Starting with Why

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"Imagine a world where people wake up every day inspired to go to work, feel safe while they are there, and return home at the end of the day feeling fulfilled by the work they do, feeling that they have contributed to something greater than themselves."

Let these words from Simon Sinek, author of the viral mega-hit book and motivational video "Start with Why," sink in for a few moments.

Is this kind of world even within the realm of your imagination? Or are you, like so many others, cynical that we can find or create those kinds of workplaces and build those kinds of incredibly satisfying careers?

Is it possible to find fulfillment building pools and servicing pools?

For so many people, their work is simply something they must do, something that pays the bills. Sure, they may enjoy it. There may even be days when they could say they love it. Overall though, the weekend can't get here soon enough, right?

I used to feel this way about my work and the various jobs I held, until I discovered my own why.

I'm often asked — by customers, suppliers and other people in the industry — how I ended up as The Pool Girl, co-owner of Legendary Escapes with Al Curtis. Of all the possible careers open to me, why am I here?

It all started about a dozen years ago when I had the opportunity to join the pool company. At the time, I was a single mom with two kids to support. The pool company offered a decent paycheck, flexibility when I needed it for the kids and an opportunity to help grow a business from the inside out.

Saying yes was easy. The larger question is: Why have I stayed when I've had so many other choices over the years?

With a four-year college degree in psychology and a solid background in marketing, there were any number of other ways I could spend my time that were a lot more glamorous than standing in mucky pool water or ankle deep in mud.

And while these opportunities paraded before me, there were times I was tempted. I stayed because the pool industry in general, and this company in particular, became the place where I could find the kind of fulfillment that only comes from living my own why.

I remember as a kid one of my all-time favorite books was "The Handy Girls Can Fix It" (Peggy Kahn, 1984). The book was about a group of girls who like to work with their hands and begin to offer their services doing painting, gardening and other odd jobs around the neighborhood. Eventually they help two younger kids in the neighborhood by creating a clubhouse for them, and discover how much fun it is to give back.

What has always stayed with me is the cool vibe of the clubhouse atmosphere; as I read that book again and again I could feel how awesome it must have been to be in that group, with everyone contributing their particular talents to make the end product the best it can be.

It makes perfect sense, then, that I fell in love with the pool business. Our company has always offered an encouraging, supportive environment, in which each person can contribute his or her own personal talents to the whole. Now that I am co-captain of this ship, I focus on this legacy and work hard to maintain and grow that atmosphere from the front office to the field.

In the course of creating this company, we've also created a clubhouse for grownups. Al and I love surrounding ourselves with interesting things and interesting people, so it seemed like a natural extension of our work to open a clubhouse where business owners could share and contribute and enjoy hanging out.

Our "office" space has expanded over the years to include meeting rooms and lounge areas where our club members and friends can drop in, hang out, learn from each other and find support.

Through our mastermind and marketing groups that we have created, we help small business owners discover their own why. We help them learn how to market their business using organic marketing principles that we applied to our pool company, teaching and sharing through examples and experience. In turn, they are able to apply the same principles and make it work for them.

Through our work with young people in the community, we see them discover their talents and grow as individuals, while they realize that we are all life-long learners regardless of our own educational backgrounds or pursuits.

Through our work with our own pool crews and office staff, we take this same kind of supportive approach. Our team also happens to be predominantly women, both in the office and on the construction team. This is not because we set out to hire more women than men, it's because so many young women started to ask if they could work with us, and as it turns out, they enjoy the work and do an outstanding job. We are able to accomplish great things with our very non-stereotypical construction crew.

Our entire team is included in discussions of our collective "why." We also go over each individual's "why" at our weekly team meetings, including an important question: "Does it make you happy with your role on our team?" The end goal for our workers is not to stay in the pool industry for ever — unless that's what they truly want to do, and in that case we'll support them in any way we can. Instead, our goal is to empower our employees to find their own why, and find the courage to go seek that out in a big, bold way.

As I reflect again on Simon's words, I can imagine that kind of world, that kind of career. I've helped to create it, and I consider it a rare and beautiful privilege to go to work with these people every day.

I hope you'll take a moment to reflect on your inner why, and bring more of that into the world.

What can you imagine? What's your why?

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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