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Neighbors and local leaders who understand their why

When you wake up on Monday morning, why do you get out of bed? It might be to get the kids ready for school. You may run a few miles, hit the gym, or write a chapter for your book. Maybe you’re anxious to head to the lab, knowing you’re close to a breakthrough, or you’re excited to kick off a new campaign to raise money to help those less fortunate. Something gets you vertical.

It all comes down to “why.” Why are you motivated to do the things you do? Our community, and the world, advance and progress thanks to people driven by their why. Brevard County is full of people who understand their why and who chase down dreams with passion and purpose.

We asked several people who excel in different areas of life and career about their why. Why get involved in politics. Why leave a tech company to lead a non-profit. Why work tirelessly as an advocate for wildlife and the environment.

The most successful people, companies and teams stand out and achieve goals because they understand why they do what they do. This is the philosophy of visionary speaker and author Simon Sinek.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” he repeated in his first TED Talk in 2009. His latest book, “Find Your Why,” just released in September as a companion to his global best-seller “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.”

When people truly understand their why, they become purpose-driven and successful. And they are happy. That TED talk about starting with why... it’s the third-most watched talk on, according to Sinek’s bio, with more than 31 million views. People want to connect with their why.

Here are some of your neighbors and local leaders on the Space Coast who understand their why.

Amar Patel, 35 Indialantic resident President & CEO, Brevard Achievement Center
Amar Patel, 35
Indialantic resident
President & CEO, Brevard Achievement Center
Brevard Achievement Center helps people with disabilities achieve personal success.

“I believe every single person has value and gifts to give. My grandfather taught me to help people in my immediate community, whose lives will become intertwined with mine. I left Harris because I wanted to feel the joy of making a personal impact in a person’s life. Now, I fill my heart every day by helping people who others believe aren’t able, instead be all that they can be.”

Sarah Stoeckel, 32
Titusville City Council member
Eastern Florida State College advisor, adjunct professor
Working toward a Ph.D in public affairs/public administration with an emphasis on intra-government collaboration. The research for her doctoral studies focus on the use of social media as a means to engage citizens.

“If we don’t understand our why, we find ourselves doing a lot of great things only to realize they weren’t really things that mattered to us. For me, the root of what I do centers on my faith in God and everything starts there, with a focus on making an impact that I feel betters the world. If it’s not leading me down that path, I stop doing it.”

Keith Winston, 
Brevard Zoo Executive Director
With a mission of “Wildlife conservation through education and participation,” the zoo aims to provide memorable guest experiences, connect people with wildlife and educate and inspire them to be stewards of our planet.

Why do I work to connect families with nature, to save the Indian River Lagoon, to preserve natural places and to protect wildlife populations around the world? I do it for the most selfish of reasons — for  my family’s and our community’s quality of life. We can’t be truly happy without these things.”

Beth Gitlin54
Satellite Beach
Principal, BJG Global Consulting — business mentoring, leadership and teamwork development, and executive coaching for leaders and their organizations Ph.D. Candidate, industrial organizational psychology.

“In second grade, I wanted to become a pro baseball player. In fifth grade, a teacher, and in college, a coach. Looking back, I was never far from my “why.” Through the years of accidentally having careers choose me — Army officer, corporate executive, business owner, non-profit leader — I now understand the common thread is that I exist (with a strong commitment to integrity as well as a thirst for knowledge) to advocate, mentor, coach, and share knowledge to help others realize their full potential.”

Amy Street, 38
Merritt Island
Health and wellness coach

“Purium was introduced to me at a time when I needed it the most because I was living with severe pain from gastritis. I had a life-changing transformation that led to helping others change their health. The benefit of having my own business is being able to be home for my girls and having the ability to make my own schedule. It is invaluable to have my health and time freedom back.”

Mark Malek, 43
Indian Harbour Beach
Managing Partner of Widerman Malek, PL

“I like what I do, and I love the people I get to work with. If not, my outlook would be much different (hidden gem of advice – don’t do anything you don’t like). My why revolves around my family and my community. When we came to Brevard, we were blessed by so many organizations ready to lend a hand to anyone and everyone in need. It is important to be sure others have the same experience we did, so the well being of our team members, their families and our community is my why. Any little bit we can do to help our community and our fellow residents makes this a better place for all of our families.”

Rod Stewart, 49
Owner, Club Performax in Suntree
Where Fit Feels Good

"I feel extremely fortunate that my why is one that has such a profound impact on people’s lives. Being a fitness coach is rewarding in so many ways. But none are more impactful than hearing a client rejoice that they are no longer hypertensive. Or diabetic. Or on medications. Or that they haven’t felt this confident, strong and capable in many years. Yes, there are more superficial victories all the time, but it’s the life-changing ones like these that make me most proud and that have been the epicenter of my professional “why” for the past 20-plus years. I feel lucky because going to work really never feels like work."

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