This is my review of the book, Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Simon Sinek’s TED Talk Start with Why is now the 3rd most watched TED talk of all times, with more than 30 million views, but reading the book is absolutely worthwhile

Why certain leaders or companies are successful, and others are not? Because “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” It’s a simple idea but it carries important consequences, if you believe in it. Said in other words, it means that why you do something is a lot more important than what you do or even how you do it. Only the Why can inspire people to follow you or buy your products. “

Simon Sinek explains in the preface of his book that he “discovered” the importance of WHY at a time when he had fallen out of love with his work. It may have happened to you at some point in your life also. But then, the discovery of the WHY, he says, “Changed my view of the world and … restored my passion to a degree multiple times greater than at any other time in my life”. 

This sounds like a life calling, Simon found his purpose in life, apparently. Surely without passion it is hard to find meaning in what we do, and if we are not passionate about what we do, and we are not inspired, we will also not be inspiring to others.

How to be an inspiring leader, according to Sinek, can be learned, it is not limited to “natural-born leaders”. If we learn to start with the WHY, and we are disciplined, we can all become inspiring leaders, or at least this is what Sinek tell us in his book.

There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it, or you can inspire it”. When companies want to sell a product by using manipulation, they may drop the price, run a promotion, use fear, peer pressure or aspirational messages. Manipulation works to a degree, but there are trade-offs: it does not breed loyalty. Over time, it costs more and more. The gains are only short-term, and it does not build loyalty.

So, what’s the solution? If you are a leader who wants to try a different approach, you can take advantage of a  “natural occurring pattern” that Simon Sinek calls The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle starts with WHY in the middle. The next layer is HOW and the final layer is WHAT. The idea is that“The Golden Circle provides compelling evidence of how much more we can achieve if we remind ourselves to start everything we do by first asking why”. 

TED Talk: Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Sinek believes that these principles are not an opinion, but that they are grounded in biology. The newest area of the human brain is the neurocortex, that is responsible for rational and analytical thought and language (the what). The part of the brain that controls our feelings, the limbic brain, on the other hand, is responsible for behavior and decision-making processes, but does not control language.

The problem of communicating from the outside in (the what first) is that while the rational part of the brain understands the information, it has no capacity of driving behavior.

However, it is better to communicate from the inside out, first making appeal to the limbic brain (with the WHY) and then to the neurocortex, (with the HOW and WHAT). If we follow the inside out approach, we will have a higher probability of being successful and even create loyalty.

This is why Apple, didn’t start its marketing messages with “We make great computers. They are beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly” (WHAT AND HOW) but with “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently” (WHY).

Similarly, when Martin Luther King put in motion a movement to change America with the civil rights movement, he didn’t start with “I have a plan” but with “I have a dream”. Others would then follow giving structure to the dream (HOW and WHAT) because, “no matter how charismatic or inspiring the leader is, if there are not people in the organization inspired to bring that vision to reality, to build an infrastructure with systems and processes, then at best, inefficiency reigns, and at worst, failure results.” 

But everything starts with the WHY. 

I loved the book, Start with Why. We surely live better lives and are more productive if we know why we do what we do, and if we believe in that particular “why”.

Just a side note, not everybody agrees with Simon Sinek, or only agrees partially. For example, in a Forbes’s article by Ken Krogue, the author affirms that “great salespeople always start with Who. Then they move to Why, What, and How. And then eventually to When, and How Much”.  

It sounds to me just an excuse to attract readers more than anything else, but this may be the topic for another day.




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