Book Review: Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Book Review: Start With Why by Simon Sinek

The Book In 3 Sentences

Great leaders inspire rather than manipulate those around them to achieve by starting with WHY or by exuding clarity to others about their purpose, cause or belief rather than WHAT, the result or HOW, the process. People don't buy WHAT you do but WHY you do it and as a result, consistently adhering to knowing your WHY is the way to differentiate yourself from your competition. When your WHY lacks clarity that it once did, it becomes very difficult to maintain the same of level of initial inspiration and success.

My 411

I enjoyed reading this book that presents a potent Nietzschean message with many compelling examples with a philosophy similar to a book such as Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I truly believe in and try to practice the central thesis of the book generalized as “If you know the why, you can live any how.” and found that a range of interesting concomitant topics where brought up rather than just repeating the same idea in multiple different ways.

Other reasons why I enjoyed this book were because it was written in a simple way that's accessible to anyone at any stage of their career regardless if they have entrepreneurial aspirations or not and the analogies used were extremely apt!

This book was an extension of the Ted Talk given by the author that I found encapsulating the overall themes of the book:

This book can get repetitious by using the same examples and mulling over the same idea such as with the example of Apple, a company that's been iteratively presented as an exemplar of the philosophy of consistently operating by questioning the purpose behind each of their products; in the context of ensuring that the audience fully understands the core concept, I am not against repetition as I think it worked such as the case of Mindset by Carol Dweck which, was one of the top 5 books I read in 2021.

This book got me to write down my WHYs for my work as a Garbage Collection Developer as a part of the .NET runtime at Microsoft that helped me get through some long days with much ease and therefore, would consider reading this book as completely worthwhile!



  • Start With Why is about a naturally occurring pattern, a way of thinking, acting and communicating that gives some leaders the ability to inspire those around them.
  • The more organizations and people who learn to also start with WHY, the more people there will be who wake up feeling fulfilled by the work they do.
  • Those who are able to inspire give people a sense of purpose or belonging that has little to do with any external incentive or benefit to be gained.

Part One: World That Doesn't Start With Why

  • There are two ways to influence behavior: to inspire or to manipulate.
  • Prices, promotions, fear, aspirations, novelty and peer pressure are all used to manipulate and motivate a purchase - these work but are not sustainable, are short term and don't build loyalty.
  • Leadership is the ability to rally people not for a single event, but for years. In business, leadership means that customers will continue to support your company even when you slip up.
  • 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.
  • Loyal customers often don’t even bother to research the competition or entertain other options. Loyalty is not easily won. Repeat business, however, is - all it takes is more manipulations.

Part Two: An Alternate Perspective

  • The Golden Circle:
Circle Meaning
Why Your Purpose - What do you believe.
How Your Process - The specific actions you take to achieve your Why.
What The result of your Why through your How.
  • Great companies communicate from the Why to the What or inside out vs. normal companies that reverse the communication.
  • People don't buy what you do but why you do it.
  • As humans, we crave a sense of belonging as it's in our DNA as a mechanism of survival. This feeling comes from having a sense of common beliefs.
  • The power of Why is not an opinion, it is biology - if you look at how the human brain is structured, it fits well in the Golden Circle.
  • When you communicate from the outside – in, you can give all the facts and figures, but you haven’t engaged the decision making part of the brain. That’s why people get the feeling of something ‘not feeling right’ even though something feels rational.
  • When you communicate from the inside – out, you’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls decision making. Then the language part of the brain, the neocortex will rationalize the emotion or feeling for us.
  • Gut decisions and thinking from the heart all happen from the limbic part of the brain. The limbic brain is so powerful, that it often out ways rational thought. This is where innovation comes from and it’s why we take risks that seem illogical.
  • Clarity, Discipline and Consistency correspond to the WHY, HOW and WHAT an are all important as Starting with WHY is just the beginning:
Criteria Description
Clarity of Why If a leader can’t clearly explain why the organisation does what it does, how can anyone be inspired by this. The why must be clearly articulated.
Discipline of HOW Finding your why is the easy part. Holding yourself true to this and sticking to how you achieve your why is the hard part. It requires discipline.
Consistency of WHAT Why is just a belief. The how is how you achieve the belief and what you say and do is the proof of your belief. If you are consistent with what you say and do, you will become more authentic. This builds trust and loyalty. If you have no why, it’s almost impossible to build this authenticity, as you have no beliefs to prove.

Part Three: Leaders Need a Following

  • As humans, we are attracted to others who share similar or same values or beliefs because there is a generally established level of trust.
  • When you hire those who are passionate about your WHY, success just happens.
  • Good companies hire motivated people and inspire them.
  • Great companies become great because the people inside the organization feel protected.
  • The Law of Diffusion: Mass-market success can only be achieved after you penetrate between 15 percent to 18 percent of the market. That’s because the early majority won’t try something new until someone else has tried it first.
  • Get enough of the people on the left side of the curve on your side and they encourage the rest to follow.
  • You don’t just want any influencer, you want someone who believes what you believe.

Part Four: How to Rally Those Who Believe

  • The Golden Circle is actually a bird’s eye view of a cone which represents the three- dimensional structure of organization.
  • WHY-types are optimists and see things others can’t. They are visionary and see how they think the world should be.
  • HOW-types are more in the here and now. They’re more rational and can get things done.
  • The leader sits at the top of the cone—at the start, the point of WHY—while the HOW-types sit below and are responsible for actually making things happen. The leader imagines the destination and the HOW-types find the route to get there.
  • Each type needs the other such as Steve Jobs (WHY) and Wozniak (HOW), Bill Gates (WHY) and Paul Allen (HOW).
  • The three-dimensional Golden Circle is a cone. It is, in practice, a megaphone. An organisation effectively becomes the vessel through which a person with a clear purpose, cause or belief can speak to the outside world. But for a megaphone to work, clarity must come first.
  • Communicate clearly and you shall be understood.
  • If WHAT you do doesn’t prove what you believe, then no one will know what your WHY is and you’ll be forced to compete on price, service, quality, features and benefits; the stuff of commodities.
  • The Celery Test: Your why allows you to filter people’s advice and new information you receive and makes you more true to your purpose.

Part Five: The Biggest Challenge Is Success

  • A company should never lose their sense of WHY otherwise, it will eventually stop performing at the same level as before.
  • More importantly, some people, while in pursuit of success, simply mistake WHAT they achieve as the final destination. This is the reason they never feel satisfied no matter how big their yacht is, no matter how much they achieve.
  • For great leaders, The Golden Circle is in balance. They are in pursuit of WHY, they hold themselves accountable to HOW they do it and WHAT they do serves as the tangible proof of what they believe.
  • The volume of the megaphone comes solely from growth of WHAT. As this metric grows, any company can become a ”leading“ company. But it is the ability to inspire, to maintain clarity of WHY, that gives only a few people and organisations the ability to lead. The moment at which the clarity of WHY starts to go fuzzy is the split.
  • We have very poor measurements to ensure that a WHY stays clear.

Part Six: Discover Why

  • Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.
  • Learning the WHY of a company or an organisation or understanding the WHY of any social movement always starts with one thing: you.
  • Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it.