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Book Review: "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek

I came across this book purely by chance as I was browsing books at my local Waterstones. I know they say never judge a book by its cover, but there is something to be said for a catchy title with an eye-catching design. When I spotted the big red foil letters START WITH WHY on the cover of this book I was transported back to my first day of law school. The professor was welcoming us to his contract law class, and I remembered him saying this powerful sentence: “When it gets tough, always remember why you started this degree in the first place.”

So, I was instantly intrigued by the title and noticed it was by an author I recognised, Simon Sinek. Sinek has gained some fame through his TED talks and you can also see him present a condensed version of the book’s main ideas for free on ted.com by following this link. He is an engaging speaker with interesting ideas so I think you should check him out.

This book is about educating leaders on how to inspire action in their organisations. Sinek’s key argument is that people are inspired by a sense of purpose (the “Why”) than anything else and this is what leaders should focus on when communicating to them and customers. To illustrate his point, he uses what he calls “The Golden Circle”:

To explain each part of the circle briefly:

What: These are products or services an organisation delivers to customers or other parts of the organisation.

How: These are the systems or processes that deliver what an organisation offers. These are often what make an organisation different to their competitors, their unique selling points.

Why: This is a purpose, cause or belief. It is the reason an organisation exists.

Sinek argues that very few organisations have a clear idea “Why” they exist, and this is a problem because knowing this is essential to inspiring people to act towards a common goal.

Sinek illustrates his argument with real-life organisations. For instance, he uses Apple as an example of an organisation with a strong “Why”. Apple is all about challenging the status quo with beautifully designed and user-friendly products. They just so happen to make computers (their “What”) but they could just as easily make other products and succeed because of their strong “Why”. Sinek is arguing that people often don’t buy what you make but why you make it. Customers connect with the "Why" and see themselves aligned with the organisation.

Although this book has been seen by many as a business book, I believe that its lessons can be applied to everyone, whether you are a student, professional, entrepreneur or stay-at-home mum. Just as Sinek urges organisations to find their “Why” so should you find yours. This book will help you quieten the noise around you and focus on your “Why”. For example: Why did you start your business? Why did you pick that degree? Why are you embarking on a career change? What is the higher purpose, cause or belief (i.e. not money) driving you to do these things? Knowing your personal “Why” will help you stay inspired and inspire those around you.

If you do not have a strong why, as my law professor said all those years ago, you will have little to refer to in tough times. We are all human after all and we will at some point in our journey feel down, depressed, not motivated and, most importantly, we might feel like giving up. Having a strong why is helpful in keeping the momentum going.

If you don’t know your own "Why" then it is impossible to expect someone else to find it for you. If you have a business, it is tempting to pay an agency to find it but only you have the answer.

Fun fact: I bumped into Simon Sinek outside my house – the same one where I purchased this book! What the odds are of bumping into the author of the book you are currently reading I do not know but I can tell you that he is as charismatic in real life as he is in his videos.

In conclusion, I thought this book was a brilliant read with a powerful message for everyone.

Rating: 5 out of 5


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