Start With Why By Simon Sinek: Book Review 1

girl focused on her why

Best for

Those interested in effective strategies for motivating themselves and others and are interested in business and leadership.

Difficulty to digest

The concepts outlined in Start With Why are clear and straightforward. While they build upon each other, everyone should be able to understand everything in the book and get value from it after a single read.

Key Insights

As you might guess, Start With Why is a book about how understanding and communicating the why behind your actions creates results. While there are plenty of personal takeaways, the book is positioned towards business-oriented individuals around how using why messaging creates motivation.

The book leads with a section explaining how the majority of the world fails to communicate using why. Instead, Sinek argues the majority of communications are short-term manipulations, which, while effective, are not tenable in the long term. Instead, he argues we must start with why otherwise we cannot survive into the long term.

To make this framework more clear, Sinek uses a simple diagram. The three pieces of the diagram are Why, How, and What. Why is the center of the circle, around that how, and around that what. While each component is necessary, the information is most powerful when starting from why and moving outward. Sinek argues why generates the most powerful emotional states and, accordingly, the most results.

Communicating A Clear Why Builds Trust

The next section of Start With Why discusses how communicating your why clearly build trust. When individuals know the reasons behind your actions, they get on board. Otherwise, they only see how and what and are unsure of your intentions. You might have a strong how or what, but they won’t resonate emotionally and won’t leave a lasting impact.

To illustrate, Sinek speaks about the celery principle. In essence, the idea is that individuals should know your why from a distance just by looking at your actions. If you buy celery and an apple, people will know you’re health conscious, if you buy celery and a chocolate cake, it may send confusing messages. All your actions should start with why and be consistent with that why.

Another major theme discusses how over time and with growth, companies can lose sight of their why. When they do, this can have disastrous results as customers no longer connect with the company. When the details become more important than vision, it confuses customers and companies make short-term decisions in place of long-term ones.

All in all, start with Why is a straightforward, clear book that attempts to get one main point across. This point is supported by ideas and examples making a strong argument for why we should all start with why. Though it leans heavily toward business-minded individuals, it has practical applications for most of us regardless of our preferences.  

Other considerations

While Start With Why is an interesting framework, takes a while to build momentum. A bit of time is spent setting up context so that in later chapters Sinek can build out more complex concepts. Stick with it though, as later chapters tie everything together.

Another consideration, you may have difficulty getting through the book if you’re not interested in business. The majority of examples and applications are business oriented. While there are personal applications as well, you’ll have to get through all the business sections before you get to the end.

Applicable Content:

  1. What is the why behind the projects you’re working on in your life?

  2. How can you get better at communicating your vision and the why behind it, instead of defaulting to how or what you’re doing?

  3. How can you use why to rally others to a meaningful cause?


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