Start with a purpose

“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek

All habits are influenced by the environment and its triggers, according to Marshall Goldsmith. Influenced by what we are using our energy and attention for, where Greg McKeown teaches us to only focus on the essentials. They are influenced by our growth or fixed mindset, says Carol Dweck, which Susan Cain argues also influenced by our introvert-extrovert demeanor.

Moreover, any progress towards our goals depends on how we face what Steven Pressfield called the Resistance, in which Ryan Holiday suggest that they are in fact the way. It depends on how extreme we have ownership over our efforts, as illustrated by Jocko Willink, how we can screen through the cognitive biases described by Daniel Kahneman, and how we can fully utilize our brain’s capacity as trained by Jim Kwik (mind), hack our body like Dave Asprey does (body), and approach it with a monk-like attitude as taught by Jay Shetty (spirit). And in the end, change, says Robin Sharma, is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous in the end.

But underneath them all, lies the very first foundation that keeps the structure of any effort or change to remain strong throughout the journey: the underlying reason, the life’s calling, the fuel for the passion, the higher cause, the sense of purpose, or in short, the WHY. “It is the cause, not the death”, said Napoleon Bonaparte, “that makes the martyr.” And while our life’s quests and struggles are not as extreme as life and death, without the WHY none of the above matters. This is WHY this book is so important.

Much to my pleasant surprise, this book is nothing like the contents that I’ve been accustomed to with the author, Simon Sinek, in his brilliant podcast interviews. While it is still based on psychology and its applications in sociology, it is heavily tailored to business, innovation, and its marketing approach, akin to Charles Duhigg’s the Power of Habit.

And it fits. Because there’s arguably nothing that can illustrate the power of WHY better than business and innovation stories, from the “cult” of Apple and Harley Davidson, to why Honda need to create a second brand for their luxury cars, why TiVo failed to reach a tipping point, to how the Wright Brothers can invent the first aeroplane with no funding and minimum expertise while Samuel Pierpont Langley with his all star team and government funding failed to do so.

All of this are analysed with tools that can be applicable to anything in life. Tools such as the celery test, the school bus test, the golden circle, or the golden pyramid with the WHY-level at the top, HOW-level in the middle, and WHAT-level at the bottom.

Because when you want to lose weight and start living a healthy life, you need a WHY. If you want to stop smoking, you need a WHY. If you want to start up a company, volunteer to help the poor, pursue a PhD, train to win a race, enlist in a military service, organise a mass protest, or want your organisation to last for decades, everything need a strong WHY to keep the cause alive. And this book analyses it very well.