Start with Why by Simon Sinek – Here are My Four Lessons and Takeaways

it all starts with Why

it all starts with Why

By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? As a result, the way we think, we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in, it’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.
Simon Sinek, How Great Leaders Inspire Action,

When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? 
Simon Sinek, Start with Why


First , you ___________.

What do you do first?
Where do you start?
What do you have to get right first?

In business, in any organization, in life, you have to ask the why question.

I ___________, therefore I am.
We __________, therefore we are in business.

There is a useful perennial best-selling business book that seeks to help us grasp the centrality of this question; the now modern-day business-book classic Start With Why by Simon Sinek.  I presented my synopsis of this book back at the November, 2017 First Friday Book Synopsis.  But I was behind the curve on that that one.  The book was published in 2009, and we just had not selected it at the First Friday Book Synopsis.  I’m glad I finally chose to do so.

And, I also failed to write my usual “here are my lessons and takeaways” blog post.  I’m fixing that now.

The full title is worth noting: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.  In other words, your “why” is critical; your why inspires action for you, and for everyone in the organizaiton.

As I always do in my synopses, I always answer this question:  Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – We need help understanding why some leaders, and some companies, are “better” than others.  This books helps us find the answer to that question.
#2 – Maybe the life cycle of companies is naturally away from the original “WHY.”  And when the original WHY is lost, it’s a serious loss!
#3 – Only the “WHY” inspires passion, better action, much better employee and customer loyalty.  This book will help you pursue that kind of WHY…

And I include some Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlights.  Here are a few I included in my synopsis:

• However, if we’re starting with the wrong questions, if we don’t understand the cause, then even the right answers will always steer us wrong . . . eventually
• How did the Wright brothers succeed where a better-equipped, better-funded and better-educated team could not? It wasn’t luck. …Only the Wright brothers started with Why.
• All the inspiring leaders and companies, regardless of size or industry, think, act and communicate exactly alike. And it’s the complete opposite of everyone else.
• There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.
• When companies or organizations do not have a clear sense of why their customers are their customers, they tend to rely on a disproportionate number of manipulations to get what they need. And for good reason. Manipulations work. 
• There is a big difference between repeat business and loyalty. Repeat business is when people do business with you multiple times. Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you.
• This is what we mean when we talk about winning hearts and minds. The heart represents the limbic, feeling part of the brain, and the mind is the rational, language center.
• I can’t help but wonder if the order of the expression “hearts and minds” is a coincidence. Why does no one set out to win “minds and hearts”?
• As I’ve discussed, when the WHY is absent, imbalance is produced and manipulations thrive.
Starting with WHY is just the beginning. There is still work to be done before a person or an organization earns the right or ability to inspire. 
• It all starts with clarity. You have to know WHY you do WHAT you do.
• For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs. It’s not “integrity,” it’s “always do the right thing.” It’s not “innovation,” it’s “look at the problem from a different angle.”
• Everything you say and everything you do has to prove what you believe. A WHY is just a belief. That’s all it is. HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions—everything you say and do: your products, services, marketing, PR, culture and whom you hire.
• As with all decisions, people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it, and WHAT you do serves as the tangible proof of WHY you do it. But unless you start with WHY, all people have to go on are the rational benefits. And chances are you won’t get a second date.

Here are a few of the points and  principles from the book:

  • The point of the book is… The Golden Circle –
  • WHY first, then WHAT, then HOW
  • Aim for “actionable” – think verbs…
  • “Do the right thing(s)” vs. “always honest”
  • The “clichés” and oft-repeated stories work, because…”
  • “I’m building a cathedral”
  • Build a megaphone that works…
  • Clarity of purpose, cause or belief is important, but it is equally important that people hear you.
  • And here are my four Lessons and takeaways:

#1 – The leaders job is to grasp, instill, model the “WHY” at the center of your organization.
#2 – The leader’s job is to make sure that people on the team grasp and share this WHY.
#3 – The leader’s job is to make sure that the “How” and the “WHAT” are done well; but, only after connected to, and always flowing from, the WHY.
#4 – If you have a clear WHY in your organization, then consider yourself extremely fortunate and lucky.  It is rare to work in an organization with such a clear WHY.

This is a book worth reading.  It will make you stop, and think:  “What is my why? Especially at work?”  Get your why right, and everything else falls into place.  It may not all be easy; but it will make more sense.


My synopsis of this book is available for purchase.  All of my synopses come with my comprehensive, multi-page handouts, and the audio recording of my presentation.
Click here for my synopsis of Start with Why.
Click on the “buy synopses” tab at the top of this page to search by book title. And click here for our newest additions.

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