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Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Book Review

Introduction: Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Have you read Start With Why by Simon Sinek? This book has influenced many professionals and his TED Talk on the topic has been viewed may times. The goal of Start With Why by Simon Sinek is to focus on and amplify the things that work. Simon Sinek wrote Start With Why to inspire others to do the things they like.

What is Start with Why by Simon Sinek About?

We make assumptions every day, and the decisions we make, and the problems that we solve, are often based on those assumptions. You could be making decisions based on incomplete or flawed information. You have to be careful about what you think you know – your perceived truth.

There are two ways to influence human behavior:

  1. Manipulate
  2. Inspire

Manipulative techniques are often used in sales and marketing. Common examples include: dropping the price of a product, running a promotion, using scarcity and fear to get customers to buy now, and so on. Many manipulative techniques work, and that is why so many people and companies continue to use them. But they often come at a cost, especially when you lower prices, later creating problems for the firm. Manipulative strategies do not lead to long-term success. Manipulation does not garner loyalty because it leads to transactions.

There are some people who influence others by inspiring others. And they do this by following a pattern that Simon Sinek call The Golden Circle.

“The concept of The Golden Circle was inspired by the golden ratio—a simple mathematical relationship that has fascinated mathematicians, biologists, architects, artists, musicians and naturalists since the beginning of history. From the Egyptians to Pythagoras to Leonardo da Vinci, many have looked to the golden ratio to provide a mathematical formula for proportion and even beauty. It also supports the notion that there is more order in nature than we think, as in the symmetry of leaves and the geometric perfection of snowflakes…. The golden ratio offers evidence of order in the seeming disorder of nature, The Golden Circle finds order and predictability in human behavior.”

As professionals, you have the capacity to achieve so much more in life when you start with asking why. The Golden Circle offers an alternative perspective to existing assumptions regarding why some leaders and organizations have so much more influence than others.

All organizations know WHAT they do. They know what products and services they offer. Some people and organizations also know HOW they do WHAT they do. HOW is the unique selling proposition. Few can say WHY they do WHAT they do. WHY is the purpose, cause, or belief – the reason you get out of bed each morning.

Most organizations and leaders start with WHAT, HOW, and then WHY. But the most influential and inspired leaders and organizations do the opposite – they lead with the WHY (the purpose), follow with the HOW, then WHAT, which is the tangible. Leading with WHAT is not very compelling. People do not buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. 

People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.Click To Tweet

Take some time to answer the following questions?

  1. WHY do you do what you do?
  2. HOW do you do WHAT you do? HOW is WHAT you do different or better than others?
  3. WHAT do you do?

I do not think this is an easy exercise to start off with WHY. It is an exercise that I struggled with. I offer the Strategic Reading Challenge for free, and there is a Facebook community for participants of the reading challenge. Why would I do these things when I am not getting paid, when I am a single woman who needs to work to support herself? Recently, the answer came to me.

WHY do I do what I do? I want to get more professionals to read a book each week that will teach them the skills they need for future jobs. I want them to read books to further their understanding of a topic. I set a target of getting 1,000 professionals to read at least one book a week within the next two years. WHY is critical to sustained success.

HOW do you do WHAT you do? I host the Strategic Reading Challenge, designed to help professionals to read the right books that will teach the key skills. There is a Facebook group that participants can get help if they need it. I am reading the books, so that I can provide solid book recommendations.

WHAT do you do? I write book summaries for sale, so that those who will never read a book a week will not be left behind. I make it a no brainer for professionals to learn the key skills needed for future jobs.

This clarity came to me only a few weeks ago, although I read Start With Why by Simon Sinek months ago.

The principles of The Golden Circle are grounded in human evolution. And it corresponds with the three major levels of the brain. The neocortex corresponds with the WHAT level. The middle two sections, the WHY and HOW make up the limbic brain.

“The limbic brain is responsible for all our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It is responsible for all human behavior, and all our decision making. It has no capacity for language.”

When you communicate starting with the WHY, you are talking directly to the section of the brain that controls decision making. You are using your limbic brain, and the language part of the brain, the neocortex, allows you to rationalize your decisions. The limbic brain has no capacity for language and that is why it is often so difficult for you to explain your true feelings. When you make a decision that felt right to you, you often have a difficult time explaining why you did what you did.

Your limbic brain is very powerful and drives behavior. This sometimes contradict our rational and analytical understanding of the situation. You have to be clear about WHY you do WHAT you do. You have to be able to clearly articulate your WHY if you want to inspire others. Once you have nailed down Why you do WHAT you do, you now have to turn your attention to HOW you will you do it. HOWs are your values or principles that drive HOW you bring your cause to life. Understanding your HOW allows you to hire the right people or decide who to partner with.

VVHY is a belief. HOWs are the actions you take to achieve your belief. And WHATs are the results of the actions – products, services, marketing, PR, culture and so on. When all three are in harmony, you become an authentic brand. What causes do you champion? When you start with WHY, like-minded professionals will align with the cause you are pursuing. Give people something to work towards. Give people something to believe in.

In Start With Why, Simon Sinek mentions that Samuel Pierpont Langley, who was working on inventing the airplane, had a bold goal, but did not have a clear WHY. He defined his purpose for building an airplane in terms of WHAT. He wanted wealth and fame, and craved the recognition given to Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. On the other hand, Orville and Wilbur Wright did not have the funding that Samuel Pierpont Langley had. But what they had was a strong WHY. They knew WHY it was important to build an airplane. 

The Wright Brothers knew that if they could figure out how to make an airplane work, they could change the world. They imagined how everyone would benefit if they were successful. Can you see the difference between Samuel Pierpont Langley and the Wright Brothers? The Wright Brothers had a cause they truly believed in, and although they were the underdogs, coming late to the flying machine game, they were the winners. The Wright Brothers inspired others to join their cause because they believed in it, not because they manipulated others using money. They inspired vs manipulated their followers.

Have you read?

Samuel Pierpont Langley, American Scientist and Aviator Pioneer

The Wright Brothers and Mastering the Fundamentals

Wise People: Wright Brothers, Inventors of the Airplane

The Early History of the Airplane by Orville and Wilbur Wright

Otto Lilienthal, King of Gliders

Great leaders inspire, and they do not come up with all the ideas. They create the space for the ideas to happen. And great leaders create an environment where employees feel cared for.

The Law of Diffusion of Innovations

Innovators challenge us to see the world differently. Innovators are idea generators. Early adopters recognize the value of new ideas, and are willing to ignore imperfection because they can see the potential of an innovation. Early and late majority are more practical minded.

Innovators – 2.5 percent of the population

Early Adopters – 13.5 percent of the population

Early Majority – 34 percent of the population

Late Majority -34 percent of the population

Laggards – 16 percent of the population

This law explains the spread of ideas. According to the Law of Diffusion:

“Mass market success can only be achieved after you penetrate between 15 percent and 18 percent of the market. The early majority won’t try something new until someone else has tried it first…. The ability to get the system to tip is the point at which the growth of a business or the spreading of an idea starts to move at an extraordinary pace. The point at which the idea becomes a movement. When that happens, the growth is not only exponential. It just goes.”

The goal of a business is to find people who believe what you believe – the innovators and early adopters. These people will perceive greater value in what you do. Their willingness to pay a premium for your service, and experience inconvenience is more about them than it is about your product or service.

It will cost you and your business if you refuse to consider the Law of Diffusion.

The WHY is the belief that drives the decision, and WHAT it does, gives us a way to rationalize the appeal of the product.

Your WHY never changes in life, your WHAT does. Your WHY is your belief system, cause, or purpose. How can you bring your cause to life? When your WHY is clear, others who have the same belief can help you to bring your cause to life. As I was reading Start With Why, I was thinking the following:

  • For more than a decade, I have wanted people to read more. In 2004, I created a newsletter, and it had a book summary section. The intent was to get people interested in reading the books I summarized and reviewed. But my readers believed that I did such a good job with the summaries that they did not have to read the books. A major fail on my part.
  • I believe that if people take charge of their career, they can accomplish a lot in life.
  • How do I give my WHY structure?

In terms of an organization, the WHY is the leader, the CEO. He has a vision for the organization. The next level is the HOW level where you have the senior executives who the CEO inspires. They know HOW to bring the vision to life. The HOW types build the infrastructure. Those who know WHY, need the people who know HOW. But the HOW types do not necessarily need the WHY types to succeed. 

Have you read?

The Self-Made Billionaire Effect – My Thoughts

“Don’t forget that a WHY is just a belief, HOWs are the actions we take to realize the belief and WHATs are the results of those actions.”

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take ActionThe Self-Made Billionaire Effect

For your message to have a real impact and garner loyalty, you need more than publicity. You need to let others know about your higher purpose, cause, or belief. Others with similar values will be able to relate. Your message will then have lasting mass market success. Vision and charisma attract innovators and early adopters. The vision is the public statement of the founder’s intent – WHY the company exists. The mission statement is a description of the route, the guiding principles – HOW the company intends to create the future.

WHAT and HOW you do things, have to be consistent with your WHY. You can look to others for best practices for WHAT and HOW, but in the end, what you find has to be consistent with your WHY. You will get a lot of advice about what to do, but if you are clear about your WHY, you can decide what options are best for you. WHY provides the filter to your decision-making. When your WHY becomes fuzzy, you start to lose your way.

Final Thoughts: Start With Why by Simon Sinek

I enjoyed reading Start With Why by Simon Sinek because it made me think. It also gave me a new way of viewing the world. I recommend this book.

Some of the Books Mentioned in Start With Why By Simon Sinek

  • American Mania: When More is Not Enough, Peter Whybrow
  • Naked Brain, Richard Restak
  • The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Diffusion of Innovations, Everett M Rogers
  • Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore
  • From Worst to First: Behind the Scenes of Continental’s Remarkable Comeback, Gordon Bethune
  • The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take ActionThe Self-Made Billionaire EffectAmerican Mania: When More is Not EnoughThe Naked Brain: How the Emerging Neurosociety is Changing How We Live, Work, and LoveThe Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceDiffusion of Innovations, 5th EditionCrossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers (Collins Business Essentials)From Worst to First: Behind the Scenes of Continental’s Remarkable Comeback by Bethune, Gordon 1st edition (1999) PaperbackThe World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

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Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Book Review


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