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  • Writer's pictureAmy Archambault

Why Are You Here? Examining the Reason for My Doctoral Journey

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Alt title: OMG...what the hell did you get yourself into and what the hell were you thinking!?!

(doctoral studies, design doctorate, Simon Sinek, reasons why)

I think if boiled down Simon Sinek ~17 min video to him "challenging viewers to find their why", I think I'd be shortchanging his message. I think the deeper message is to brand ourselves with an ethos that is packable and understandable to all who hear it, read it, see it. Then hope they believe the same thing about themselves so that they are inspired to follow.

#1 - Ethos

What we believe about ourselves is of supreme importance. It's who I am and who I want to be (and maybe, who I don't want to be). When Sinek shares his "Golden Circle", he uses Apple as an example. Sinek argues: "If Apple had branded itself as a "company that makes great computers", would we be more apt to buy them over another competitor? Probably not." What we are buying is the ethos - the WHY - of Apple, he says. Because Apple's message is "We believe that everything we do challenges the status quo. We think differently."

#2 - Are We Inspired?

Next, Sinek uses two examples - one a failure and the other a success - of the "Golden Circle". I think this one may be almost more important than the first. While you need to articulate your belief, you actually need to demonstrate it - LIVE IT. Using the example of Martin Luther King's, "I have a dream" speech on the Washington Mall in 1963. How did 250,000 people come together to follow MLK to Washington on this day, Sinek asks? . He over simplifies here (the historical path to getting to the March on Washington is actually more complex) but the gist is because people came to her Dr. King speak because they believed not only what he was trying to do, but because they believed it to be true for themselves. "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. They buy into what they believe", Sinek states.

There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority but those who lead, inspire us. We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves. - Simon Sinek, TEDTalk, Start with Why

#3 - Why this might be flawed thinking

I'm not really a Sinek fan. I read his book a few years ago and just felt "meh" about his work. While I appreciate what he's trying to do, it just left me not feeling inspired. According to several articles, (here, here, and here), they helped to confirm my suspicions around the marketing device Sinek uses (Golden Circle) and the lack of scientific evidence. They mention his fascination with Apple, as well. I can't compare myself to Apple and I'm not trying to create a tech business. What I think is interesting and what others have pointed out, is that knowing the "Who" is where we need to start.

#4 - What's My Who & Why?

So let's start with my "who":

The learners who will experience the designs I co-create.

My "why":

I believe in the science and magic that happens in partnership with faculty when it comes to designing a learning experience.

I think that is a good start as I start working towards honing in on my research questions and process for the start of my program.



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