Chances are you’ve heard of Simon Sinek. Chances are even higher that you may not know Sinek by name, but you’ve seen his Ted Talk, racking up over 30 million views and coming in as one of the most-viewed Ted Talks ever made. Sinek is also behind the video discussing “Millennials in the Workplace” which has been reposted, shared, and tweeted (what feels like) more than any other piece of content this year to date. Sinek’s “Start with Why” has become a sensation that has resonated with audiences across the world for a number of reasons. But let me start with a similar question first: why?
Sinek’s book clocks in at 200+ pages, elaborating on his Ted Talk in more detail. In truth, his Ted Talk does a better job at maintaining an audience simply because the overarching message of Sinek’s concept is captivating in its simplicity – but it fails to sustain over the course of an entire book. I began Sinek’s book completely and totally obsessed, but by page 95 or so I had dramatically fallen off. Sinek does an incredible job at crafting his theory but does a less-than-stellar job at transforming that theory into a sustained, focused piece of literature. My suggestion: start with the Ted Talk, get captivated, read the first 50 pages of the book, and move on.
So what is about Sinek’s concept that has made such an impact? Starting with “why” is an incredibly straightforward concept: it’s easy to digest and seemingly simple – but much harder to tangibly implement in practice. Sinek’s theory revolves around the concept that people don’t buy “what” you do; they buy “why” you do it. Simple, clean, effortless – a soundbite that readers and audiences the world over can keep in their minds, write on a post-it and stick it on their computers.
Sinek is, of course, definitely right. Though his theory is angled toward leaders who want to inspire others to take action, urging leaders to continuously work on demonstrating “why” they do what they do rather than simply going with “what,” the theory applies to almost everything in business. Whether you run a local flower shop, a digital design start-up, or an enterprise-level software company, the goal always remains the same: build a client base, drive sales, make money, grow the business. Sinek’s theory reminds us that the only real way to do that is to continuously return back to the “why”; driving sales and generating profit is part of “what” you do and, accordingly, is a sure-fire way of guaranteeing the exact opposite of building a loyal client base.
Sinek infamously uses Apple as an example. He creates a marketing message that Apple might use if they were simply selling “what” they do:
We make great computers. They’re beautifully-designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.
Wanna buy one?
Sinek juxtaposes that “what” message with an Apple marketing message that starts with “why”:
Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.
The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully-designed, simply to use, and user-friendly. And we happen to make great computers.
Wanna buy one?
Sinek’s exercise is a simple one – but so is his theory. Start with “why” because as emotion-driven consumers we buy into visions, messages, values; not simply products for functional purposes.
The most important point of it all? Find your “why” – and everything else will follow. Without a real “why,” the odds of success being achieved in anything are incredibly, scarily low. It’s a concept that applies to everything: find your why if you’re looking to manage a team of employees; if you’re looking to start a new business; if you’re looking to learn a new skill; if you’re looking to start building your contacts and want to attend networking events; if you’re looking to do speaking engagements; if you’re looking to do anything whatsoever. Securing your “why” assures that the odds of success in anything you do are stacked in your favour. Sinek famously claims that if Martin Luther King Jr. had given an “I have a Plan” speech, we might have received important tactical information; but we got an “I have a Dream” speech. The nuance is small and seemingly-simple but wildly different: people will always follow you when you have dreams, a purpose, a mission – a “why.”
Advice for today? Whatever you want to do, whatever action or goal or plan you are looking to implement, figure out “why” you want to do so; then make sure that “why” is clear to others. If you truly believe your fundamental “why,” one thing is for sure: others will believe it, too.
Feels like it’s time for my own “why.” While my personal “why” could be the subject of 10+ other blog posts, including the (long, unclear, rocky) journey to discovering it, I’m happy to share it now that it’s clear.
My “why” for starting Les Labs can be summed up by the following: I believe we can be much more than simply what we think we are. I believe in choice, in the possibility of possibility, in more. For me, Les Labs enables choice, possibility, and the ability to be more – and in my eyes, there is nothing more powerful.