Book Notes: Start With Why

Here are my notes from Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Simon Sinek has become a bit of a cultural guide when it comes to leadership. Between his books, TED Talks, and recent interviews on Millennials, he's one of the major voices in our society speaking in to what leadership is and should be. 

I've always been fascinated by leadership and read books about the topic regularly. My current boss claims Start with Why as one of his favorite books of all time. Between that endorsement and the praise of others, I ordered the book from Amazon and dove in.

Here are my notes and thoughts:

  • Leadership requires people to stick with you trough thick and thin. Leadership is the ability to rally people not just for a single event but for years. 
  • Manipulations are a perfectly valid strategy for driving a transaction, or for any behavior that is only required once or on rare occasions. 
  • We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. 
    • This is the reason megachurches exist
  • Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us. 
    • It's also the reason leaders are able to stick around for a long time. Repeating this process ensures devotion
  • Companies that fail to communicate a sense of WHY force us to make decisions with only empirical evidence. This is why those decisions take more time, feel difficult, or leave us uncertain. 
    • Imagine the difference between buying a new laptop and buying a new digital camera. Apple has made it an emotional decision to purchase a laptop or phone for many people. Because they so strongly associate with the ideals of Apple or with a competitor, the decision isn't based on price and product specs. What digital camera company gives makes you feel any sort of emotion? None of them. None of them communicate their why so buying a camera is more based on the empirical evidence of cost, specs, and performance. 
  • Great leaders and great organizations are good at seeing what most of us can't see. They are good at giving us things we would never think of asking for. 
    • Again. See Apple. We didn't know we wanted the iPod. Or the iPhone. Or the iPad. Yet, here we are.
  • It is not logic or facts but our hopes and dreams, our hearts and our guts, that drive us to try new things. 
    • I only subscribe to this because I'm an emotional person. I do NOT think this statement is universally true. I know a number of people who are driven by logic and facts, not hopes and dreams, to try new things. 
  • If the leader of the organization can't clearly articulate why the organization exists in terms beyond its products or services, then how does he expect the employees to know why to come to work?
    • This is so powerful. Even more important now with more and more millennials entering the workforce. 
    • Also...imagine this statement being applied to politiciansđŸ¤”
  • Starting with why is what inspires people to act. 
  • It is a false assumption that differentiation happens in how and what you do. 
    • Obviously there is differentiation in how and what you do, but it starts with WHY you do those things. If the differentiation isn't manifested and born there, the how and what will suffer and die.
  • In business, like a bad date, many companies work so hard to prove their value without saying WHY they exist in the first place. 
    • I'm guilty of this as a marketer. I've focused more on what we sell and how we sell it rather than communicating WHY we're selling it to begin with.
  • When you start with WHY, those who believe what you believe are drawn to you for very personal reasons
    • It was why Martin Luther King Jr believers and his ability to communicate it clearly that people followed him. 
  • To Sinek WHAT you do is not the why. Your WHAT can be a lot of different things if you figure out your WHY to keep you going. 
  • The single greatest challenge any organization will face is success. 
  • As the megaphone grows, the clarity of WHY starts to dilute. 
  • Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention. 
  • An organization is the WHAT. 

I'll be transparent. While reading this book, I felt like it had some great points and wisdom. However, I didn't finish the book feeling like my thinking process had been revolutionized or that I'd learned something profound. Instead, it felt overwhelmingly normal.

Until I wrote this post. Reading back through my notes and bullets and allows those ideas to prompt more thoughts felt more beneficial to me than the first read. I'm not used to books having that effect on me, but I enjoy the experience. I think the mark of a good book is one that can leave you reeling once, but then continue to reveal new knowledge and wisdom time and time again.

I'm not sure if Start with Why will be one of those books for me, but it's definitely on the right track.