Start With Why by Simon Sinek

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.—Mark Twain, 1895 A.D.

In 1982 Search for Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman was published and I read my very first real business book. Since then I have read or listened to at least 30 books a year. Some have been classics such as The E-Myth or Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. These books are so good I get the book and the audio.  (With some other books I can’t get past the first few chapters!)

I recently read Start With Why by Simon Sinek. This book is a game changer for business! Similar to the E-Myth it is not a complex read. The E-Myth is easily summed up in the phase “work on your business, not in it.” Start With Why has its own simple philosophy “people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

purpose-process-resultSinek starts with a drawing of three concentric circles he calls the “Golden Circle.”

If you were asked WHAT you do, you would probably reply, “I run a small service business.” Then when asked HOW you do it, you might say, “I use a truck mount to provide the best cleaning service in the city!” You may even add that your technicians are certified and that your company received a service award last year from Angies List. But now the plot thickens…

The hard part is when you are asked WHY you do it. (Hopefully you don’t answer “to make money”! While this may be true your customer could care less about you making money!)

Companies will tell you the reason they start with what they do or how they do it is because these are the things their customers ask about. For example, our SFS students think their customers are looking for quality, fast service, good price, fast drying time and friendly technicians.

Now here is the part where it gets a little tricky. Our brains are divided into three areas just like the “Golden Circle.” The outer layer (the neocortex) is responsible for rational and analytic thought and language. This part of the brain loves the what and how.  You probably have heard the phrase “we make decisions emotionally and then justify them with logic.” And yes, the very “logical” neocortex does not make decisions regardless of how many features it can list!

The middle and third parts of the brain are called the “limbic system”. The limbic is responsible for all of our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It is also responsible for all human behavior and decision making but the limbic has no capacity for language. Confused? Here is an example which most men will understand…

When your wife asks  you, “Honey, how did you know I was the right one?” (Careful here!) You stumble around with a list of reasons but finally you state that you “just knew” but can’t put it in words. The same is true with other decisions. When a decision feels right we have a hard time explaining why we did what we did. This is your limbic system at work.

Sinek uses Apple and Steve Jobs as a person who understood the why of his business. If Jobs had asked consumers what they wanted in a computer I doubt they would have answered, “I crave a graphical interface!” And they certainly wouldn’t have asked for an iPad or iPod! Instead…

Steve Jobs beautifully stated the why of Apple here “In everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo, in thinking differently. The how, the way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. The what, we just happen to build great computers!”

As the owner of your company you must be the leader. Great leaders will think from the inside out of the Golden Circle. If you are communicating this message to potential employees you will attract the type of people who are attracted to your why message. These employees are going to be motivated by more than a job.

A why is just a belief, how’s are the actions we take to realize that belief, and what’s are the results. So what is your purpose, your belief, your cause? Why do you get out of bed in the morning?

If you don’t have the time to read this book I can give you a shortcut. Go to and type in Simon Sinek. You will have a 17 minute video of Simon summarizing this book. It just may change your life. “Start With Why” absolutely changed my life!

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