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Start With Why (by Simon Sinek)

It’s amazing how such a simple concept can be so powerful, thought-provoking, and inspiring. The idea is that most successful leaders and organizations have one thing in common: they all start with “why”.

This is another book, like “Eat That Frog“, that I started reading many years ago when I was running my own business but never finished. So, I took the opportunity to finally finish reading it. I bought the book because I had watched the TED talk (which now has over 60 million views!).

People are not inspired by what an organization does or how it does it, but rather by why it does what it does.

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

According to Sinek, the “why” is the purpose, cause, or belief that drives everything an organization does. In contrast, most organizations start with the “what” (the products or services they offer) or the “how” (the strategies and tactics they use to deliver those products or services).

Sinek argues that if you can clearly articulate your “why”, you will attract and retain the right customers and employees. He uses a number of compelling examples to illustrate his points, including Apple, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Wright brothers. He also provides practical advice on how to discover and communicate your “why”, and how to use it to create a culture of trust and collaboration within your organization.

He [Martin Luther King Jr.] gave the “I Have a Dream” speech, not the “I Have a Plan” speech.

Overall, “Start with Why” is a must-know concept for anyone, not just business people, as I can easily see how this can be applied to our personal lives as well, even if we’re not, or don’t want to be, leaders.

This idea will challenge you to think differently about your purpose and how you communicate it to the world, leaving you with a renewed sense of direction and purpose.

Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.

Having said so, I think the TED talk is great and inspirational and absolutely a must-watch. On the other hand, the book has got lots of fluff as it repeats the same concept over and over, so if you want to use your time wisely, I’d recommend just watching the talk to get great insights into this powerful idea.

Title: Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Author: Simon Sinek
Year first published: 2009

Some of My Favourite Quotes From the Book:

WHY is just a belief, HOWs are actions we take to realize that believe and WHATs are the results of those actions.

We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do it, but we rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.

When you start with WHY, those who believe what you believe are drawn to you for very personal reasons. It is those who share your values and beliefs, not the quality of your products, that will cause the system to tip.

The goal is not to hire people who simply have a skill set you need, the goal is to hire people who believe what you believe.

Henry Ford summed it up best. “If I had asked people what they wanted,” he said, “they would have said a faster horse“.

Innovation is not born from the dream, innovation is born from the struggle.

Our behaviour is affected by our assumptions or our perceived truths. We make decisions based on what we think we know.

There are only two ways to influence human behaviour: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.

The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.

Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress, working hard for something we love is called passion.

Passion alone can’t cut it. For passion to survive it needs structure. A why without how has little probability of success.

Instead of asking, “WHAT should we do to compete?” the questions must be asked, “WHY did we start doing WHAT we’re doing in the first place, and WHAT can we do to bring our cause to life considering all the technologies and market opportunities available today?”

If the leader of the organization can’t clearly articulate WHY the organization exists in terms beyond its products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know WHY to come to work?

Average companies give their people something to work on. In contrast, the most innovative organizations give their people something to work toward.

Leadership is always about people.

Communication is not about speaking, it’s about listening.

A powerful manipulator, fear is often used with far less nefarious motivations. We use fear to raise our kids. We use fear to motivate people to obey a code of ethics.

The leader sitting at the top of the organisation is the inspiration, the symbol of the reason we do what we do. They represent the emotional limbic brain. WHAT the company says and does represents the rational thought and language of the neocortex. Just as it is hard for people to speak their feelings, like someone trying to explain why they love their spouse, it is equally hard for an organisation to explain its WHY. The part of the brain that controls feelings and the part that controls language are not the same.

As Herb Kelleher famously said, “You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”

From Goodreads:

Why do you do what you do?

Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over?

People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why. It was their natural ability to start with why that enabled them to inspire those around them and to achieve remarkable things.

In studying the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way—and it’s the complete opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be lead, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.

Any organization can explain what it does; some can explain how they do it; but very few can clearly articulate why. WHY is not money or profit—those are always results. WHY does your organization exist? WHY does it do the things it does? WHY do customers really buy from one company or another? WHY are people loyal to some leaders, but not others?

Starting with WHY works in big business and small business, in the nonprofit world and in politics. Those who start with WHY never manipulate, they inspire. And the people who follow them don’t do so because they have to; they follow because they want to.

Drawing on a wide range of real-life stories, Sinek weaves together a clear vision of what it truly takes to lead and inspire. This book is for anyone who wants to inspire others or who wants to find someone to inspire them.