I’m sure that by now you’ve learned I’m fascinated by grand ideas and big questions, also in business. And it turns out I’m not the only one. One of my long-standing fascinations is related to a concept of “The Golden Circle” by Simon Sinek. Before I go any further and try to apply it to the translation business, like I’ve done during Traduemprende and in Porto, have a look at this video. I recommend watching it from the beginning up until about 4:30. It’s less than 5 minutes and I promise it will change a lot in your business.
Right, so by now you know that my big question is why we translate and what it means for us. When I started translating, I was quite good at communicating the what. Then I learned a bit about marketing, and started communicating the how. And we’re all pretty much there. We all know that it’s not enough to talk about our services or products, but we need to add adjectives like professional, high quality, timely, etc. But the concept of why really changed the way I’m doing business.
Repeating what Simon Sinek said in his video, clients buy why we do it, not what we do. Only this is the first reason why you should work on defining the why behind your business today. But it’s not the only reason. Knowing your why also gives you this enormous confidence and lets you believe in what you do. And this may be an abstract concept, but when translated (pun intended!) into the real-life business, replying to clients, negotiating, or even marketing make more sense with this why in your mind.
I gave this example of my why: “I’m fascinated by the language that changes the reality, and legal language has enormous powers to change lives. I want to make sure it always works right. Because so many things are at stake when dealing with legal language, I have to be very precise and research terminology. Always. And I happen to translate between Polish and English.” It’s not perfect, but I believe in it and stand firmly by it.
I also asked others about their whys. I’ve received over 250 replies on Twitter and in-person. I like collecting them and looking at them for inspiration. Here are some of them:
What I would like you to do now is to draw these circles (or use this worksheet), listen to me talking about The Golden Circle and define your why:
Once you’ve done that, write it down in a comment below!
A couple of weeks after I’ve published this post, I’ve received the following email:
I thought you might appreciate some feedback on your post „Why do you translate?“.
As you already know, I was so inspired by your post that I threw everything over board I had prepared for my class and decided to ask my students exactly this question: Why do you translate? Why do you want to be translator? And not a plumber? Or an economist?
As you had done in Spain, I gave them five minutes to brainstorm and begin to answer that question and I was overwhelmed by the result. Please have a look at the attached picture and see what my beautiful, creative and talented students have done. You can’t actually read the texts (and it’s in German), but I think it is clear from the mere picture that they were excited about the task and the answers they gave were incredibly accurate bearing in mind that we are talking about first and second years here.
I told them I would send you a picture of their work. Do you think you could post it on one of your pages? I would be great if they could see how easy it is to connect with other translators and, above all, that their opinion and contribution (however small) to the community does matter. They know that you did a similar exercise in Spain and seemed to like the idea that they were part of a bigger picture. It would be great if we could encourage them.
Actually, this task inspired them so much that, when we moved on to work on a text, they were more enthusiastic than I had ever seem then (and I had thought they were showing some enthusiasm before; boy, was I wrong!) and we went on to have the best class of this term so far – lots of discussion, great vibe, extremely active. Thank you so much for inspiring me so I could inspire them.
I was very moved when I received this email and the photo. Thank you for being so involved. It’s great to know we’re connected by ideas, even if we live and work far away.