Start With Why by Simon Sinek – Book Summary

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The author, Simon Sinek, dwelled into the realm of motivation by conducting workshops in his workplace about how to inspire colleagues. This knowledge stuck with him and was shared with the world via his TED Talk. The viral TED Talk emphasized on the need to start with the ‘why’ behind their goals.

The title of the book summarises its premise. The author Sinek reasons that the great personalities of the world – such as Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King Jr, and other successful people – focused on why they were determined. Until they figured out the reason behind their actions, they could not have convinced others of it.

Knowing the ‘why’ behind an action is the starting point of success. Sinek mentions how the framework of everything is built on the ‘why’. When someone tries to inspire others, make revolution, or create an empire, they choose to start with the attribute of their dream. In a way, Martin Luther King Jr told the world that he had a dream and he knew ‘why’ he had the dream.


1. Look at the bigger picture

Sinek starts the book off by explaining why it is crucial to start an endeavor only after knowing the reasons behind them. By doing so, we can understand our motivations. Hence, we can estimate our capabilities. It also helps in developing a picture of the result – which is the big picture.

If we know our efforts are enough to bring success to us, then we must begin with the big picture in the mind. This way, we will be prepared for the obstacles instead of being upset. We can choose to be one of two people – who either cheat their way to the end or who have the bigger picture in their mind and let nature complete its course.

2. Upgrade or influence

There are two approaches to be successful – to upgrade the quality or to influence the stakes. We can either choose to perform better or find an easier way to achieve what we want. Usually, the latter involves the manipulation of some kind, which comes at a cost.

Manipulation can only travel so far. At some point in time, it is crucial to realize that the original ways are redundant. This is when bolder steps must be taken. The easier way may get us someplace, but bolder steps take us to success. Bolder steps are a long-term solution, while manipulation is a short-term resolution.

3. The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is the golden rule of Sinek’s book. Per the aim of the book, frameworks should be built on the premise of why. The Golden Circle precisely explains that. The Rule is best described by three concentric circles. The innermost circle is ‘why’, the basis of it all. The circle in the middle speaks of the ‘how’. Lastly, the outermost circle constitutes the ‘what’.

start with why

4. The ‘why’

The ‘why’ is the origin. It comprises of questions which assert the purpose of the endeavor and the belief behind it. The answers cannot be vague. The answers cannot be the expectations. We cannot say we want to build a business to earn profits since it is the result of the ‘why’. The questions pertaining to the ‘why’ are the primary motivations.

We must introspect and determine the answers to all these questions to move ahead. Some ‘why’ questions are –

  1. Why am I doing this?
  2. Why do I care about it?
  3. Why does endeavor exist?
  4. Why should people care about it?

5. The ‘how’

The ‘how’ defines our process to get to the goal. With the purpose of our goal in our minds, we can proceed to get to the goal. Asking ourselves ‘how’ we can get to it can some of the confusion lingering in our minds. The questions pertaining to ‘how’ stem from the ‘why’ but is more realistic since the answers are the bold steps we need to take. Bold steps were earlier described as having a lasting effect.

To move to the next step, we must devise the game plan. To go into something (which is supposed to bold) without a ‘how’ is futile. Some ‘how’ questions are –

  1. How will I get there?
  2. How can I convince others?
  3. How can I improve?
  4. How is this/How am I better or different from others?

6. The ‘what’

People must know what they want to do. People must know what they want to become. The ‘why’ is the outermost circle because it is the one most people are familiar with. We mostly might not even need to trigger our minds into answering the ‘what’ questions. If we do not know what we will be doing, we will not have anything to build. Some of the ‘what’ questions are–

  1. What do I want to become?
  2. What do I want to produce?
  3. What should I change?

7. Our biological predisposition

After describing the Golden Circle, Sinek proceeds to explain how it is a metaphor for humans. People subconsciously associate with those who share their ‘why’, i.e., have the same purpose and beliefs. This is a biological need to belong to a group as social creatures. Secondly, the Golden Circle also corresponds with the working of our minds.

Specific regions in our minds govern the various aspects of life. The Golden Circle is associated with two parts of the brain – the Neocortex and the Limbic Brain. The Limbic Brain is the portion of the brain that determines our feelings. Humans are emotionally advanced, so much so that our actions originate from our feelings.

Thus, the Limbic Brain translates to the ‘why’ and occasionally the ‘how’. The answers to the ‘why’ questions are deeply interlinked to our psyche, which is governed by the Limbic Brain. The values and beliefs we have been created within this region. If we happen to match our values with a fellow person, we share a similar Limbic function.

The Neocortex rules over the ‘what’. It governs rational thinking and drives our motivations. However, it does not dictate behavior. The Neocortex is a relatively more active part of the brain than the Limbic region, which explains why most people ask the ‘what’ instead of the ‘why’. Successful people and companies shed this habit and let their brains understand the Golden Circle and proceed accordingly.

8. Have certainty

The Golden Circle must be followed in the right manner. First understanding the purpose, then the process, and lastly, the proof is crucial. The immediate result of following the sequence is a certainty. Sinek expects that when all the questions have been exhausted, we are left with a feeling of assurance. The way is to understand certainty is to say, “This is the right decision.” without hesitation.

The three degrees of certainty are clarity, discipline, and consistency. If we are clear about the purpose, disciplined about the process, and consistent in our efforts, we will be certain of the success of our decisions.

9. When to use ‘what’

Since companies must be sure of what they want to produce, it is their choice if they want to venture into other businesses. Sinek describes the case of Apple and Dell. Both the compares are revered in the space of computers, but people prefer Apple smartphones. They would be reluctant to try other electronics by Dell (it has been tried and proven). So having the vision ‘what’ is essential for a business to flourish.

10. When to use ‘why’

The ‘why’ is a way to get customers. By passing on the belief of the company to the customers, there is a link formed between them. Companies that reveal their purpose for doing the ‘what’ gain more customers since they relate to the vision.

Taking the example of Apple again, Apple managed to dominant the music player market with the iPod. It managed to take over the competitors by establishing that they wanted to store a thousand songs in the pocket. This was probably an unattainable feat by the other companies, but Apple gave the customers the ‘why’.

Understanding the ‘why’ is also essential while hiring employees. Employees will give their best when their values align with the values of the company. So, the ‘why’ of both the company and the employees must resonate to ensure productivity and quality. It is a misconception that employees need to be ‘trained’ to suit the company. A company which believes in the Golden Circle hires people with the same belief.

11. The Law of Diffusion of Innovations

The Law of Diffusion of Innovations is a spread of customers of a company. It is a bell-shaped curve, with the left side of the curve representing customers who are eager to buy a product and the right side represents those who are not. A company wishes that all their customers stay on the left side, however, it is rarely observed. Sinek suggests resonating the ‘why’ of the company with that of the customers. When the shared values align, customers will be willing to purchase their products without any incentive.

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