Book Review: Start with Why

Apple is the most commonly used example in the book, but Sinek draws insights from the examples of Martin Luther King, Jr., Southwest Airlines, charities, the Wright Brothers, and many others. His point is clear: no matter the field, focusing on your purpose rather than your means is a surefire way to inspire people and attract the support you need to succeed (according to Sinek, Hitler also used these principles, so the power to motivate can be used for evil).


Sinek is motivated to motivate: Start with Why deals with empowering people to create change in the world. The Golden Circle theory is illustrated in that light: a means to help leaders reach others.

One of the most interesting points Sinek makes is that the principles of the Golden Circle originate from biological foundations. The human brain finds meaning in the world according to its emotionally-driven limbic system, not the rational work of the prefrontal cortex. Our society places a lot of emphasis on the rational part of the brain, but reality (and psychology experiments) demonstrates that we actually make decisions based on emotion. If we need to, we can then rationalize those decisions.

Therefore, in order to appeal to people--to motivate or inspire them--we must appeal to their emotions, their sense of purpose and meaning. Facts and figures are fine after that, but we must first reach people personally. Hearts, then minds, as Sinek points out.


The book was full of insights, but most of them are well demonstrated in the TED talk and the early chapters. The later chapters deal with elaborations of the Golden Circle, techniques for finding your own WHY, and why that is vitally important. It's a fast read and enjoyable, somewhat comparable to Seth Godin's Linchpin in length and style, so it isn't a pain to get through the more nuanced arguments, even if they get a bit repetitive.

Start with Why is positioned as a book on business and strategy, but it's a lot more than that. I now find myself asking the question, "What is their WHY?" all the time, and looking at life this way has helped me make sense of the behavior of many people and organizations. I has also given me a much stronger sense of purpose and direction in life.

I engage in a wide range of seemingly unrelated activities. I'm a writer, I love gymnastics and holistic movement, and I am fascinated by the study of psychology. I am deeply passionate about protecting the environment, living sustainably, and establishing a strong connection to wildness. I champion local food and traditional foodways. I an a strong believer in the relevance of Buddhist thinking and relating to the world, but I also love the challenge of modern marketing, sales, and communication.

It had been difficult to think of myself with any coherence, mainly because I saw myself in terms of WHAT I did. Once I applied the perspective of WHY, I made much more sense to myself. Over the course of reading the book, I realized exactly what I'll be doing with the rest of my life, and how all of these differing areas of expertise apply to that (stay tuned for more on that).

I highly recommend this book to anyone who plans to make a difference in the world, or even just wants to feel a sense of fulfillment in their own life.