When first meeting someone, the conversation usually begins by asking the question, “What do you do?” or “What are you doing here/there?” It’s not too often that one will be asked, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” Over and over again, since accepting the position as an AgriCorps Fellow, people have asked me the singular question regarding “what it is” that I will be doing rather than asking me “why” I decided to choose this as my occupation. Sure, it’s important and exciting to understand and communicate effectively the answer to the question about what you are doing in your work, job, career, etc., but the question too often left unaddressed is “Why?”
The question of why I do what I do has stuck with me since I first heard the TED talk from Simon Sinek on his topic about “Starting with Why.” Listening to that short 14 minute video changed me in a way I have never really been able to explain. Something from that talk hit me hard. From that point in my life, My “why” has gone through many revisions over the years. Since the development of my first “why” statement in high school, I have constructed a personal “why” statement that encompasses my life, my career objectives, and whatever it may be that I am currently pursuing.
So often we get caught up in the question of, “What is it that you do?” that the next question of “why” is never asked. Typically, in American culture this “what” is put at much higher importance because the norm is to be able to accurately explain your job, position, role, etc. We enjoy talking about ourselves and what we do in our work because that is generally what our society deems to be the most relevant. In Ghana, there is not much difference, especially as an obroni (white person), coming into a community. Everyone wants to know what it is that you are doing here along with what you are going to help them, the community members, with. The “why” is something that is not evident unless we go out of our way to explain it thoroughly. However, similar to the American society, Ghanaians enjoy being social and they want outsiders to explain their reason for coming to their community. This, still does not always lead us to fully answering the question “why,” but more of the “what.”
Since training and preparation began for my journey to the county of Ghana, my personal “why” has shifted and reformed to its most current version: “Doing all the good I can, by all the means I can, in all the ways I can, in all the places I can, at all the times I can, to all the people I can, as long as I ever can through agriculture, global food security, leadership development, and education.” (adapted from John Wesley). I couldn’t think of a better quote to center my life goals around as it encompasses every aspect of the “why.” Through my “why” I hope to encourage others around the world to understand the importance of each point in my statement. During my time in Ghana I want to share my “why” and hopefully inspire others to take the time to answer the question, “Why do I do what I do?”
During pre-service training here in Ghana we visited several farms, farmers, and organizations to learn more about the Ghanaian agricultural industry, since many of us, including myself, have very little knowledge on the subject. Throughout the two weeks of training we have learned a great deal about the types of crops Ghana as a country grows and produces. It was all very exciting! Throughout, I continued to ask the question, “Why?” in the back of my mind regarding certain practices and procedures at each stop we made.
As pre-service training has been winding down, myself and the other eight AgriCorps Fellows are preparing to enter the communities in which we have been placed. Engaging with community members, school officials, and students will be a sure-fire way to share our own personal “why’s” for coming to Ghana, along with our beliefs about agricultural education, food security, and leadership through youth. Each of us come from very different backgrounds, and while we all have our various reasons for choosing AgriCorps, it will be us sharing our stories of “why” that remains the most important aspect for the community members, students, and farmers to understand what we are coming to do: working alongside farmers, students, and teachers to help them find solutions to current issues they may be dealing with. We are coming to learn from them just as much as we are coming to share our knowledge. As stated before, each of our “why’s” may be different, they may be similar, but we all are here to grow together and to become successful together. Success starts with identifying your “why” and going through with it. If you say it, DO IT! A motivational speech I heard from Chispa Motivation explains that if we do what we say we are going to do 70% of the time, we will be average. If we do what we say we are going to do 80% of the time, we will be really good. But, if we do what we say we are going to do 90% of the time, we will be great! Why? Because very few people do what they say they are going to do! People don’t buy what you do, they buy “WHY” you do it, and they aren’t going to buy it if you don’t deliver what you say you are going to do.
My story in Ghana begins with just one simple word… “WHY?”
What is your why?
Kelse Brown is an Agricultural Education graduate from The Ohio State University. Before serving as an AgriCorps Fellow Kelse worked at the Georgia FFA Summer Leadership Camp.