Both who and what are words that we use either in questions or in declarations of something. Who did it or what happened? I spoke to someone who IS in charge or what we are about to do will change the direction of our company forever! Can you feel the difference?
Seldom are these words used together.
Examples of what I mean by this would include:
Who we are versus what we are good at. Many people can proclaim that they are self aware but end up deceiving themselves by not being able to pick out their strengths from their average tendencies (or their weaknesses).
What we are good at, demands that we understand what we are not good at. Who we are, most times, ends up as a generalization that has little value. A story that makes us feel good yet gets us nowhere. Who we are is better defined by what we achieve.
Who we know versus what we do. For the boastful, egotistical ones, who we know manifests itself as simply name-dropping. The simple answer of what we do answers how we spend our days but says little as to what we achieve within that day.
When we look at what we do in terms of the outcomes we achieve, we can begin to dig deeper and see that who we know sometimes makes all of the difference. We know personally the five biggest distributors in the country that led to our product being sold everywhere in the United States. Or knowing five successful people in the area of expertise that you have an interest in and talk to them regularly to learn from them. Their perspective helped me through issue A which resulted in our success.
What we find in our lives sometimes molds who we become. The bad situations where we found our strength to persevere. The unexpected introduction led to who we work for. The confusing startup experience led to a deep desire to be creative.
In an opposite way, who we believe we are, will (most times) ultimately choose what we do or not do. This becomes important to think about when the outcomes of our efforts don’t lead to the result we hoped for.
Focusing too much on who we are (or think we are not) will always limit what we can do.
By doing this we may end up working on the wrong things when we don’t think about what we should be doing given the situation. When you focus more on what needs to be accomplished, opportunities begin to appear that are much greater, different, and wider for us to work towards than we first thought (in spite of who we are).
Who and what, as you see, can be great friends when they are used together. They tend to balance each other and keep us from being blinded by only considering one of them.
They also tend to help each other if we first take the time to think through how they should connect every time we strive to do something more (or different) to become more effective.