Start with WHY

date Aug 31, 2010
authors Simon Sinek
reading time 7 mins
  • Book Title: Start with WHY - How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
  • Author: Simon Sinek
  • Year written/published: 2009
  • Book Source: Amazon
  • Some extracts:

When the world is flat…

So for the most part they stayed put. It wasn’t until that minor details was revealed - the world is round - that behaviors changed on a massive scale. Upon this discovery, societies began to traverse the planet. Trade routes were established; spices were traded. new ideas, like mathematics, were shared between societies which unleashed all kinds of innovations and advancements. The correction of a simple false assumption moved the human race forward.

Types of Manipulations:

  1. Price
  2. Promotions
  3. Fear
  4. Aspirations
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Novelty (aka Innovation)


Colgate’s sales started to slip. So the company introduced a new product that included a new feature, the addition of fluoride, perhaps. Then another. Then another…. Each innovation certainly helped boost sales, for a while at least. And so the cycle continued. Guess how many different types of toothpaste Colgate has for you to choose from today? 32… And given how each company responds to the “innovation” of the other, that means Colgate’s competitors also sell a similar number of variants that offer about the same quality… Once again this is an example of the newest set of shiny objects designed to encourage a trial or a purcahse. What companies cleverly disguised as “innovation” is in fact a novelty.

it’s worth repeating…

People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it

Apple and Creative

Apple did not invest the mp3, nor did they invest the technology that became the iPod, yet they are credited with transforming the music industry. The multigigabyte portable hard drive music player was actually invested by Creative Technologies, a Singapore based technology company that rose to prominence by making the sound blaster audio technology that enables home PCs to have sound. … In fact, Apple didn’t introduce the iPod until 22 months after Creative’s entry into the market. This detail alone calls into question the assumption of a first mover’s advantage. The problem was they advertised their product as Apple’s “1000 songs in your pocket”. The difference is creative told us WHAT their product was and Apple told us WHY we needed it.

Rational vs Limbic brain…

When you force people to make decisions with only the rational part of their brain, they almost invariably end up “over-thinking”. These rational decisions tend to take longer to make, says Restak, and can often be of lower quality. In contrast, decisions made with the limbic brain, gut decisions, tend to be faster, higher quality decisions… The more time spent thinking about the answer, the bigger the risk that it may be the wrong one. Our limbic brain are smart and often know the right thing to do.

Too much info…

Rarely do we sift through all the available information to ensure we know every fact. And we don’t need to. It is all about degrees of certainty. “I can make a decision with 30% of the information,” said former secretary of state COlin Powell. “Anything more than 80% is too much.”

Clarity of WHY:

To all starts with clarity. You have to know WHY you do WHAT you do. If people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it, so it follows that if you don’t know WHY you do WHAT you do, how will anyone else?

Doing Business…

The goal of business should not be to do business with anyone who simply wants what you have. If should be to focus on the people who believe what you believe. When we are selective about doing business only with those who believe in our WHY, trust emerges.

Employees first…

… a heretic for positing the notion that it is a company’s responsibility to look after the employees first. Happy employees ensure happy customers, he said. And happy customers ensure happy shareholders - in that order.

Human Matrix…

No one likes to loose, and most healthy people love their life to win. The only variation is the score we use. For some it’s money, for others its fame or awards. For some it’s power, love, a family or spiritual fulfillment…. The drive to win is not, per se, a bad thing. Problems arise, however, when the metric becomes the only measure of success, when what you achieve is no longer tied to WHY you set out to achieve it in the first place.


Companies with a clear sense of WHY tend to ignore their competition, whereas those with a fuzzy sense of WHY are obsessed with what others are doing.

Tipping point…

The farther right you go on the curve, the more you will encounter the clients and customers who may need what you have, but don’t necessarily believe what you believe. As clients, they are the ones for whom, no matter how hard you work, it’s never enough. Everything usually boils down to price with them. They are rarely loyal. They rarely give referrals and sometimes you may even wonder out loud why you still do business with them… The goal of business them should not be to simply sell to anyone who wants what you have - the majority - but rather to find people who believe what you believe… Get enough of the people on the left side of the crve on your side and they encourage the rest to follow.

Image Credit

Energy versus Charisma…

Energy motivates but charisma inspired. Energy is easy to see, easy to measure and easy to copy. Charisma is hard to define, near impossible to measure and too elusive to copy… Charisma has nothing to do with energy; it comes form a clarity of WHY. it comes form absolute conviction in an ideal bigger than oneself. Energy, in contrast, comes from a good night’s sleep or lots of caffeine. Energy can excite. But only charisma can inspire.

Most people in the world are the HOW-types..

Most people are quite functional in the real world and can do their jobs and do very well. Some may be very successful and even make millions of dollars, but they will never build billion-dollar businesses or change the world.

Small vs Big companies…

When a company is small, this is not an issue because the founder has plenty of direct contact with the outside world. Trusted HOW-Types maybe in short supply and the founder opts to make a majority of the big decisions. The founder or leader actually goes our and talks to customers, sells the product and hires most if not all the employees. As the company grows, however, systems and processes are added and other people will join… When a company is small, it revolves around the personality of the founder. There is not debate that the founder’s personality is the personality of the company… As a company grows, the CEO’s job is to personify the WHY. To ooze of it. To talk about it. To preach it.

personal success…

… some people, while in pursuit of success, simply mistake WHAT they achieve as the final destination. This is the reason they never feel satisfied no matter how big their yacht is, no matter how much they achieve. The false assumption we often make is that if we simply achieve more, the feeling of success will follow. But it rarely does.