Simon Says “Start With WHY”

One of the most important books I ever read was Start with Why by Simon Sinek. If you don’t have time to read it, go right to the Ted Talk. Simon explains it all; including that — how over time, what we do will change, but if we are clear on WHY we are undertaking a task, we are moved to adapt. Let me illustrate with two ideas.

When I was growing up I learned about ice boxes from my grandmother, I had only seen pictures of them in books. Before the 1920s (my grandmother was born in 1908) a delivery person would show up at your house with a block of ice; and the block of ice would be put into an ice box to keep your food cold. Fast forward to my childhood, I thought this was outrageous and messy…ice melts! By the time my grandmother married, everyone had an electric refrigerator which they still called the “ice box.” Nevertheless the WHY was the same — keeping food cold kept it safe for consumption; but of course the electric refrigerator was better.

So let’s think about some of our own history and how it relates. Early Intervention has changed over time. It started out that if you had a child who was not typically developing, you would take the child to a professional office for help. You might have also been able to find a preschool for other children like your child, and enroll them into this exclusive type of school. By 1988 we came to you; we helped parents work with their children to help them develop. We helped the parent and child by using routines-based strategies in ways that fit into each respective families’ daily patterns of life. In our Early Learning program we used to serve only children with disabilities, but transformed to serve the entire community; INCLUDING children with diverse needs. Now all children attend school with their neighbors, and learn about each other.

The WHY was the same in both approaches; each helps children develop to their fullest. We did better when we moved to the routines-based approaches because we recognized the needs of the family at a deeper level; and honored the primary purpose of parenting. We moved to serving all children in our Early Learning Centers, regardless of their abilities because we recognized the importance of normalizing diverse abilities and including everyone.

We can think of other examples of how things change for the better over time, and each of those stories will all have a WHY. It is within the stories of successful change — that we see possibilities more clearly, and begin to mobilize what we have at our disposal today — to make wonderful improvements for tomorrow. I know that doesn’t make change easy, but it does inspire it.

I don’t want an ice box; and if I had a child today who was not typically developing, I would not want them segregated from the rest of the community. I think if we all stop to ask WHY we will stay on course to make dreams come true.