfill their mission. A great example is Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks.

On a chilly day in the month of January, 1961, Howard’s father Fred Schultz, a diaper delivery serviceman, accidentally fell on a sheet of ice and broke his hip and his ankle. Howard, who was only seven years old at that time, couldn’t get the aftermath of this incident out of his mind. Schultz once said, “That image of my father, slumped on the family couch, his leg in a cast unable to work or earn money, and ground down by the world is still burned into my mind.” 

When this accident took place, the Schultz family was residing in a Brooklyn housing project. Along with having no source of income to make ends meet, they had no health insurance, no worker’s comp, and no severance. Young Howard, being hugely impacted by this turn of events, vowed that if he ever got in a position to take care of people, he would address their needs and strive to make a difference in their lives.

This story was present at the core of almost every initiative that Starbucks took under Schultz’s leadership: health benefits for people who worked part-time, an employee stock purchase program, veterans hiring and tuition assistance. 

Howard Schultz often told this story of his father to drive home the mission and company values of Starbucks. This story was the engine, the “why” behind the company’s programs and initiatives. 

Starbucks is a manifestation of Schultz’s vision to build a company that understands the needs of its people and treats them as a first-class citizen with respect and dignity, the kind of treatment that his father never received. He proudly said, “Starbucks has become a living legacy of my dad.”

We all need a compelling story — a strong “why” — that serves as the foundation for the actions and endeavors we participate in. Without a sacred mission, any project or business won’t last long. To put a spin on what Proverbs instruct, “Where there is no vision, businesses perish.”

With a mission and a vision that inspires people and brings them together to fight for a common cause, success becomes inevitable. As Schultz said, “When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”