start with why summary


Welcome to this Start with why summary, a book written by Simon Sinek.

Simon Sinek is a British lecturer and author of books on management and motivation. His best-seller Start with the Why and his noticed and appreciated participation in a TED conference, make him a major figure in Leadership.

The main questions are: How to inspire like Steve Jobs or Walt Disney? How do you get people to act? Simon Sinek explains we do so by inviting people to get involved in a great project that suits them.

In this book, author Simon Sinek explains the practices that allow an inspirational power to spread, enabling people to create a successful and sustainable business that has a positive impact on everyone.

Who is this book for?

The ideas in start with why summary will help all those who wish to inspire others and, moreover, feel satisfied and successful in their work.

In addition, it can inspire leaders who want to be entrepreneurial and generate a transformative impact in the world.

The main ideas

The main lessons we can learn from this work are the following:

Your “why” is your cause, your goal and your mission;

All truly inspiring leaders start with “why”;

People don’t buy WHAT you do, but WHY you do it;

When you lose track of your “why,” it becomes harder to maintain the growth, loyalty and inspiration that were at the heart of your initial success.

Understanding and staying true to your reason is essential for continued and lasting success;

Your decisions should be guided by your primary objective;

Keep your purpose alive within your organization;

Invest in people who believe in your ideas and share them.


start with why summary


Start with why summary Part 1 – A world that doesn’t start with why


More often than not, our decisions and behavior, both as customers, employees, constituents or even family, partners or friends, are supported by manipulation.

Sinek also states that most practices such as price, promotion, fear, aspiration, group pressure and innovation involve some kind of manipulation. These tactics play on our negative feelings.

The problem with manipulation is that it works.

We are tempted to use it to get the behaviors we are interested in from others. But the gains it brings are only short-term. It is a perfect strategy for closing a deal or getting a required behavior only once. This strategy ends up having an impact on long-term benefits because it does not promote customer loyalty.

But if its effects are to last over time, its effectiveness quickly diminishes. The manipulative tactics used have to become more and more complex, and end up costing more and more money.

With this in mind, Simon proposes an alternative to this practice in the next segment of the book, presented below.

Start with why summary Part 2: An Alternative Perspective

In this part of the book, the author explains one of the most important parts of his approach: the golden circle.


why how what


It consists of three concentric circles with the word “why” in the center, surrounded by the circle of “how” and the furthest one is the “what”.

WHAT: describes the activities of the company. Every company in the world knows exactly what it produces. This is the easiest and most remarkable part of the circle.

HOW: illustrates how the “WHAT” is made. Most companies know how they do what they do. Normally this is something that differentiates the company in the market, as an exclusive value proposition, for example.

WHY: That’s where the differential lies since most companies can’t conceive why they do what they do. The author clarifies that this does not mean making money, according to him, it is the result of his activity. This part of the circle defines your mission, why your business exists and why it should be important to someone.

Simon shows that inspiring business leaders think this circle through, that is, they base their actions and thoughts on the “why”, the “how” and the “what”.


The alternative to manipulation, which ensures excellent long-term results, exists: inspiration. There are very few leaders who choose this alternative and decide to start with the WHY.

Leaders who manage to inspire people act and communicate in exactly the same way. Consciously or unconsciously, they follow a model that Simon Sinek calls the Golden Circle.

Start with why

Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle theory goes against the logic of the majority of today’s companies, which communicate on their WHAT or more rarely on their HOW.

It is based on a movement from the inside out.

The WHY must be placed at the heart.

By this movement, we act directly at the level of the limbic system (seat of emotions) which controls decision making (contrary to that related to language which rationalizes our choices).  “The power of WHY is not a question of opinion but of biology”.

In order for the “golden circle” to work, it requires transparency, discipline and consistency. The WHY is the meaning. The HOW is the way to express the initial belief. And the WHAT is the results that flow from it. If the circle is balanced, it gives birth to the authenticity that moves people to action. This is because they adhere to the same beliefs, so relationships can last and develop.

Applied in sales and marketing, the “why” is all about emotions. And to build lasting loyalty, you have to convince the heart before talking to the mind. In other words, promote meaning, a way of life. You first make the customer adhere to an inspiration and that will take precedence over other rational criteria.

The Golden Circle applied

Most people and businesses, both when they act and when they communicate, start from the outside of the circle inward.

So they start with the WHAT: everyone (individual or organization) knows WHAT he or she is doing. It is easy to identify the WHAT, we can all describe the products or services a company sells, and the positions people hold within a system.

Some only then move on to HOW they do WHAT they do, with the goal of explaining how what they do is different or better. Not everyone moves on to the HOW because not everyone knows it, or simply because it is less easy to explain.

Very few then can clearly explain WHY they do WHAT they do. And the WHY is not making money; that is a result. The WHY indicates what your mission, cause or belief is: WHY do you get out of bed every morning? Why does your company exist? And WHY should others care?

The more you get inside the circle, the harder it is to explain things clearly. So it’s normal that we decide to start with the clearer element (the WHAT) and work our way up to the more vague element (the WHY).

But true leaders go the opposite way. They act and communicate from the inside of the Golden Circle to the outside. They always begin by explaining WHY they do WHAT they do.

The message suddenly becomes much more powerful, and people feel inspired to follow it.

Start with why: Example of Apple

As an example, Apple (especially when it was run by Steve Jobs), is a great example of this ability. If it did like every other company, starting from the outside to the inside of the circle, its marketing message would be :

We make great computers.

They are well designed, easy to use and user-friendly.

Would you like to buy one?

But Apple communicates in a different way. It always starts by saying WHY it does what it does. Her message is more like :

In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.

Our way of challenging the status quo is to make our products attractive, easy to use and user-friendly.

We also make great computers. Would you like to buy one? 

This message is much more powerful than the first one. Please note: this is not manipulation. The reasons for the effectiveness of this message are much deeper, based on the alignment of Apple’s purpose and values, and the resonance that this purpose and values have with ours.

People don’t buy WHAT you do, but WHY you do it.

The Golden Circle and the Human Brain

The reason messages and actions that start with WHY are so powerful is that they fit perfectly with human biology, especially the way our brains are made.

The brain too can be represented in several circles: the outer part, the most recent from an evolutionary point of view, is the neocortex and it corresponds to the WHAT level. It is responsible for rational thinking and language.

The 2 other sections correspond to the limbic system, which manages our emotions, behavior and decision making. They correspond to the WHY level, and are not related to language.

When we communicate WHAT we do first, people understand the information, facts and characteristics we are explaining. But this does not influence their behaviour. We are addressing the neocortex.

On the contrary, the part of our brain that controls our emotions is not able to go through language. This is why we often have trouble explaining exactly why we made a certain decision.

We end up saying that we “feel” that it is the right choice; we use feelings, more than logic. Making a decision and being able to explain it are two functions that exist in different parts of the brain.

Eventually, we end up “rationalizing” the decision: we give rational arguments, but this does not shed light on what the real motivation is.


start with why summary how what why


How the Golden Circle works

In order for the Golden Circle to work, it is essential that the following aspects be respected, and in the right order:

Transparency of WHY: you must know exactly WHY you are doing WHAT you are doing, and you must communicate it transparently. If you don’t, you risk falling into the traps of manipulation.

The discipline of HOW: once you know WHY you are doing what you are doing, you need to know HOW to do it. These are the values and principles that guide you. The HOW is embodied in the processes and culture of an organization. It’s not easy to maintain the discipline to always act in accordance with its values or principles, but it is what builds trust.

Consistency of WHAT: your words and actions must reflect what you believe in. The WHY is only a belief, the HOW is the actions that express that belief. And the WHAT are the results that flow from it, they are the tangible proof of the authenticity of your convictions.

We often make the mistake of believing that we can make a difference, as individuals or as a company, when we know WHAT to do and HOW to do it. In reality, all the difference is made when we know WHY and HOW we do things.

If you are authentic, all your words and actions truly reflect your convictions. That’s how your Golden Circle is balanced, and how you become an inspiring leader.

The effects of your transparency, discipline and consistency generate trust and loyalty in the people around you. As a social animal, humans easily spot the subtleties of other people’s behaviour and judge them accordingly.

This is why manipulation only works in the short term, and why the Golden Circle is incredibly powerful in the long term.

To have leadership, you need two things: a vision of a better world to create, and the ability to communicate it clearly. We create our vision of the world by imagining what it would look like if we dedicated ourselves every day to pursuing our WHY.

And we communicate our vision clearly by never starting with what needs to be done. You will become leaders by first explaining WHY we need to act. You inspire action.



People also read:

Never split the difference summary

Building a storybrand

Getting to yes summary

Crucial conversations summary

Exactly what to say – The magic words for influence and impact

Made to stick summary


Start with why summary Part 3 – Leaders Need Followers

After the book, Simon talks about the importance of collaborators. He explains that the best companies hire people who are already motivated and who believe in their “why”.

This type of company can inspire its employees, making them more productive and innovative.

The inspiring leaders we talked about earlier did not change the world by acting alone. They achieved such successes because other people believed in their “why” and, from there, they began to spread the ideas and attitudes propagated by these leaders.

However, you must be able to captivate and unite those who believe in you and your goals. The author discusses this in the rest of the book.

Convincing a minority with convictions

Rather than trying to convince the majority with arguments, the book advocates convincing a minority with convictions. That is, to identify the few early adopters who will spread their love of the product, once they are convinced themselves. This idea of first convincing a market niche is found in Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One. If you have a convincing “why”, they will identify with your values and share them naturally.

The “why” comes with a “how”. This serves as a kind of support for realizing the why. And the “what” is what you propose.

Start with why summary Part 4 – Joining with those who believe

Simon emphasizes the difference between energy and charisma. A leader who speaks with energy makes people feel excited and motivated to work. However, this feeling does not last very long.

Charisma, on the other hand, is an inherent characteristic of all great leaders. Indeed, they have a clear perception of their “why,” which allows them to believe firmly in a cause or goal greater than themselves.

The author also explains that a charismatic leader does not necessarily need to be energetic. Bill Gates is an excellent example of this.

His personality is shy and retiring, but his charisma makes people feel inspired by him and share his great ideal. This makes your employees loyal to your cause.

Start with why summary Part 5 – The biggest challenge is success

It is common to confuse success with success. The author explains that achievement is something tangible and measurable, that is, something you acquire or achieve as a goal. You get accomplished when you get what you want.

Success, on the other hand, is much more personal and resembles a state of mind. You feel successful when you understand WHY you want to accomplish something.

Our accomplishments, what we achieve, are like flags that indicate that we are on the right track in the pursuit of success, which is our greatest challenge.

Start with why summary Part 6 – Find out why

You should have heard that market research is the most important part of preparation before starting a business. From there, you can identify your consumer audience and build your product based on your niche market.

The author does not agree with this, however. He thinks, of course, that the most important thing is to discover and understand his “why”. It is a process of discovery, not invention.

According to Simon, you have to look in the opposite direction from where you are. Your “why” is within you.

Once you have identified that reason, the most difficult thing is to stay true to it. The author therefore believes that you yourself are your greatest and best competitor.

Stick to your “why

To end up with this start with why summary, remember that once you’ve identified your “why,” your “what” and your “how” are well aligned, the message is clear, and you’ve disseminated it widely, you have one important task left: consistency. You need to stick to your “why,” or you risk losing your soul. As was the case when the Walmart boss left the company. You must know how to pass on your “why” to the next generation of leaders to ensure the company’s sustainability.


Thank you for reading this “start with why summary”, if you are interested, people also read:

Never split the difference summary

Building a storybrand

Getting to yes summary

Crucial conversations summary

Exactly what to say – The magic words for influence and impact

Made to stick summary