You have probably already heard about this book, and if not, I hope you’ll enjoy this new discovery!
Simon Sinek has basically two goals with this book: (1) to guide both you or an organization on focusing and amplifying the things that work and (2) on giving you the cause of action.
This book can help you if:
- You want to learn everything to create an organization that uses its values as the core of its business.
- You want to communicate information in a simpler and more efficient way.
- You want to create clarification or find out WHY you want or are doing certain things.
Start With Why — Summary
Start With Why guides you through 3 main elements of the WHY:
- Its definition.
- Its affect over an organization and how it happens.
- Its importance when it comes to staying focus on it in the long-term.
“Passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive it needs structure. A why without how has little probability of success.” — Simon Sinek
Before jumping to the summaries and key aspects of each parts and chapters of Start With Why, it is important to distinguish the WHY from the WHAT and the HOW:
- The WHY: represents your vision or the company’s vision. Why are you motivated to do x things? Why is a company motivated to sell its products or services? What is the intention behind what you are — or the company is — doing?
- The HOW: represents the steps that you or the company need(s) to take to reach the WHY. It’s the plan or the practical process that turns the vision into a reality.
- The WHAT: represents the aspects of the product, service that the company is selling or the action that you are taking. Most individuals tend to focus on the what rather than the how or the why because it’s easier to identify it.
PART 1: A World that Doesn’t Start with Why
Chapter 1: Assume you know
This first chapter opens with the idea that you can have two types of leaders: those who choose manipulation to reach the end result and those who prefer to start x projects with the end result in mind and let the rest naturally come together.
In other words:
“Our behavior is affected by our assumption or our perceived truths. We make decisions based on what we think we know.” — Simon Sinek
Chapter 2: Carrots and Sticks
Sinek explains that you or the company can choose between 2 options to attract more customers:
- Inspiring (or the carrots)
- Manipulating (the sticks)
The first one — inspiration — will be useful for you when you want to create a loyal and long-term relationship with a customer.
The second one — manipulation — is more efficient when you want to increase your sales, discounts, promotions or other marketing and customer programs. If you are looking to create a behavior that happens only once, then manipulation is the best solution.
When companies or individuals end up being represented by the WHAT, the product loses its authenticity. In such context, aspects like features, price, or quality become the dominant ways for the customer to buy or not.
This situation brings confusion to know if the customers are being loyal or not, which often leads individuals and companies to make use of ‘manipulation’.
PART 2: An Alternative Perspective
Chapter 3: The Golden Circle
The two first chapters lead thus to the question: How do you inspire? And what does it mean to “Start With WHY”?
To provide an answer easy to understand, Simon Sinek uses the Golden Circle theory.
- WHAT is the real production of the service or product you offer.
This is the easiest step to describe: What is the service or product? What is it made of? What are its functions?
- HOW is the process to create the WHAT(s).
Knowing the HOW will give you or the company an additional strength to become more valuable and accountable: How did you or the company create the product or service? What were the steps? Did you encounter some obstacles along the way? If yes, which ones?
- WHY is the vision, goal or purpose behind the WHAT and HOW, which tends to bring motivation and energy.
The WHY makes the product or service even more valuable and important: Why do you do what you do? Why did you decide to create this product or service? What is the intention, goal or vision behind it?
The goal is to learn to move from the inner circle (the WHY) to the external one (the WHAT) instead of the other way around. If your WHY is strong and well-established, it will strengthen the reason to purchase your product or service. In the end, the WHATs only stand as a proof that the product or service exist.
Probably being the one of the most famous examples than Simon Sinek uses in this book, Apple offer products and services that illustrate the WHY this company do the things in a certain way.
The clear the WHY is, the better. In that sense, the WHY becomes the cause that installs loyalty within Apple’s customers.
Chapter 4: This is Not Opinion, This is Biology
In a nutshell, by starting withe the WHY, companies and individuals can have access to our inner drive by including our beliefs or values to the services and products they offer.
By doing so, those organizations will convince us that those products and services become symbols of our values and beliefs. In a way, they make us feel special, belonging to a certain group or community, which is one of the main instinctive aspects constituting the human mind.
The WHY will lead you to start buying services and products because ‘it feels right’ or because ‘you cannot explain it’ but you know that you just need it.
On the other side, the WHAT tend to lead consumers to take more stressful decisions by using rationalization instead of your feelings or your ‘guts’. These rational decisions might take a longer time before being made, which might lead to a debate to know which WHATs are better or not.
These situations become a great field for manipulative strategies to perform by using influential fears or desires.
In the end, most companies tend to focus too much on the HOW or the WHAT because they let themselves driven by what the customer wants: a fast, efficient, and low price service or product, available 24/7.
But, according to Sinek, the brain’s part (Neocortext) controlling the decision-making process is very different from the brain’s part (Limbic Brain) that takes care of communicating WHY that decision took place.
“Because our biology complicates our ability to verbalize the real reasons why we make the decisions we do, we rationalize based on more tangible factors, like the design or the service or the brand. This is the basis for the false assumption that price or features matter more than they do.” — Simon Sinek
Even though manipulation still reaches your limbic brain when organizations use strategies involving social pressures, desires or fears, the company’s message will reach your deeper self once it becomes aligned with your deeper self, leading you to not only feel motivated but also inspired.
Once you reach this state, you’re on your way to purchase the premium treatment.
Chapter 5: Clarity, Discipline and Consistency
In this fifth chapter, Simon Sinek defines the WHY as only a belief, which can be highly clarified by showing the HOW and become even more by understanding the WHAT.
In this sense, the HOW represents the actions you make to turn this belief into a reality and the WHAT illustrates the outcomes of those actions.
Each step is important to prove what you believe in, creating in the end authenticity, leading your Golden Circle to be in balance.
PART 3: Leaders Need a Following
Chapter 6: The Emergence Trust
The notion of trust is probably one of the most important foundations to see your company grow. According to Sinek, once your WHY, HOW, and WHAT are aligned, then trust can emerge and take place. These 3 aspects are the way to build trust.
In the end, by only following the WHAT, it will become more difficult for you or companies to differentiate yourself or themselves with others. But, if you decide to focus on the WHY, this differentiation will happen more easily, since you ARE already different from others, which will lead you to lose the need to convince others that you are. And the same applies to organizations.
On a more organizational level, starting with the WHY instead of the WHAT during the hiring procedure, tends to attract more individuals who might:
- Have similar values.
- Stand for the same beliefs.
- Be passionate about the same things than you.
Chapter 7: How a Tipping Point Tips
In this chapter, Simon Sinek explains you how new products, services or ideas are spread. This process doesn’t start with how you attract people and influencers to talk about you but rather the ways you get these people to attain the tipping point, leading Sinek to describes the diffusion curve.
PART 4: How to Rally Those Who Believe
Chapter 8: Start with WHY, but Know HOW
According to Simon Sinek, people are inspired by charismatic individuals. When people have a clear WHY in mind, it is easier for them become strong and charismatic figures.
Even if some might have the energy, charisma will quickly replace it as it commands loyalty.
Additionally, Sinek argues that behind most of WHY-type leaders, a HOW-type person is standing and helps to build the process or infrastructure to give life to the WHY.
In that sense:
- WHY-types are visionaries with a high imagination: They are often optimists, and believe that what they can imagine, can be accomplished. The also tend to look at things that most individuals cannot perceive in the future.
- HOW-types are more realistic and practical: they are often focused on the aspects that most individuals can see, and become better at building the processes that support the why.
Taking a step back from what Simon Sinek concludes in this chapter, I believe that WHY-type and HOW-type complement each other. The WHY-person needs the HOW-type to turn his or her dream into a reality while the HOW-type also needs the WHY-person to take their processes to the next level.
I also think that we all have the WHY and HOW aspects within ourselves, but we naturally tend to focus more on one than the other. With practice and determination, we can consciously choose to strengthen the one that we’re lacking off.
Applied to an organization, the WHY represents the vision on which the company has been founded while the HOW illustrates the ways this company will create its future.
Chapter 9: Know WHY, Know HOW. Then WHAT?
Ideally, Simon Sinek argues that while a company is growing, it is important to keep the Golden Circle in balance by giving the leader the opportunity to represent the WHY of the company while the WHAT should be represented by the rest of the company. Put in another way, the emotional vision is supported by the rational thought.
However, since the WHY is part of the limbic brain, Simon Sinek acknowledges that it might be difficult for individuals to properly explain and verbalize it, but not impossible. As a solution, Sinek suggests to use to clarify the expression of the WHY and communicate it better to the rest of the world.
Chapter 10: Communication Is Not About Speaking, It’s About Listening
Before moving to the 5th part of the book, Simon Sinek uses this chapter to explain how important it is to give meaning to symbols and stories, otherwise they quickly lose their power.
For instance, once the company is clear on the WHY, its logo or slogan will come into being, and will carry a specific meaning. Once the logo or slogan start to inspire others, they become strong symbols while explaining the identity of the company.
PART 5: The Biggest Challenge is Success
Chapter 11: When WHY Goes Fuzzy
In this chapter, Simon Sinek illustrates what he is being talking about in the previous chapters by using as examples companies such as Volkswagen and Walmart. The conclusion of those illustrations is that when a company loses its WHY, chaos is tends to quickly follow.
Additionally, Simon Sinek explains that the WHAT is useful when you want to achieve something while the WHY will help you to become successful if it is clear for yourself why you want this success.
“Success comes when we wake up every day in that never-ending pursuit of WHY we do WHAT we do.” — Simon Sinek
Among all the most successful people on this planet, those who tend to be happier are the ones who keep the WHY in mind on the long-term.
Chapter 12: Split Happens
Before moving to the 6th and last part of Start With Why, Simon Sinek explains that in order for a company to succeed, it also needs the HOW, which confirms what I wrote earlier: the WHY and the HOW complement each other.
PART 6: Discover Why
Chapter 13: The Origins of WHY
In a nutshell: The WHY starts within you. You can look at the outside world to help you broaden your view on things, but often if you’re looking for the WHY, it’s already standing right in front of you.
Go back to your core values: What do you stand for? What motivates you in the morning? What do you like to do? What are your favorite activities? Once you make a list of the things that you enjoy, ask yourself WHY you enjoy them. What do they bring more than other activities?
Chapter 14: The New Competition
This last chapter conveys the idea that if you decide to compete with yourself, you will probably be more liked and helped by people than if you decide to compete with others.
Stop competing with others, or try to look like them, be like, or get the same things than them. BE YOURSELF by finding and keeping the WHY close to your heart. You are a unique person with a unique WHY. No one can 100% replace you. Turn it into your power rather than your obstacle.
Start with WHY — Review
Reading this book reminded me that if I want to be successful in whatever I am doing, I need to be and stay myself. I need to be 100% aware of why I’m doing certain things while giving the right power to the HOW and the WHAT to be. The WHY, WHAT, and HOW all work together in sync.
Start from who you are, your core, and then move slowly to the how and what. Be yourself and follow your heart. Life is a beautiful journey for those who dare.
*P.S: Maybe Simon Sinek would argue something different, but I believe that as you grow and go through life, your why might also change, and that’s okay if it reflect who you are and who you want to be.