Lessons from Simon Sinek’s Start with Why

start with why simon sinek

Simon Sinek has some pretty entertaining TED talks. Having watched them and knowing that his book Start with Why is recommended by some successful entrepreneurs I have followed, I actually had very high hope for the book. I have read the book cover to cover, but honestly I was disappointed after just reading a few chapters and reading about his iPhone example that doesn’t really make much sense to me. I don’t think there is anything new from the book but I guess you can say the same for many books. Anyway, here are some good points he made that are still very solid, although not presented in a way that can connect with me.

Start Your Business with “Why”

The “why” of the business is the north star that guides your every decisions and actions. Without a “why”, you really can’t tell whether your decisions are correct or not. For example, a good decision for a profit-focused food company may not be a good decision for a heath-focused food company.

Begin Your Communication to Your Audience or Client with “Why”

In his book, Sinek also talked about how you can connect with your audience by beginning your advertisement with the “why” behind your company. I think you can also expand that concept to the scenario where you have to sell your product to a potential client face to face, or even in a job interview where you are supposed to let the interviewer know why you want to get the job.

The Golden Circle of WHY, HOW & WHAT

Sinek explained his view of how to achieve success in his book. His way of explaining it is through the gold circle that is formed by three circles, one surrounding another. The inner circle or the core is WHY, then the middle layer is HOW, and finally the outer most layer is WHAT. Here is a brief look at the three parts.

WHY – The main purpose or mission of your company
HOW – The strategy
WHAT – The action

The “Why” Connects Your Customer’s Emotion with Your Business

In his book, Sinek used the example of Steve Jobs and Apple to illustrate the main reason that people buy the iPhone. Although his idea of using the “why” to connect your business with a customer’s emotion could be right, his argument that Apple’s “think different” mission is the reason people are buying iPhones sounds very weird to me. As an Apple product users who spent hours using the Macbook and the iPhone everyday, I have no idea what Apple’s “why” is. I only know that I am buying the products because they are very user friendly to me.

The Right “Why” for You is The “Why” that Makes You Feel Right

A right mission is the key to success because it is the basis of every actions taken in a business. How do you know it’s the right “why” for you? It is the “why” that gives you energy when you think about it but not taking away energy from you.

The Clarity of the “Why” is Important

The mission or the “why” of a business needs to be very clearly defined because it is basically the guiding star to every decision and action of the business.

Start with “Why”, but Know “How”

The reality is that many people have or can think of a “why”. Who can’t say that they want to build the most valuable technology company or the biotech company that saves the most people. But if you are serious about your “why”, you will need a plan, the “how”.

Team up with People Who Know the “How” if You Only Know the “Why”

There is a reason why a tech startup these days usually start with two cofounders, a CEO and a CTO. The CEO is the one who had the vision and is very clear about why he or she is building the new business. He or she usually has some skills or knowledge about the technical part of the business but is also usually not on a level that is good enough to build the actual product. That’s why it is a good idea to get a CTO in the team who is an expert of the technical part, someone who knows the “how”.

Consistent Action Toward Your Why

Okay, you do start with the “why”, and then you have a plan or the “how”, now what? Now, here comes the difficult part and the part where many people fail to accomplish. It’s the “what” or actions that need to be executed consistently according to your plan. While action is important, the consistency of it is the difficult part. Like Angela Duckworth said in her book Grit, you need to keep working hard and consistently long after things are new and interesting.

Make Sure the New CEO Understands Your Why

When a business grows older, so is the founder or the CEO of the business. When the day of choosing a CEO comes, not many businesses can actually survive past this point. To make the transition much smoother, make sure the “why” part is clearly explained to the new CEO and the CEO must take actions that align with the “why” that has been giving the business so much success in the past.

Although this may not be one of the best books I have read, the book title is definitely one of my favorite ones. The phrase “Start with why” is basically the whole book for me. I feel like the book is actually much better as a short TED talk. If I have to point out one specific idea that is the most useful to me in the book, I would say that it’s the idea about starting a conversation with your “why”. I have found that having the concept of “start with why” in a meeting or in an interview does make things a lot more clear and efficient. While I don’t like Sinek’s writing style that much, I do think that he is a very good speaker. It is just a little weird for me to see such a speaker that can really connect with me thru speaking cannot connect with me the same way thru writing.