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Start With Why Summary


Simon Sinek is an author of five books including Leaders Eat Last which sits on the bestseller list of The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and his Ted talks video on How Great Leaders Inspire Action becomes the most-watched TED talk of all time that crosses over 54 million views.

Simple Short Summary: In Start with Why, Simon describes the golden circle, its elements, and the science behind the golden circle because the working based on the brain component neocortex corresponds with ‘what’ element, and limbic brain corresponds with ‘why’ element of the golden circle.

Here are the three lessons I pick from Start with Why:

  1. What is Golden circle?
  2. The science behind the Golden circle
  3. Inspire people never manipulate

(Reading Time: 4 minutes)

Start With Why Summary

What is Golden circle?

The core of Simon’s book, Start with Why is the discovery of the golden circle and its elements: why, how, and what. The golden circle composed of three concentric circles with ‘why’ is in the innermost circle describing people’s motives and purposes surround by the ring label ‘how’ showing people’s methods enclosed in a ring label of ‘what’ representing results or outcomes. 

He says people inspire by purpose ‘why’ so, if you want to inspire others, start communicating your message with ‘why’ before ‘how’ and ‘what’. When you tell them why you do instead of what you do, you’ll see a massive change in the engagement. Companies know what they do, thus this is the first thing they say with customers, but rationale is weak to convince as emotions win the battle with reason. 

Companies that become unique and successful like Apple or Google communicate with inside-out thinking. For example, technically Apple is no different from its competitors, but Apple starts its communication with ‘why’. 

Apple’s ‘why’ is to challenge the status quo and empower individuals, therefore this is the reason why Apple perceives as authentic because it keeps repeating its status quo in all they say and do. Now imagine, Apple creates a marketing message with ‘what’ they do that looks like, We make great computers. They are user-friendly, beautiful in design, and easy to use. Want to buy one?

With these kinds of sales messages, we would unlikely to buy one. 

Here’s an actual marketing message from Apple: With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user-friendly, beautiful in design, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?

Do you see the difference?

First, they tell us why they’re here­ – to change the status quo, then they tell us how – with user-friendly, beautiful design, and easy-to-use gadgets, and lastly, they tell us what they make: computers, phones, tablets, and mp3-players.

Another example of Creative versus Apple. 

Creative who first produces an mp3 player but market it as ‘5GB mp3 player’ which answer ‘what’. On contrary, when Apple launches the iPod as 1000 songs in your pocket which answers ‘why’, why you need it. Hence, creative fails to capture the market for mp3 players as Apple did. Every Company’s member knows what they do but very few of them have an idea why they do it. 

When we start with ‘why’ we communicate from the inside-out because ‘why’ is the reason to buy the product and ‘what’ only represents the tangible products as proof of that belief. 

Does it really matter how a company communicates its story? Yes! Because it deals with the part of the brain, we communicate with. Speaking about what you do, you speak from an analytical part of the brain, on contrary, when you talk about ‘why’ and ‘how’ you do, you communicate with feelings. Even an old saying that we buy with our emotion and then justify it with logic.

In short, Simon’s idea: People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

The science behind the Golden circle

The Golden Circle matches the way our brain operates. But how? 

The neocortex, which corresponds with ‘what’ element of the golden circle, responsibly for rational and analytical thought, and language. It looks at facts and figures but does not drive behavior. On contrary, the limbic brain is responsible for our behavior, decision making, and feelings, which roughly correspond with the ‘why’ element.

Distinction between ‘why’ and ‘how’:

The ‘why’ and ‘how’ introduce the difference between the vision and mission statement of an organization. The founder establishes the company and decides its intent while the mission describes ‘how’ the company will create that future. When both are clear, ‘why’ and ‘how’ kinds of leaders can clearly define the roles and goals for the organization. 

‘Why’ leaders are optimistic and believe that everything imaginable can achieve through dedication. Behind every ‘why’ kind of leader, there is a ‘how’ leader to bring success. ‘How’ leader never need a ‘why’ leader, but a ‘why’ leader always need a ‘how’ leader. Although ‘how’ leader focuses on the big goal, rarely make billion-dollar businesses.

Your goal should be to inspire people not to manipulate them

According to Sinek, there are two ways to influence human behavior and attract customers: inspiration and manipulation. 

Although most business approaches use sale manipulation, Sinek argues that inspiration is more powerful than manipulation. Manipulation includes aspirations, fear, novelty, peer pressure, price, and promotions, but it is a short-term solution and impact long-term profitability. Even, these businesses would not able to make another sale. 

Companies know manipulation affects long-term profitability, then why companies use manipulation to increase sales via red discount signs, limited time offers to trick customers into the buying process? 

Because they work. 

These psychological manipulations don’t create trust but evoke skepticism. Thus, starting with ‘why’ and communicating from the inside out, you will able to build a group of loyal customers that trust you and will pick your product over any other cheap products in the market because they believe in you and your product and company. 

Favorite Quote:

You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills. ― Simon Sinek


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


Innovation is not born from the dream, innovation is born from the struggle. ― Simon Sinek

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