This is the title of cultural anthropologist Simon Sinek's much-vaunted theory of the golden circle. Since presenting his theory at TED.com Talks, this video has become one of the most watched videos on this site. There isn't a marketing and social media expert today who isn't telling you about the circle that comes from the idea that in order to be a great entrepreneur, explorer, or whatever you want to be, you first need to figure out why. Then he promises that you will get to the HOW you do to get to the WHAT you do, fueled by the power of authentic and undeniable desire for what your heart tells you to do
According to his observations, the great leaders, explorers and entrepreneurs were successful because the WHY was the driving force behind their actions. With the rest of humanity, things (WHAT) are done in a worse or better way (HOW) and we try to achieve that (WHY) that justifies our activity or existence from the outside in.
What Simon Sinek doesn't tell us is that this WHY is also the driving force behind mankind's greatest, but also worst, deeds.
Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were certainly driven by a deep inner drive to bring peace to the world, but Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin also had the same inner desire to change the world, for whatever purpose always.
He also doesn't explain why this deep desire that leads us to action and some to discover continents doesn't always work. Because it's true, it only tells us about the winners, not the losers. That's the case with most dictators, for example, who don't die in bed
Let's take a recent example.
No one yet knows how the dangerous adventure that Vladimir Putin has been embarking on since invasion of Ukraine will go out. I am 100% sure that Putin is just as driven by the power of his WHY as the above leaders or as Steve Jobs that Simon Sinek mentions in his lectures. His WHY is clearly shaped by restoring Russia to the glory it owes, in his opinion, to tsarism. A WHY based on the headless desire of a man who doesn't realize that Russia has never in its entire history achieved the same level of political and economic stability as it did before the invasion of Ukraine.
Forgive me, my readers, for mentioning the little tyrant from Burgenland again, but here you have another example of WHY it doesn't always work. It is not enough to want to be a Chancellor of Austria from an early age against all odds and against what your party wants to achieve this.
According to clinical psychology, defeat can lead to demotivation, depression, personal devaluation, low spirits, fear and anger.... Is it really worth the challenge of packing our WHY into a single impulse and our whole life and all our actions to direct?
I don't think even Simon Sinek thinks like that. Even if the media portrayal is linear and a bit optimistic and very, very simplistic.
On the other hand, the theory, which is explained in a more humble and less simplified way, saves us from disappointment and disillusionment. Not all people know what their career or life goal is at all times and every day of their lives. First we want to be firefighters/women and save lives, then we want to help the veterinarian and the animals in the savannah. Later we spot some talent and don't rush into the unrestrained race to prove it at any cost. Later we don't know if this talent really gives meaning to our existence or not, or if we should really think about saving rhinos from indiscriminate hunting.
Life is much more complicated than what we are told in the bestselling self-help books....
But if we apply WHY to our daily actions, to what I choose to do in that moment, why I choose this song and not another in my concert. When I have decided to go to this competition or to audition. If I want to change my studies or my job... Each of these decisions should be guided by an intimate, personal and very deep WHY. Because they are decisions that affect us in the long term and because they help us to define the contours of our personality, our career and our future. And not only because of that, but also because we will do what we do infinitely better, with conviction and with joy when we know exactly WHY we are doing it.
It's easy to talk about guaranteed success formulas without giving examples to back up the theory. It's called science, but of course it doesn't make you a bestseller or get invited to a Ted.com talk.