Graphic Designer: Branding, Typography, Leadership


Defining Your Individual HOWs and WHATs (Golden Circle Theory, part 2)

As a follow up from my previous post, I went through the process of completing my individual Golden Circle

If you haven’t read my previous post on Finding Your Individual Why Statement, this one won’t make much sense so please start there.

To quickly recap, a WHY statement follows the format: To [contribution] so that [impact]. My individual why statement is:

To relentlessly pursue being world-class, so that we can experience beyond what’s possible.

That’s one epic statement that gets me excited, and ready to jump out of bed in the morning! So now let’s get into defining my HOWs and WHATs.

I highly recommend reading Find Your Why if Golden Circle Theory is appealing to you.

Okay, now what?

I got the WHY, awesome. What I do with this cool sentence now?
Let’s revisit the Golden Circle, WHY is at the center which is followed by the HOWs and the WHATs.

Golden Circle Theory

I’ll expound upon these two in detail before sharing my individual HOWs and WHATs so will make a bit more sense.

HOWs - approach to doing

HOWs are the methods, the approaches, the way that an individual uniquely goes about their life. The HOWs also have a process to go through defining them, this step is independent. Once one has completed the individual why discovery, they will have a list of themes common among the stories they’ve shared. One of those themes is the contribution, the other is the impact which were used in the WHY statement. Eliminate those from the list to begin the HOW definition process.

  1. Narrow down the list of themes to at most 5, you may want to combine or remove similar themes at this step.
  2. State your HOWs, they will follow a solid structure. (e.g.: “Learn something from everyone”). Use active language, start with a verb, remove “ing” from verbs, be as concise as you can.
  3. Provide context to each HOW, give it a little bit of flavor. Describe the actions of your HOWs with a brief statement. (e.g.: “Assume there is always a solution, and don’t give up until you find it”).

When I went through this process, I really tightened up my HOWs. This brevity worked for me, it might not work for everyone.

My HOWs, or my competitive advantages are:

  • Outwork deficiencies
    • Any weakness can be overcome with great effort.
  • Create the future
    • Start with the end in mind, work towards the plan, adjust as needed.
  • Seek growth constantly
    • Knowledge is power, so learn from the greats; success leaves clues.
  • Enable understanding through transparency
    • Use clear & direct communication, translate if necessary.
  • Think from a unique perspective
    • Think inside, outside, and about the box itself.

These are AWESOME! They feel like my own core life principles! (Shout out to Ray Dalio’s incredible book, Principles). I feel totally aligned and juiced up when I see this list. These are the 5 ways I’ve survived through life, it’s like looking at a blueprint for the past decade!


WHATs are what you do. This section of the Golden Circle Theory takes the least amount of effort to define, you already know what you do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. This is an opportunity to add some descriptive juice to those activities to reframe how you you think about your life.

If I were to list out functional “tasks” that I personally do, it looks something like this:

  • Software engineering
  • Graphic design
  • Brand strategy
  • Read books
  • Write blog posts
  • Volunteer
  • Travel

However, these things might change relatively often. For example, a few years ago I wasn’t exposed to graphic design or brand strategy - and nobody is traveling right now due to the global pandemic.

So instead, I wanted to make my WHATs a little more fluid to span multiple “tasks”. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Synthesize - bringing ideas from different domains to innovate
  • Elevate - constantly raising standards
  • Align - getting others on the same page
  • Lead - selecting a direction, and getting others to join me

Reducing those down to 4 words feels like it summarizes my approach to any task: synthesize, elevate, align, and lead (which is easy to remember with an acronym SEAL). I believe those four happen are in order as well: before elevating one must get all the information (synthesize), and before leading one must have all of their focus on a clear direction (alignment).

Thanks for reading!

I plan to continue writing about Golden Circle Theory and WHY discovery as I learn more through the process. There’s still a lot I have to learn as a facilitator, and the really interesting stuff: group WHY discovery. I have some things planned and hope to share them soon. If you have any questions about WHY discovery - let’s talk!