Rugger Burke, a principal at Satori Capital, authored this article that was picked up by Thin Difference: Leaders Connected by Purpose.

Every successful CEO has a mantra. Steve Jobs built Apple with “Think Different.” Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn borrowed his from Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski: “Next Play.” — translation: don’t linger on success; keep striving.

Unlike a mission statement broadcast far and wide to the external world, a company’s mantras serve as an internal driving force. Repeated in the halls and every meeting, they answer the questions before they’re even asked. What would Steve (or Jeff) say? Not only do a leader’s mantras echo throughout the company’s culture during their tenure, but these words are often their greatest legacy.

The word mantra itself means “instrument of thought” — in Sanskrit, “man” refers to thought, while “tra” refers to a tool or instrument. In the realm of business, a mantra serves as combination focal point, challenge, and test. When the engineers and designers at SpaceX or Tesla Motors encounter an obstacle or suggest a new idea, Elon Musk invokes his “First Principles” mantra, asking, “What are we sure is true?” When people say something can’t be done, ask them why not — and ask them to try anyway. Within the boundaries of nature and physics, anything is possible.

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