#20 WHY and the Human Brain: My Brain Might Be Wired For WHY

I am surrounded by Apple stuff. It started with a single computer many years ago. Microsoft had just crapped out another buggy version of Windows, and I broke down. I bought an iMac for my kids.

Fast forward to today. We currently have...

  • 8 Macs
  • 5 iPhones
  • 4 Apple Airport routers
  • 3 iPads
  • 1 Apple TV
  • 1 Apple Watch
  • 1 Apple Pencil
  • 1 family subscription to Apple Music. 

What the hell happened?

My brain fell hook line and sinker for Apple’s WHY. At least that’s what Simon Sinek, who I mentioned in the prior two posts here and here, would say. He would tell you that at the time of my very first Apple purchase, my brain was locked in a tug of war battle.

Brain tug of war.001.jpeg

My limbic brain was falling in love with Apple. That's the part that handles feelings, emotion, and decision making.  On the other end of the rope was my neocortex. The logical, analytical, rational part of my brain. The part that creates lists of Pro’s and Con’s. The part that was telling me not to buy the Mac because it was overpriced and under-featured.

So what happened? How did I end up with all this Apple stuff? Well, even in a logic-driven person like me, the limbic brain makes the decisions. It doesn’t give two shits about cost because it's driven by emotion. And the more I learned about Apple, the more emotionally attached I became to their WHY. Their disregard for the status quo. Their rebellious nature. 

Before reading Sinek’s book I never thought about how all this Apple stuff snuck into our house. It never crossed my mind that it was there to prove to the world that I’m a rebel just like them. But he’s right. Apples slogan’s appeal to me at some emotional level.


Here's how Sinek explains it in his book Start With Why...

“We all know someone who is a die-hard Mac lover. Ask them WHY they love their Mac. They WON’T tell you, “Well, I see myself as someone who likes to challenge the status quo, and it’s important for me to surround myself with the people, products and brands that prove to the outside world who I believe I am.” Biologically, that’s what happened. But that decision was made in the part of the brain that controls behavior but not language. So they will provide a rationalization: “It’s the user interface. It’s the simplicity. It’s the design. It’s the high quality. They’re the best computers. I’m a creative person.” In reality, their purchase decision and their loyalty are deeply personal. They don’t really care about Apple; it’s all about them.” 

And, just as Sinek predicts, I've said those exact things. If you asked me what I liked about Apple my limbic brain stayed mute.  I responded with my neocortex - beautiful user interface, simplicity, quality etc.

But now you know the truth. No matter what anyone says, emotion drives major decisions. But why do I get emotional about this stuff? Here's another Sinek quote that answers that question.

“Our desire to feel like we belong is so powerful that we will go to great lengths, do irrational things and often spend money to get that feeling”

So the WHY stuff, at it's most basic level is about our primal need, as human beings, to belong. I don't need an Apple computer - I need to feel like I'm part of the group Apple represents. In the same vein, your employees don't needyour paycheck - there are other places to work. But they do yearn for something they can belong to. And to me, that's the primary power of WHY for the small business. Customers and marketing come later. The real magic of WHY is harnessing it to build an amazing team. 

Listen to these powerful words from researcher, TED talk guru, and author, Brene Brown from her book Daring Greatly

“Connection is why we’re here. We’re hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.”

To be a business owner that rises above the pack, you must offer connection. You must offer heartfelt, consistent personal and business WHY's that people can latch on to. 

Or there will be suffering. Yours and theirs.

Next time we’ll talk about how to find your personal WHY. And I might even go first and share mine if I can work up the courage…

***NOTE: This site works best when you read the posts in order. So please head to the ARCHIVE if you’re new here.