Simon Sinek’s advice to start with Why

Simon Sinek wrote a book called Start With Why. I haven’t read the book, but thanks to the Internet, I’ve read his blog, watched him speak, and listened to an interview with him (that’s one of my all-time favorite interviews). I love what he’s saying… or I should say, I love why he’s saying it.

Simon came up with what he calls The Golden Circle. Basically, it’s a circle within a circle within a circle, like a target. The outside ring is the What, the second ring is the How, and the innermost ring is the Why.

As you might have guessed from the book title, Simon says we should go from the inside out instead of from the outside in. We should start with Why.

Let me first try to paraphrase what the Why, How, and What actually are.

  • The Why: the driving motivation, like a cause or belief, that inspires you to act
  • The How: the guiding principles or specific actions you take to make your Why become a reality
  • The What: the tangible results from your principles in action, like proof that you’re acting on your Why

Let’s take Nike for example. I’ll try to share how they work based on their Why…

  • Their Why: they want to inspire the world to push beyond barriers, to do things that seem impossible, to realize their dreams when they want to give up.
  • Their How: they get people excited about sports, and they bring these people together.
  • Their What: they sell sports shoes and other equipment.

When you think about Nike really, their products are about the same as other companies. Shoes aren’t that much different brand to brand. But the people who are serious about sports, the ones who run three miles every day or trudge to football practice in the snow… these people become Nike fans because of what Nike represents.

So when you see a Nike commercial, what do you see? You don’t see a company explaining what their latest shoe is or how it’s extra¬†cushioned but lightweight. No, you see a commercial with some street kid jumping over a car to dunk a basketball or someone like Michael Phelps winning yet another Olympic medal.

Some of us are like, Wait a minute. Those shoes didn’t really help him dunk the ball that much. Michael Phelps doesn’t even wear shoes. Yeah, that’s right. Nike isn’t selling shoes. They’re selling the feeling you get when you’re doing something amazing.

And when we buy, we’re not buying what they make. We’re buying what they believe.

The same is true of Apple, Kellogg’s, and BMW. The same is true of all other successful brands. You think Starbucks sells coffee?

What’s most fascinating to me is that this same principle, The Golden Circle, applies to people too. Perhaps even more so.¬†We’re friends with people, we respect people, we follow people not because of what they do, but because of why they do it.

That’s why I’m on board with Simon Sinek.