A crucial question. WHY do you do WHAT you do?

In August 1963 250,000 people gathered in Washington DC to hear Martin Luther King, Jr deliver one of history’s most famous speeches.

“I have a dream,” he said, calling for an end to racism in the United States.

This remarkable day is mentioned in an enormously popular TED talk by the author Simon Sinek.

You can find it on YouTube.


Simon Sinek points out that in 1963 there was no website for people to find out about this speech, and very few invitations were issued.

No, people flocked there in their thousands that day because they’d heard that Martin Luther King had a passionate belief, and wanted to hear about it first hand from him.

“I have a dream,” he said.

Not “I have a plan.”

Simon Sinek uses this 1963 speech, along with other examples such as Apple and the Wright Brothers, to explain that people tend to follow leaders, causes, and organisations that understand their “Why.”

Martin Luther King dreamed of a better world through civil rights.

Apple set out to disrupt the status quo by putting computing in the hands of every person, not just every technologist.

The Wright Brothers knew they could change the world if they could show that humans could fly.

Simon Sinek’s talk is well worth a watch, as I’ve done recently on the recommendation of Annie, my trusty UK therapist.

Viewing it has led me to ask some profound questions of myself.

I know *what* I do day-to-day.

But *why* do I do it?

I’m working on this right now in a process which involves looking back at the highs and lows of my personal, business, and formative life.

It’s fascinating, and also a great reminder of how easy it is to go through life (as I have) knowing what you’re doing, but perhaps being far less mindful about why you’re doing it.

If you have a spare 20 minutes, I can highly recommend Simon Sinek’s talk – just Google his name and “Start With Why,” and my huge thanks to Annie for highlighting it.

2 thoughts on “A crucial question. WHY do you do WHAT you do?

  1. I think it’s great to question why we are doing what we are doing. Far too many people go through life doing things because they think they ‘have’ to. The TED talk disappointed me a little however as it seems geared towards a business audience and how the ‘why’ can sell your product. I would prefer to see it centred on people and how we can feel more fulfilled. Through this lens and with his marketing buzzwords it seems very commercialised, and something I cannot relate to, or want to be a part of, even though he does mention Dr. King. What do you think?

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