Book Review – Start With Why By Simon Sinek

Start with whyWhat is the similarity between Wilbur and Orville Wright, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and Martin Luther King Jnr? According to Simon Sinek, they started with WHY? They focused on achieving goals that meant more than achieving personal gain or prestige. They really wanted to make a difference and because of that sense of purpose they were able to achieve what others, even those with more resources could not achieve. In Start With Why Sinek writes that when individuals or organisations start with the question ‘WHY’ to define a purpose instead of just defining WHAT they are doing, they generate more inspirational results.

Sinek starts out the book convincing us that most organisations never sell us their WHY, but their WHAT. For instance most adverts tell us about the features of their products and services without selling us on the core purpose of the product, in other words what products or services they are providing. So throughout the book using various examples Sinek presents the case why it is more important for us to start with WHY. He uses a simple framework to explain the relationship between WHY: the purpose for something, HOW: how we get something done and WHAT: what we actually get done.The framework is called The Golden Circle and it is represented by three concentric circles. the inner most circle is labeled WHY, the next circle HOW and the largest circle, WHAT.

The book is divided into six parts as follows:

  1. Part 1 titled, A world that doesn’t start with why  has two chapters which deal with the dangers of making assumptions and how companies who don’t start with WHY manipulate people to buy their goods and services.
  2. Part 2, An alternative approach, starts out describing the golden circle. There is a lot of explanation of WHY, HOW and WHAT with some applicable examples. In three chapters Sinek discusses the golden circle, how it links with our natural way of thinking and the clarity of WHY, discipline of HOW and consistency of WHAT. He explains how the components of the golden circle all relate to each other.
  3. Part 3, Leaders need a following, has two chapters which deal with the relationship between having a WHY and trust and the fact that companies are able to succeed when they build a loyal band of followers who believe in their WHY.
  4. Part 4, How to rally those who believe. This part of the book has three chapters and it focuses on how to use WHY to inspire people, but at the same time knowing your HOW and WHAT. There is also a chapter that deals briefly with communication, mainly how the golden circle influences organisational communication.
  5. Part 5, The biggest challenge is success. This section of the book has two insightful chapters identifying two key challenges that organisations face especially when they become successful. Firstly, when an organisation grows big and successful it can lose it’s original purpose, it’s WHY and start focusing more on WHAT. Secondly, what happens when the original visionary of an organisation leaves or passes on. How does the organisation maintain the original WHY of the founder?
  6. Part 6, Discover why, is the last part of the book and it has two chapters. It discusses how WHYs are discovered and ends the book with an encouragement for us to start with WHY.

This is an inspiring book with a lot of encouraging stories that illustrate the importance of starting with WHY. I do feel that the book could have been shorter, but despite that it is a book I do recommend.

For Start Something Small curation, here is my idea.

Make sure you know WHY, HOW and What before you start.

Wilbur and Orville Wright were two young brothers who had a passion. They wanted to make it possible for humans to fly, but they had some challenges. They didn’t have sponsors, lacked relevant education (they didn’t have a college degree), neither did they have the kind of resources required for their passion.

Samuel Pierpont Langley also had a passion to make it possible for humans to fly, but he didn’t have the disadvantages of the Wright brothers. He was a well respected astronomer, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute and a professor of mathematics at the United States Naval Academy. He was also well connected to powerful people in government and business. In fact the War Department gave him $50,000 for his project. This was a lot of money in the early 20th century.

On 17th December 1903 the Wright brothers flew for a period of 59 seconds at a height of 120 feet. It was the beginning of inventing the Aeroplane. Langley on the other hand after hearing of the Wright brothers success quit. He had tested some flights of his own which failed, but so had the Wright brothers. While they refused to give up, Langley quit. Why did he quit despite being better positioned to succeed than the Wright brothers? Checking their reason for trying to invent flight in the first place might help.

Langley was motivated by the prospect of fame and wealth. The Wright brothers were passionate about seeing humans fly. Their focus was not on wealth or fame. In other words the Wright’s had a genuine WHY, while Langley simply wanted extrinsic gain. His focus was on WHAT to create to earn popularity and riches. In the same way when we want to start something we must be clear about WHY we want to start it. While many of us may want to start something as a way of creating an extra source of income, we must have a clear WHY of WHAT we want to start. When you are doing something you genuinely enjoy or something that will make a positive difference to others, the income you earn from the project becomes an added bonus. For instance when I think of myself and why I want to start something small, it is because I genuinely enjoy challenging myself and others to invest in themselves. Yes I do want to make some extra money, but I want to do something that will add value to me and other people.

A good place to start planning for starting something small is to use Sinek’s Golden Circle. You can do that by answering these three questions:

WHY: why do you want to do what you want to do? What value will what you start add to you? What value will what you start add to other people?

How: How will you do what you want to do. What is your action plan? If it is a business, no matter how small, what is your business plan (look out for the review of Business Generation Model as a simple way to start creating a business plan for a project of any size).

What: what do you really want to do. What will it look like? What kind of service or product do you want to produce and for whom?

Before you start anything take the time to answer these questions. It won’t be time wasted and it will get you thinking beyond just making money.





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