Our default setting as human beings is “How.” When an opportunity or challenge arises, we typically ask, “How do I do this?”
1: The problem with this mindset? If we try to do everything ourselves, we severely limit the resources available to us. And if our resources are limited, so is our potential, our options, and our future, write Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy in Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork.
A better approach? Focus on Who, not How.
Because when we combine our efforts with other Whos, our power and impact immediately increase. “Relationships are how [we] transform as a person,” Dan and Ben write. “Relationships are how [we] transcend [our] current limitations. Relationships are how [we] produce results. Relationships are the purpose of life.”
As we engage in relationships, we unlock the resources that others bring. “Resources can be financial, but they can also be so much more than that. Encouragement, time, and focus are just as essential as monetary support,” the authors write. “Resources not only expand [our] ability to produce results, but can have a transformational effect on us as people—on how we see ourselves and on what we believe we are capable of achieving.”
Let’s say we want to learn to play the piano. We open up new resources to help us with our goal by engaging a piano teacher.
2: This reality became clear to co-author Ben Hardy when he and his wife Lauren became foster parents to three small children. “These kids came from a very limiting environment,” Dan and Ben write. “They were neglected by their parents, not given the attention or resources they needed, and were, frankly, left in front of the television all day. In that situation, these kids didn’t have much potential. They couldn’t produce results, even with their best efforts.
“But with a change in their environment and context, all of a sudden, they had a very different potential. They had access to additional resources through us. This included our home and money, but also our energy and our time. We invested (and still do) a great deal into these kids. We got them private tutors, as they were all behind in school. We got them into therapy, supported their interest in sports, took them to church, and traveled all over the United States with them.
“They also benefited from the expanded resources of our extended families, such as loving grandparents who took them on fishing trips and cruises, and tons of cousins to play with and love. They had access to our knowledge and perspectives, and even our spiritual beliefs. All of these additional resources and experiences transformed our children.
“Through tutoring they developed skills and confidence they otherwise would not have. Thus, their future learning and opportunities expanded. Through therapy, church, and close relationships, they’ve learned how to emotionally regulate, handle stress and anxiety, and better understand their challenges and experiences. Through travel and family experiences, as well as being surrounded by people who love them and are successful, they have better self-esteem and a higher level of goals and expectations for themselves than they had before.”
Even extreme problems like overcoming addiction are aided by the people in our lives.
“As writer and journalist Johann Hari famously stated in his hit TED Talk, ‘The opposite of addiction is not sobriety—it is human connection,'” Dan and Ben write. “Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), for many addicts, becomes an incredible resource of Whos. The ‘addict’ is truly ready to change when they stop trying to do it solely by themselves and when they openly admit they need help, both from a Higher Power and other people.”
3: Relationships have the power to transform our lives. And relationships benefit both parties. As leaders and entrepreneurs, our associates, collaborators, and consultants work for us “not because they are beneath [us],” Dan and Ben write, “but because they believe in [us.] We become an incredibly important Who in their life, giving them a mission to be part of, a way to provide for themselves and their families, and a way to build competence and confidence.”
As the great Zig Ziglar would say, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
We expand ourselves and our impact through our relationships. Which is why we want to challenge our default “How” response and instead start by asking “Who”.
“Ultimately, anyone who becomes highly successful does so through relationships,” Dan and Ben observe. “Success becomes increasingly about Who and less about How.”
Reflection: Where is my vision so small because I’m trying to do everything myself?
Action: Journal about it. Discuss with a colleague or friend.